Overview of Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention.
What is CRM?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is the process that defines a set of rules a company needs to follow when establishing a communication with their present customers and potential clients. The rules are scattered and unique for every organization. The CRM process is a company’s approach to deal with their clients and to provide best solutions to them after listening to their needs. Every organization has different client base and different products and services to offer. Thus CRM is a singular outlook for each firm.
What is CRM Software?
CRM Software is an automated procedure to help businesses and corporate officials to manage their rules that define the customer relationship policy for them. Experts comment that “CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single CRM database so business users can more easily access and manage it.”
CRM Software assists businesses to retain customers as well as increase their client base by analysing customer data and interaction.
The practises and strategies applied with the help of software helps businesses scale new heights with remarkable improvement in their sales records. Customer relationship is the most important factor to ensure organization’s evolution and it has been in the market since the very beginning.
Earlier; manual registers, excel sheets, address books and various file systems were used to regulate customer relationships. But they increased the complexity of the task at hand rather than simplifying it. CRM systems made the complexities perish away and saved a lot of time and expenses for the business.
CRM Software facilitates organizations by providing numerous applications which help the sales team to focus their attention on other major tasks and be spot on when dealing with any client. Following are some applications supported by any best CRM Software:-
- Contact Management — CRM software offer contact management as an application. Contacts are nothing but the customers, which a business desires to service. Contact management allows your business to track customer information such as name, contact number, mailing ID, address details (ship to and bill to address), customer’s interests, sales and purchase records of the customer and their official details. This application also facilitates scheduling appointments with customers, sending them mailers and tracking the discussions done with the client.
This information helps a great deal when offering a service or trying to sell a product to a customer. Specific customer needs can be met by closely following this kind of information. And the best part of the contact management system is that the complete statistics is just a click away.
- Lead Management — Lead management is the important process which forms the basis of converting a potential client to a fulfilling and happy customer. Wikipedia describes Lead management as “a set of methodologies, systems, and practices designed to generate new potential business clientele, generally operated through a variety of marketing campaigns or programs.” Thus this application enables businesses to carry out a well-planned marketing strategy to attract the right customers according to the business deliverables.
Prospective customers can be tracked using lead management system. Automatic mails about new products can be sent to particular leads based on their interests and demographics factors.
- Partner Management — Businesses; SMEs or large enterprises have a special team called the sales partner aka channel partner. Partner management application of the CRM software helps to communicate with these partners and also collect the real time information about them. The UI facilitates performance tracking and live interaction with the partners so that company and they are on the same page.
- Sales Force Automation — Sales Force Automation (SFA), is the management of all the steps involved in conversion of a prospective customer into a dedicated customer for life. Sales Force can automate the process of placing calls, sending mails, tracking the campaigns for your business, inventory management, performance evaluation and managing the history of sales made by the company. These automated processes save time and attract the correct target audience for your products and services. SFA also ensures customer satisfaction by dealing with real-time information related to customer order and the sales record.
- Sales Forecasting — Knowing the needs of your customers beforehand is a major break through for the business. The advanced technology with best CRM software just does the same for your business. Sales forecasting enables you to predict most accurate market trends and customer inclination, which helps you set the business plans, marketing blueprints and sales approach of your deliverables.
- Campaign Management — CRM with active campaign management tools such as email newsletters, SMS dripping, flow-chart workflows, automatic campaign launching and tracking gives an additional edge for the business to succeed. Campaign management helps the businesses to automate the thrust to capture the market and target the desirable customers.
- Social Media Management Integration — Today’s technologically advanced world is out there on the social network. Grabbing someone’s attention on social media is very convenient and easy. CRM software provides facility to integrate social media management to approach the targeted consumers. UX is not a new thing experienced by the users. If you are trying to book a flight from X to Y, you can see the ads on your social media accounts from various travel agencies. It is through the Social CRM tool that they reach out to the correct customers.
- Live Chat Software — Best CRM software in the market are always looking for ways to fulfill the needs of their customers. Whether it is any kind of support they require, need an enquiry on some functionality, need assistance on some tools or if they want to log a complaint; CRM software listens to them and gets in touch with them either via call, mail or the most convenient option of live chats. Live chat application allows you to interact with clients, partners and employees giving them real life experience via single UI.
- Simple and easy to use — Nathan Stewart, CEO of Alkemi International said that “Simplicity and integration into daily routines are very important features.” CRM software are designed keeping the same in mind. The tools and UIs are simple and easy to use. Multiple functions are just a click away. Tracking and reporting processes are made clutter free and thus it encourages employees to use the system more often.
