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 and driving sales growth. CRM systems are designed to compile information on customers across different channels -- or points of contact between the customer and the company -- which could include the company's website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers' personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.
Customer data analytics can reap significant financial rewards for your organization’s sales, marketing and customer service departments. With so much data to contend with, companies often struggle with making sense of information from customers, public records and external databases. Luckily, we evaluate the newest sales and marketing tools making the process easier for IT managers and sales executives.
CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single CRM database so business users can more easily access and manage it. The other main functions of this software include recording various customer interactions (over email, phone calls, social media or other channels, depending on system capabilities), automating various workflow processes such as tasks, calendars and alerts, and giving managers the ability to track performance and productivity based on information logged within the system.
On-premises CRM puts the onus of administration, control, security and maintenance of the database and information on the company itself. With this approach the company purchases licenses up front instead of buying yearly subscriptions. The software resides on the company's own servers and the user assumes the cost of any upgrades and usually requires a prolonged installation process to fully integrate a company's data. Companies with complex CRM needs might benefit more from an on-premises deployment.
With cloud-based CRM -- also known as SaaS (software-as-a-service) or on-demand CRM -- data is stored on an external, remote network that employees can access anytime, anywhere there is an Internet connection, sometimes with a third-party service provider overseeing installation and maintenance. The cloud's quick, relatively easy deployment capabilities appeals to companies with limited technological expertise or resources.Companies might consider cloud-based CRM as a more cost-effective option. Vendors such as Salesforce.com charge by the user on a subscription basis and give the option of monthly or yearly payments.
Traditionally, data intake practices for CRM systems have been the responsibility of sales and marketing departments as well as contact center agents. Sales and marketing teams procure leads and update the system with information throughout the customer lifecycle and contact centers gather data and revise customer history records through service call and technical support interactions.
The advent of social media and the proliferation of mobile devices has caused CRM providers to upgrade their offerings to include new features that cater to customers who use these technologies.Social CRM refers to businesses engaging customers directly through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media presents an open forum for customers to share experiences with a brand, whether they're airing grievances or promoting products.
To add value to customer interactions on social media, businesses use various tools that monitor social conversations, from specific mentions of a brand to the frequency of keywords used, to determine their target audience and which platforms they use. Other tools are designed to analyze social media feedback and address customer queries and issues. Companies are interested in capturing sentiments such as a customer's likelihood of recommending their products and the customer's overall satisfaction in order to develop marketing and service strategies. Companies try to integrate social CRM data with other customer data obtained from sales or marketing departments in order to get a single view of the customer.
Marketing automation: CRM tools with marketing automation capabilities can automate repetitive tasks to enhance marketing efforts to customers at different points in the lifecycle. For example, as sales prospects come into the system, the system might automatically send them marketing materials, typically via email or social media, with the goal of turning a sales lead into a full-fledged customer.
Sales force automation: Also known as sales force management, sales force automation is meant to prevent duplicate efforts between a salesperson and a customer. A CRM system can help achieve this by automatically tracking all contact and follow-ups between both sides.
Contact center automation: Designed to reduce tedious aspects of a contact center agent's job, contact center automation might include pre-recorded audio that assists in customer problem-solving and information dissemination. Various software tools that integrate with the agent's desktop tools can handle customer requests in order to cut down the time of calls and simplify customer service processes.
Geolocation technology, or location-based services: Some CRM systems include technology that can create geographic marketing campaigns based on customers' physical locations, sometimes integrating with popular location-based GPS apps. Geolocation technology can also be used as a networking or contact management tool in order to find sales prospects based on location.
For all of the advancements in CRM technology, without the proper management, a CRM system can become little more than a glorified database where customer information is stored. Data sets need to be connected, distributed and organized so that users can easily access the information they need.
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