Technology and customer relationship management (CRM) software go hand and hand. CRM is software. It's software that extents across the organizational structure beginning with a web-based, user-friendly interface for sales executives and customer service personnel and ending with massive databases and knowledge management systems. In some applications, the web-based interface extends to the customer as well.
What is CRM?
The primary objective of any company or corporation is the get and keep a customer. Customer relationship management (CRM) is an information technology-driven strategy companies use to get and keep a customer. According to TechTarget.com, CRM systems ensure "management, salespeople, people providing service, and perhaps the customer can directly access information, match customer needs with product plans and offerings, remind customers of service requirements, know what other products a customer had purchased, and so forth." With this level of knowledge and empowerment, corporations can provide the services required to get and keep the customer buying.
The Evolution of CRM
CRM evolved out of the need for sales executives to maximize the use of technology in sales processes. This started with the introduction of the personal information manager (PIM). PIM was a small electronic notebook where sales people kept names and addresses of contacts. Over time, the PIM evolved into computer-based contact management systems. Well-known contact management systems are ACT and Goldmine. Given the increased need for flexibility and access to more information, contact management systems evolved into sales force automation (SFA) and SFA eventually evolved into CRM. Unlike earlier versions, CRM systems offered sales executives access to enterprise-wide data such as real time orders, product delivery information and customer complaints/resolution. This was all in a effort to not only make a sale, but to keep customers engaged and buying new products and services.
Technology and CRM
Everything about CRM is information technology-driven. Technology is pervasive from the basic user-friendly interface to complex back-end database and knowledge management systems. Massive databases are the heart of any CRM system. Data is collected from multiple sources ranging from data entry from customer service personnel to online data collection forms made available to the customer via a web browser. Sales executives or customer service personnel can access this data via the worldwide web, an extranet relationship with a corporate partners or an internal corporate intranet. Given the rise of PDAs and smartphones, many companies offer CRM mobile applications to sales executives in the field.
CRM applications has three primary technology components that are referred to as customer touch points, applications, and data stores. Customer touch points are the primary human interface with customers. This is the beginning of the sales process. Sales people or customer service personnel communicate with the customer and input data into the system. Or, with the web, this interface could be through an online form where the customer is asking for more information. Applications is the software interface between the customer touch points and corporate databases. Data stores represent the data stored in the databases as well as the knowledge management systems designed to interpret the data and map out customer buying habits or buying behavior patterns.
The Future of CRM
The future of CRM is in simplied, low-cost, high-tech implementations, all in an attempt to make CRM systems more flexible and accessible to small businesses as well as large corporations. According to Destinationcrm.com, future CRM technology will include: VOIP technology; speech recognition technology for customer service interface, CRM application service providers where companies pay a monthly fee to access CRM technology, social networking applications and many more. As the global economy expands and competition increases, a CRM system can make the difference between keeping a customer and losing a customer. So, CRM technology will evolve as necessary to service this increasing demand.