What is CRM?

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What is CRM?

We explain what customer relationship management software can do for businesses.

CRM has become a crucial part of modern business for many organisations. You may have heard of companies like Salesforce, SAP and Oracle, all of whom offer CRM solutions. But what exactly is CRM? What can it do – and should your business be using it?

CRM refers to customer relationship management and deals with the management of all aspects of customers, including a contact database, a record of the conversation or touches you've had with them across all platforms and in some cases, file storage to ensure you have everything you need to communicate with them on a level they're comfortable with, from one place.

Other information that may be available from a CRM includes a customer's purchase history, buying preferences, searches they've performed and information about adverts they've clicked on. All of this information creates a personal profile of the individual, making it much easier to target further interactions with them, using new channels.

What does CRM software do?

Using a CRM tool dramatically improves the way a business interacts with customers, ensuring their experience with the company is tailored to their needs, whether that's when the visit they website, need to contact customer services or are following the company on social media.

However, CRM doesn't just have to be used to directly sell to customers, partners or providers. It's also a valuable tool that can be used in teams, to help manage processes across the entire organisation, including HR, marketing and supply chain management. In fact, solutions like SAP touches every single part of a business and interlinks all departments.

The idea is to give a wide range of people across the business access to relevant and useful data about customers, making it easy to provide better customer service as well as facilitating up-selling and cross-selling.

Modern CRM software is also designed to help automate as much of the day-to-day process of operating a business altogether. This frees employees up to work on generating new leads, closing deals and improving relationships with existing clients.

To that end, most CRM software will also integrate with a host of other third-party enterprise apps. Email marketing tools like MailChimp are popular for this, as are cloud-based accounting services and Google apps.

Pros and cons

There are numerous ways a CRM can help improve your business. Customer retention is a principal driver for many organisations – improving relationships with your customers will make them feel more valued, which will increase their loyalty.

Similarly, keeping your customers happy can increase revenues and attract new customers. Not only are happy customers more likely to recommend your business, a CRM system will also make it easier to target potential new customers by analysing trend data from your existing sales.

Of course, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of, too. As with any new IT tool, staff will need to be trained in its use and depending on the profile of your sales force, you may face resistance to using the new CRM tool as people wish to carry on using the same habits, workflows and processes that they always have.

This can be a problem, because another pitfall of CRM systems is that they only work if they are kept up-to-date with customer information. If sales staff are lax with logging their interactions with customers, a CRM system will be drastically less effective.

This can be helped with an effective programme of education and training that lets users move at their own pace, along with peer mentoring and change management.

This article originally appeared at IT Pro.

Copyright © ITPro, Dennis Publishing

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