What's all the Hubbub about CRM?
In case you've been living in a cave for the past few years, you probably know all about CRM and its relationship to Contact Management Software. Basically, contact management software was the foundation for what is now Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. There are many software packages available to choose from that are either simply the contact manager portion, or the full-blown CRM version. You can also find programs that are web-based to enable you to access your information from anywhere at any time. Regardless of which level your company uses, having some form of contact management software is necessary.

CRM is a strategy, process, and technology that let's your company make the most of every sale by optimizing revenue and getting a better understanding of the customer's needs. The CRM universe rolls together sales (as a type of Sales Force Automation), marketing, and customer service into a single software-driven technology. In other words, it includes the areas of your company that affect the relationships with your customers. It puts this information into a single package which encompasses the meat of what every customer-centric business needs to know and keep track of. Every interaction with a customer is recorded in this single system. That information is then used to manage, measure, and keep track of the processes of marketing, sales and customer service as they relate to that customer. Overall, it builds greater customer loyalty and a better customer experience.

No more will the Sales department blame Marketing for not communicating to them. No more will Customer Service blame Sales for disgruntled customers. No more will Marketing blame everyone else for not implementing their business solutions. Now everyone can live in one big happy, customer-focused universe that communicates and desegregates the internal workings of the company. Before, no one was accountable for why the customer wasn't happy. There was a lot of finger-pointing and buck-passing. With CRM everyone has access to what's going on with every customer and can access the information necessary to keep that customer happy.

Now, if we focus on the Sales portion of this we see that, with CRM, Sales can build that relationship (remember Relationship Selling) and that relationship can be extended deeper into the company to customer service. So, you have an ever greater chance of keeping that customer happy and addressing their needs quickly and efficiently. Marketing can use the data gathered to develop new business solutions, directions, and more effectively communicate the offerings of the company.

Notes about Setting Up Your CRM System
As great as CRM is, it can't work without some up-front planning and forethought. For example, before you set up your sales team with a contact management or CRM system you have to first:

  • Plan the details of the information you want to collect.
  • Set up procedures and protocols for how the information will be entered.
  • Standardize phrasing and abbreviations for company names or address information.
  • Create drop-down lists for common terms and items that everyone would use.
  • Agree on report formats and styles and set up templates.
Once you have the preliminary information identified and squared away, set up time to thoroughly train your sales team and have an accessible resource for future questions and suggestions. It's a process that has to be planned and managed in order to be effective.

CRM is definitely the way of the future. Companies that don't implement some form of CRM may have a hard time keeping their customers as happy as their competitors who have a CRM system do.