What is CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. It helps you stay connected to them, streamline processes and improve your profitability.

More commonly, when people talk about CRM they are usually referring to a CRM system, a tool which helps with contact management, sales management, productivity and more.

Customer Relationship Management enables you to focus on your organisation’s relationships with individual people – whether those are customers, service users, colleagues or suppliers. CRM is not just for sales. Some of the biggest gains in productivity can come from moving beyond CRM as a sales and marketing tool and embedding it in your business – from HR to customer services and supply-chain management.

CRM System

Fundamentally, a CRM system allows you to manage the business relationships you have with your customers to help you grow your business.

In fact CRM goes far beyond customers, allowing you to focus on your organisation’s relationships with all sorts of people – colleagues, suppliers and service users as well as customers.

How does it do this? At the most basic level, a CRM system provides a central place where you can store customer and prospect contact information, and share it with colleagues.

Once this is in place you can track the history of all your interactions you have with those customers: phone calls made, emails sent, meetings held, presentations delivered, enquiries received. Because tracking is everything.

With a CRM system in place, every question, every service request, every preference and every past contact detail about every customer is at your fingertips. And that means that every contact you have with your customers is always personal, relevant and up to date.

By understanding your customers better, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities become clear – giving you the chance to win new business from existing customers.

And as well as tracking contact histories, you can also add notes, schedule follow-ups and organise the next steps that you or your colleagues need to take. That means you need never miss an opportunity to close particular deals or grow customer accounts.

These traditional functions of a CRM system, then, might include:

  • File and content sharing
  • Sales forecasting
  • Instant messaging between employees
  • Email integration with Outlook and Gmail
  • Dashboard-based analytics

But modern CRM platforms such as Salesforce go much further, integrating with marketing automation and customer service systems to provide a complete, cloud-based ecosystem for customer data.

Evaluating CRM systems

If you’re sold on the idea of a CRM system, you’ve still got a decision to make. Do you choose a desktop system that runs on a single computer, a client/server system with a central database stored on a server and software installed on each user’s PC or laptop to access it – or is an online CRM system based in the cloud a more sensible choice?

DESKTOP, SERVER OR CLOUD?

A simple desktop system is only of use if it’s just you using the system and you’re not interested in anything more than an electronic version of a Rolodex for simple customer contact management – so let’s compare client/server CRM systems and online CRM systems based in the cloud.

Client/Server

Cloud

Cost

Capital start-up costs including server purchase and installation time.

Minimal capital investment, no start-up delay and a simple monthly fee.

Security and maintenance

You are responsible for your own IT security (or finding a data centre supplier to do it for you).

The CRM supplier maintains the servers and keeps security up to date as part of your monthly fee.

Competitiveness

Adding new features or functions to keep up with technological advances can be expensive and complex, needing considerable in-house expertise.

New features and functions can be switched on and off remotely and are immediately available to all users.

Mobility

Depends on an installed base of client PCs; mobile use can be limited to laptops with necessary level of security and dependent on availability of a secure VPN.

Secure access from any internet-connected device: at home, in the office, or while traveling. Learn more about Mobile CRM.

Disaster recovery

Customer data needs to be included in your own backup and disaster recovery plans.

Disaster recovery handled by vendor as part of monthly service fee.

CRM

  • Salesforce
  • Zoho
  • Microsoft Dynamics