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Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Customer relationship management (CRM) consists of the processes a company uses to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers. CRM software is used to support these processes; information about customers and customer interactions can be entered, stored and accessed by employees in different company departments. Typical CRM goals are to improve services provided to customers, and to use customer contact information for targeted marketing.

While the term CRM generally refers to a software-based approach to handling customer relationships, most CRM software vendors stress that a successful CRM effort requires a holistic approach. CRM initiatives often fail because implementation was limited to software installation, without providing the context, support and understanding for employees to learn, and take full advantage of the information systems. CRM can be implemented without major investments in software, but software is often necessary to explore the full benefits of a CRM strategy.

Other problems occur when failing to think of sales as the output of a process that itself needs to be studied and taken into account when planning automation.

Overview

From the outside, customers interacting with a company perceive the business as a single entity, despite often interacting with a number of employees in different roles and departments. CRM is a combination of policies, processes, and strategies implemented by an organization to unify its customer interactions and provide a means to track customer information. It involves the use of technology in attracting new and profitable customers, while forming tighter bonds with existing ones.

CRM includes many aspects which relate directly to one another:

* Front office operations — Direct interaction with customers, e.g. face to face meetings, phone calls, e-mail, online services etc.
* Back office operations — Operations that ultimately affect the activities of the front office (e.g., billing, maintenance, planning, marketing, advertising, finance, manufacturing, etc.)
* Business relationships — Interaction with other companies and partners, such as suppliers/vendors and retail outlets/distributors, industry networks (lobbying groups, trade associations). This external network supports front and back office activities.
* Analysis — Key CRM data can be analyzed in order to plan target-marketing campaigns, conceive business strategies, and judge the success of CRM activities (e.g., market share, number and types of customers, revenue, profitability).

Perhaps it is important to note that while most consumers of CRM view it as a software "solution", there is a growing realization in the corporate world that CRM is really a customer-centric strategy for doing business; supported by software. Along these lines, CRM thought leaders like Dick Lee of High Yield Methods define CRM as "CRM adds value to customers in ways that add value back to the company".

Types/Variations of CRM

There are several different approaches to CRM, with different software packages focusing on different aspects. In general, Customer Service, Campaign Management and Sales Force Automation form the core of the system (with SFA being the most popular).

Operational CRM

Operational CRM provides support to "front office" business processes, e.g. to sales, marketing and service staff. Interactions with customers are generally stored in customers' contact histories, and staff can retrieve customer information as necessary.

The contact history provides staff members with immediate access to important information on the customer (products owned, prior support calls etc.), eliminating the need to individually obtain this information directly from the customer. Reaching to the customer at right time at right place is preferable.

Operational CRM processes customer data for a variety of purposes:

    * Managing campaigns
    * Enterprise Marketing Automation
    * Sales Force Automation
    * Sales Management System

Sales (SFA)

Sales Force Automation automates sales force-related activities such as:

    * Activity Management: Scheduling sales calls or mailings
    * Tracking responses
    * Generating reports
    * Opportunity Management and Assessment
    * Account Management and Target Account Selling
    * Automate Sales Order Processing

Analytical CRM analyzes customer data for a variety of purposes:


    * Designing and executing targeted marketing campaigns
    * Designing and executing campaigns, e.g. customer acquisition, cross-selling, up-selling
    * Analysing customer behavior in order to make decisions relating to products and services (e.g. pricing, product development)
    * Management information system (e.g. financial forecasting and customer profitability analysis)

Analytical CRM generally makes heavy use of data mining and other techniques to produce useful results for decision-making.

Sales Intelligence CRM

Sales Intelligence CRM is similar to Analytical CRM, but is intended as a more direct sales tool. Features include alerts sent to sales staff regarding:

    * Cross-selling/Up-selling/Switch-selling opportunities
    * Customer drift
    * Sales performance
    * Customer trends
    * Customer margins
    * Customer alignment

Campaign Management

Campaign management combines elements of Operational and Analytical CRM. Campaign management functions include:

    * Target groups formed from the client base according to selected criteria
    * Sending campaign-related material (e.g. on special offers) to selected recipients using various channels (e.g. e-mail, telephone, SMS, post)
    * Tracking, storing, and analyzing campaign statistics, including tracking responses and analyzing trends

Collaborative CRM

Collaborative CRM covers aspects of a company's dealings with customers that are handled by various departments within a company, such as sales, technical support and marketing. Staff members from different departments can share information collected when interacting with customers. For example, feedback received by customer support agents can provide other staff members with information on the services and features requested by customers. Collaborative CRM's ultimate goal is to use information collected by all departments to improve the quality of services provided by the company.

Consumer Relationship CRM

Consumer Relationship System (CRS) covers aspects of a company's dealing with customers handled by the Consumer Affairs and Customer Relations contact centres within a company. Representatives handle in-bound contact from anonymous consumers and customers. Early warnings can be issued regarding product issues (e.g. item recalls) and current consumer sentiment can be tracked (voice of the customer).

Strategy

Several CRM software packages are available, and they vary in their approach to CRM. However, as mentioned above, CRM is not just a technology but rather a comprehensive, customer-centric approach to an organization's philosophy of dealing with its customers. This includes policies and processes, front-of-house customer service, employee training, marketing, systems and information management. Hence, it is important that any CRM implementation considerations stretch beyond technology toward the broader organizational requirements.

The objectives of a CRM strategy must consider a company’s specific situation and its customers' needs and expectations. Information gained through CRM initiatives can support the development of marketing strategy by developing the organization's knowledge in areas such as identifying customer segments, improving customer retention, improving product offerings (by better understanding customer needs), and by identifying the organization's most profitable customers.

CRM strategies can vary in size, complexity, and scope. Some companies consider a CRM strategy only to focus on the management of a team of salespeople. However, other CRM strategies can cover customer interaction across the entire organization. Many commercial CRM software packages provide features that serve the sales, marketing, event management, project management, and finance industries.

From this perspective, CRM has for some time been seen to play an important role in many sales process engineering efforts.

Implementation Issues

Many CRM project "failures" are also related to data quality and availability. Data cleaning is a major issue. If a company's CRM strategy is to track life-cycle revenues, costs, margins, and interactions between individual customers, this must be reflected in all business processes. Data must be extracted from multiple sources (e.g., departmental/divisional databases such as sales, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, finance, service etc.), which requires an integrated, comprehensive system in place with well-defined structures and high data quality. Data from other systems can be transferred to CRM systems using appropriate interfaces.

Because of the company-wide size and scope of many CRM implementations, significant pre-planning is essential for smooth roll-out. This pre-planning involves a technical evaluation of the data available and the technology employed in existing systems. This evaluation is critical to determine the level of effort needed to integrate this data.

Equally critical is the human aspect of the implementation. A successful implementation requires an understanding of the expectations and needs of the stakeholders involved. An executive sponsor should also be obtained to provide high-level management representation of the CRM project.

An effective tool for identifying technical and human factors before beginning a CRM project is a pre-implementation checklist. A checklist can help ensure any potential problems are identified early in the process.

Privacy and data security

One of the primary functions of CRM software is to collect information about customers. When gathering data as part of a CRM solution, a company must consider the desire for customer privacy and data security, as well as the legislative and cultural norms. Some customers prefer assurances that their data will not be shared with third parties without their prior consent and that safeguards are in place to prevent illegal access by third parties.

It is important that the you feel comfortable with whom you are talking to, you can guarantee friendly, trusted advisers whom are entirely dedicated to your need  for CRM at premiercallcentre.co.uk
 

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