We Know: All About CRM Software

What is CRM software?

Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM gathers and automates customer serving processes by tracking customer service calls and sales in a central location. By knowing what customers want and how they want it, companies can efficiently tailor services and products to the changing needs of customers.

How does CRM software help organizations?

CRM software helps in one of three ways:

  • Operational procedures automate customer service processes.
  • Co-operational procedures gather personal information about customers.
  • Analyzes business processes and provides self-service solutions.

Before any automation takes place, companies need to evaluate their business processes to determine how they want to serve the customer. Getting to know the customer's needs can help a company choose an appropriate software package that will achieve that company's goals. Choosing an off-the-shelf CRM software package won't do any good if it fails to integrate into the company's objectives.

What are some functionalities of CRM software?

A typical CRM software package accomplishes the following:

  • Sales Force Automation (SFA)
    • Automates the management of customer accounts, contact information, quotes given to customers, forecasts, sales administration tasks, customer preferences, and sales processes.
    • The goal is to improve sales productivity.
  • Customer Service and Support (CSS)
    • Automates customer service requests, merchandise returns, customer complaints, information requests.
    • Uses computer telephony integration (CTI) to coordinate customer service processes.
  • Enterprise Marketing Automation (EMA)
    • Takes information about the organization and uses it to produce a marketing strategy.
    • Predictive modeling.

What should I look for when buying CRM software?

Choose a package that is:

  • Scalable - software can keep pace with business growth.
  • Provides flexibility by interacting with customers using a variety of media - phone, WAP, Internet.
  • Has the capacity to manage workflow by routing and triggering appropriate processes, as in sending an email to the appropriate personnel.
  • Assigns requests to persons or groups.
  • Centralizes customer information in a database.
  • Encrypts customer data for privacy and protection.

What are some commercial CRM software packages?

Commercial software packages come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the more popular packages include:

  • ACT - a contacts database management program designed for small businesses.
    • Works well with Microsoft Office applications and supports other accounting packages, but does not integrate well into outside databases.
  • Co-ordimax - a CRM package targeting medium to large businesses that integrates well with other applications.
  • GoldMine - usually good for small to medium-sized businesses, but suffers the same limitations as ACT. However, there is support for dBase and MS SQL databases.
  • SalesForce.com - is XML-compliant and works with Microsoft Office applications.
    • An online CRM solution.
    • Licensing cost is high.
    • Has good management applications.
    • Customizable.
    • On-demand CRM system.
  • NetSuite - powerful reporting capabilities, overall a comprehensive package, but is not an on-demand CRM.
  • Siebel - enterprise-level product for large businesses; implementations can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What are some drawbacks to CRM software?

In our increasingly public world, tracking customer information in so much detail entails concern about privacy and ethical issues. Hacking into a company database can lead to identity theft, while spamming and sharing of customer information with other companies lead to irritated customers. Still, other customers don't enjoy the idea of talking through an automated system and prefer the company of a person on the line. CRM software can save a company millions in paperwork and service processes, but only if it is used on a satisfied customer base. Disaster strikes for companies that implement CRM solutions without reflecting on customer needs.

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