Customer relationship management (CRM) is a dynamic business strategy designed
to reduce costs and increase profitability by encouraging customer loyalty.
After all, its cheaper to retain current customers than to acquire new ones.
And the latest CRM software applications are designed to help companies seamlessly
manage each step in the process.
What Is Small Business CRM?
Small business CRM is a customer-centric philosophy designed to learn more
about customers needs and behaviors to help cultivate stronger relationships.
CRM combines information from all internal and external data sources to give
one, holistic view of each customer in real time. The result is an improved
ability of sales, customer support, and marketing departments to make quick
yet informed decisions on everything from cross-selling and up-selling opportunities
to target marketing strategies and competitive positioning tactics.
According to ComputerWorld, there are three distinct areas of small business
CRM that every company should consider:
- Sales force automation. Includes such components as field sales, call
center telephone sales, third-party agents, retail and e-commerce, which
is sometimes referred to as technology-enabled selling.
- Customer service/call
center management. Includes field service and
dispatch technicians, Internet-based service or self-service via a Web
site, and call
centers that handle all channels of customer contact.
- Marketing automation.
Includes components such as data-cleansing tools, business intelligence
tools, a data warehouse to support strategic decisions,
applications, and a campaign management system.
CRM Application Techniques
CRM is a complex process that, typically, should be incorporated in phases
as opposed to one fail swoop. According to industry professionals,
organizations looking to implement a new customer resource management
consider each of the following application techniques:
- Developing a Customer Strategy. What makes customers buy repeatedly
from a business that they can trust?
- Customer Lifecycle Management. Valuating
the lifetime customer and creating processes for improving retention.
Flexibility. Using CRM software and other high-tech applications for smooth
integration in multiple departments.
- Operational CRM. Aligning management
and sales force team members with CRM goals and objectives.
- Analytical CRM.
Tracking and reporting results in real time. Using data to guide future
processes and action strategies.
- Collaborative CRM. Incorporating customer
and call center strategies into the CRM lifecycle.
- CRM Project Management.
Identifying opportunities for recruiting and retention.
Defining CRM Systems: Hosted vs. On-Premises
Like most businesses, CRM
systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Selecting
the right CRM software package depends largely on the current and future
wants and needs of the business in question. For example, small- and medium-sized
businesses (SMBs) may benefit the most from a hosted CRM
solution. With a
hosted system, an external
CRM vendor stores and manages a companys customer
data via the Web. Here the company has access to the information 24/7, and
doesnt have to worry about maintaining expensive equipment on-site.
For larger businesses that have more resources than SMBs, however, an on-premises
solution may be a better option. Although on-premises CRM requires a company
to manage its own hardware and software, it has complete control, and can customize
its system to align with specific customer/client goals.
CRM in Perspective
Regardless of company size, shape, or strength, CRM
software has become an
excellent tool for maximizing the collection, management, and sharing of
customer data. In turn, this increased efficiency has helped companies better
understand that data, and use it to elevate customer service, boost sales,
and increase the all-important bottom line.
Certified e-Business Professional
Customer Resource Management Association