Customer Relationship Management Overview

The customer-oriented business knows its customers and their needs.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) refers to a collaborative philosophy or system of business practices implemented across an enterprise to organize the acquisition, aggregation, and analysis of customer profiles.

Customer information is already captured from numerous points, such as sales information systems, call centers, and surveys. CRM Services allow this information to be shared across the company in order to create a customer-centric organization.

The methods and software used for dissecting the collected customer data are called business intelligence systems. Once the data is analyzed, the most profitable customer demographics for the company can be targeted and catered to, and the long-term retention of this group will result in increased customer satisfaction and therefore increased revenue.

Customer-focused organizational intelligence is also a way to differentiate a company. It can unify disparate departmental goals, and improve the customer buying experience, effective lead generation, marketing campaign management, sales, order fulfillment, and customer service.

Customer Interaction and Data Collection

The telephone continues to be the main point of customer contact for companies, and call centers are generally created to handle a large volume of calls. Therefore, of the various kinds of customer interaction services that should be integrated into a CRM strategy, quality, user-friendly call center software, including any voice recognition software, VoiceXML applications, or IVR systems that recognize and reply to customer voice inquiries, are critical.

As customers demand the availability of goods and services via other media, many companies refer to their call center as a contact center. Contact center management is an IT challenge, as the contact center software may need to be a central input site for contact management software, customer support software, and other customer contact. The customer profile data gathered in these systems, from name and address capture to the type of inquiry made, could be input from websites, emails, text chat, Voice over IP (VoIP), or even social networking systems, wikis, or blogs.

This data may also need to be routed across the enterprise for CRM strategies, and is typically also used for multi-channel marketing. The information from a contact center may need to be merged with incoming customer information from other areas, such as sales information systems, mobile technology-based field force automation, partner relationship management (PRM) software, and campaign management in a standardized data warehouse before being cleaned, shared, analyzed, and customized, resulting in effective customer profiling.

The process generally requires an enterprise architecture composed of various configurable Web Services that allow for the company-wide integration of customer information input via the Internet.

The Right CRM for Your Business

These strategies imply a far-reaching implementation of a customer-focused mindset as well as new working processes. The business challenges include solid executive buy-in and change management, as well as some good help desk management to smooth the transition for employees.

The challenge to IT departments is how to best integrate collaborative information systems using multiple technologies across an extended enterprise that may also include suppliers and partners.

Successful CRM initiatives are often strategically evolutionary, creating necessary buy-in by reaching short term goals such as capturing visitor data to a website, before integrating enterprise-wide systems designed to discover which customers to retain, and which programs to continue.

For more information on choosing the right CRM solution for your company, please read our Customer Relationship Management First Steps.

Go to Bitpipe Research Guide: Customer Relationship Management.


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