Customer relationship management (CRM) is a strategy employed at corporate level. For any company, it is the focus on the creation and maintenance of lasting and meaningful relationships with its customers. It can perhaps be described as a holistic approach of a company’s philosophy where the emphasis is placed primarily on the customer.
To simplify this process, there are a number of commercial software packages available. Two of the market leaders are GoldMine® and ACT!®. Their programs allow a high degree of mechanization through a central database. Many tasks can also be automated, which allows greater overall control and sophistication.
However, simply installing and integrating a CRM such as the GoldMine® software, or the ACT!® software is not enough by its own. A successful CRM strategy requires the correct response at all levels to reshape a company’s business activities to incorporate a fully customer-driven approach. In the design stage of implementing a CRM, it may be wise if a decision is made to retain greater and more extensive information on primary customers, and keep less information on clients with a low margin.
Sales, marketing and customer service all need to be seamlessly integrated. In this way the contact management software can keep track of all the relevant aspects involved in selling to customers, or following up on leads and prospects. The success factors in gaining customers can be highlighted for re-use, and the approaches that failed, or were marginal, can be abandoned, or even revisited for further evaluation at a later time.
A CRM can be considered in three distinct but equally important parts. There is the operational part, which focuses on basic business processes such as sales and marketing, as well as customer service. There is the analytical part, which can analyze the behavior of customers and produce reports, show returns on investment, and report on the pattern of the sales team, either individually or as a whole. Finally, there is the collaborative part, which focuses on the basic contact with the customer. This can be direct, or through automated follow-up emails, for example.
Any company considering scaling up to utilize a CRM software should think equally about staff training. Only through properly identified and properly delivered training will a CRM, such as the GoldMIne® software, or the ACT!® software, be found to be cost effective and worth the expense and trouble of implementing. While a good CRM can be worth its weight in gold, it will only be as good as the management who run it, and the sales team who use it.
A good CRM software will provide reporting and analytical tools, which can be used as highly effective feedback. Analysis of sales can identify hidden opportunities, expose weaknesses, highlight areas of strength, and reveal the current performance level of sales people. Using intelligent reporting facilities to maximize strengths and eliminate or minimize weaknesses, is indeed a powerful tool to have at your disposal.
That, coupled with the proper training in how to put the tools to their best use, will provide any company with a solid customer relationship management strategy that will prove to be highly effective.