Customer relationship management (CRM) applications have been used since the 1980s. The internet has made them far more useful.
With one big exception, the basic components of CRM solutions haven’t really changed in the 30 years or so that they’ve been around. Originally designed for the sales profession, they consisted of:
- A database of customer profiles,
- A calendar and scheduling tools, and,
- A history feature for logging phone calls, correspondence, etc.
The early desktop-based applications replaced manual tools like Rolodexes and file folders. But salespeople found that they were spending as much time updating their software as they did closing sales. The internet changed that, and today there are dozens of cloud-based CRM solutions that import existing web-based information (customer contact data, social streams, etc.).
Getting to Know You
If you’re in the business of selling products and/or services, you know how the web has changed your relationships with customers. They no longer have to rely on you to get basic information about your offerings and to find existing customers who can make recommendations.
Prospects interested in buying what you’re selling have already done their research. They’ve read reviews—both good and bad—and solicited opinions. They may have seen your website and blog and your social media posts. They know a lot about you already.
CRM applications can help level the playing field by providing a way to develop thorough profiles of existing customers and known prospects.
A Larger Audience
These profiles are not created, maintained, and accessed by only the sales staff anymore. State-of-the-art CRM solutions emphasize integration with other employees and departments who can both contribute to these comprehensive compendiums of valuable information and benefit from them.
Depending on which application you choose, you may be able to link your customers’ core profile with real-time information from accounting, for example. A salesperson could view financial account information before pitching a customer, and might even be able to create invoices and other sales transactions.
Your customer service representatives could document their interaction with customers (complaints, queries, etc.) and access their histories. Marketing staff might learn where their efforts are lacking, and management could see reports that outlined trends and problems and successes.
Benefits for Both
Of course, not every employee would need to see every detail in a customer’s profile. CRM solutions let you assign access rights and set permission levels to protect the customers’ privacy and prevent harmful data leaks. But when the distribution and integration of customer data is managed well, both you and your customers will benefit.
- Your sales team will have a much more thorough understanding of who its customers are.
- Executives will have information that will help them make better business decisions.
- Your customers will feel that you recognize them as individuals and know something about their history.
CRM applications—used conscientiously—can improve the depth and quality of your customer relationships. And that can result in higher revenue for your company.