- Remote access — When your business knows no limits, how can the software you use be of limited access? Best CRM software allows the data flow and management from any location; whether remote or in-house. The data is maintained irrespective of its origination and geographic location like from any event, customer’s sites or from partner’s end. Remote access also intends to utilize contact-center employees’ working ability even when they are not in the office.
- Mobile assistance — Applied sciences have made progress to an extent that any business related activity can be accomplished with a simple smart instrument in your hand. CRM software provides features to integrate employees’ mobile device with the system thus opens the way to carry out the functions remotely via smart phone. Chris Tranquill, managing director of ACS’ communications and consumer goods line of business, pointed out that “Businesses need to look strategically at how mobility can support the enterprise and how it can be integrated to optimize processes.“
- Customization options — The UI of CRM software is flexible and it indulges the users with fascinating visual perspective of every functionality. Users are free to play around and modify the layouts and other displays on the screens. Users can view and analyze numbers in a highly perceptible and charming manner using customized reports and dashboards. Customization also empowers the organization to blend the CRM software in accordance with the company’s rules and policies.
- Online Support Environments — Users are never left unsupported. CRM software makes sure that it is always available to assist its users. Users get support not only from downloaded FAQs, but also from real-time message boards and online FAQs, live chats, calls and via emails. Some CRM software extend their support to SMS services also.
Types of CRM Software
On-premises — In this format, the CRM software is hosted on the server which belongs to the organization. It is known as self-hosted CRM. Many firms opt for this format as it is cheaper than other formats, gives company full control over the data and it has more customization options.
Cloud-based — This format of CRM software is also known as on-demand CRM. It is fast, reliable and more scalable than other formats. The installation and maintenance of CRM software is taken care by the vendor providing the cloud-based CRM. However it does require a subscription fees and renewal of licenses over a period of time. Also data security and compatibility are major concerns with this format.
Open-source — This format of CRM software is out and open in public. The source code is available for free and it can be altered to allow customization as per business requirement.Open source CRM software also allows addition of hyper-links to social media accounts and achieve a higher recognition in social media management integration.
Gartner probes that customer relationship management is $36 billion industry. With so much capacity, the costs and the corresponding benefits of the CRM software need an evaluation.
A typical full-featured CRM software ranges from $5 to $75 per user per month. There are different plans businesses can choose from.
- Fixed monthly plans — cloud-based systems have average prices ranging between $50 and $100 per user per month, while on-premises CRMs cost between $250 and $1000 per user.
- One-time payment plans — These plans are based on the purchase of CRM software licenses. The price range is usually between $200 and $800 a year.
- Customized payment plans — The payment options in these type of plans depends upon the features chosen by the customer for the CRM software. The pricing thus cannot be generalised and its upto the vendors and clients to decide on the costs.
- Free CRM — Professionals quote that “In case you’re running a small business or are still not sure what to expect, opting for a free CRM is definitely a good option. For developed businesses with considerable client lists, however, it may be better to look for a professional and affordable system.”
IT industry is trend setter and trend breaker as well. The evolution from one technology to another is so fast that it is overwhelming at times. Well here are few trends of best CRM software that are sure to stay in the long run.
- Social Media CRM — Social media is just the clear-cut locus to find your target audience for your business. Not just finding the customers but managing customer relationship via social media accounts is highly in demand. Mike Ewing shared in one of his articles that “Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.” A simple tweet from a customer and company’s prompt reply is a simple example that demonstrates how social CRM is hitting the high road.
- Trending technologies — CRM software is very scalable when it comes to using the technologies. The 10 technologies that have refined the CRM software are – VoIP, web services and service oriented architecture, speech applications, social networking, wireless connectivities, POS, business intelligence, queue management, cloud, mobile CRM apps and voice recognition.
- CRM software automation — Undoubtedly, with developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and logical enumerations CRM software will reach new heights and is likely to be the most effective way to manage customer relations.
- Multi-channel CRM — Pini Yakuel, founder and CEO of Optimove correctly pointed out that “With the average adult connected to the web by 4.5 devices, marketers will no longer be able to ignore the multichannel reality.” The best way to interact with present day customers is to be online 24*7. People are using n-number of devices and accessing internet from all of them. This gives an upper edge to the marketiers to be in touch with their consumers via omni-channels.
- Predictive analysis — Accurate sales forecasting is very much achievable using predictive analysis. Gaining on customers’ perspective earlier on gives businesses to serve them efficiently. Customers have less complaints and more compliments when they are served right. Predictive analysis thus strengthens customer relationships.