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Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

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When your company communicates with your customers the process can involve many different people within both organizations using a variety of different methods. The main tool that is used is an order that is communicated by your customer to your sales department. However this is only one of many communications that should be managed. To ensure that your company can provide the best customer service experience possible the use of customer relationship management (CRM) software should be considered.

Typical CRM software will allow you to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers. The software allows your employees to store information about customers and customer interactions which then can be accessed by employees in different departments within your company.

There are three areas which your company interacts with your customers.

  • Front Office Contacts - These involve the direct contact your employees have with your customers which can include phone calls, e-mail, instant messages and face to face communication.
  • Back Office Operations – These are processes that are used to facilitate the front office, such as finance communications, marketing, customer billing and advertising.
  • Business Contacts – Your employees will interact with customers and suppliers through networking, industry events and trade associations.

Key Elements Of CRM

CRM can be broken down into a number of different components which many software vendors have developed packages for. For the most part, there are three areas which are core to successful customer relationship management; Customer Service, Sales Force Automation and Campaign Management.

Customer Service

The customer service function in your company represents the front office functions that interact with your customers. These are the business processes that allow your company to sell products and services to your customers, communicate with your customers with regards marketing and dealing with the after sales service requirements of your customers. Each interaction with the customer is recorded and stored within the CRM software where it can be retrieved by other employees if needed.

Sales Force Automation

Your company’s sales department is constantly looking for sales opportunities with existing and new customers. The sales force automation functionality of CRM software allows the sales teams to record each contact with customers, the details of the contact and if follow up is required. This can provide a sales force with greater efficiencies as there is little chance for duplication of effort. The ability for employees outside of the sales team to have access to this data ensures that they have the most recent contact information with customers. This is important when customers contact employees outside of the sales team so that customers are given the best level of customer service.

Campaign Management

The sales team approach prospective customers in the hope of winning new business. The approach taken by the sales team is often focused in a campaign, where a group of specific customers are targeted based on a set of criteria. These customers will receive targeted marketing materials and often special pricing or terms are offered as an inducement. CRM software is used to record the campaign details, customer responses and analysis performed as part of the campaign.

Popular CRM Software

CRM software has been popular over the last twenty years and a number of software packages have been popular during that time. Siebel Systems was founded by Thomas Siebel back in 1993 and developed popular Sales Force Automation and CRM packages. In 2002, Siebel controlled 45% of the CRM market and in 2005 it was purchased by Oracle.

Epiphany was founded around the same time as Siebel and launched a very popular modular CRM package. Epiphany was purchased by SSA in 2005, which was in turn purchased by Infor in 2006. The Epiphany CRM software is now marketed as Infor CRM Epiphany.

Salesforce.com is a leading CRM product that is not traditional software that is installed at a client, but is offered over the internet, which is commonly referred to a software-as-a-service (SaaS). Salesforce.com was founded in 1999 and now has over 55,000 customers.

SAP, which is more commonly known as a vendor of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, offers a very popular CRM package. SAP’s CRM product is often purchased by companies who are already SAP customers because of the ease of integration.

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