Companies small and large rely on many different business software solutions to support their operations. How does CRM software fit in to the organizational technology picture?
One way to understand this is to separate the company's customer-facing programs such as sales, marketing and customer service from its non-customer facing departments such as finance and HR. Software applications that deal with customer-facing activities are grouped together as Front Office applications. Other technologies are Back Office applications. Software that integrates the front and back office is known as middleware.
Customer Relationship Management software is the core of the Front Office solution package.
Operational Versus Analytical CRM
CRM software systems offer two value propositions. The first is cost savings due to greater efficiency in business processes, known as Operational CRM. The second, called Analytical CRM, is the gathering of actionable customer data that is analyzed for greater customization and for predictive purposes.
Operational CRM supports the front-end, customer-facing business processes and includes all the products, services and operational capabilities that enable the company to service its customers. Examples include contact centers, data aggregation tools, transactional/self-service web sites, customer-centric business processes and performance measures (cost, cycle time, satisfaction). With operational CRM call center and self-help efficiency can be analyzed in great detail and improved upon quantitatively and qualitatively.
The value of CRM to the organization only begins with an improved and more competitive customer experience. The real CRM payoff comes as customer data is captured and analyzed to gain intelligence into both individual customers and the marketplace. When analyzed intelligently this data becomes the basis of future product development, targeted marketing campaigns and enhanced services. Ultimately, analytical CRM produces a more competitive enterprise that is able to predict and act on market trends rather than respond after the fact.
The analytical CRM umbrella encompasses customer analytics, business intelligence (BI) and data mining, customer grouping strategies, incentive/loyalty programs and triggers for cross-selling and up-selling.
The CRM Software Components
CRM software components encompass the three customer-facing, functional areas aligned with targeting, acquiring and supporting customers.
- Marketing Automation
- Sales Force Automation
- Customer Service
Marketing Automation serves to seek out and acquire new customers as well as grow existing customer share. Marketing campaign management lets you to design, distribute and track campaign performance across products, territories, sales people and other variables, so you know when to implement course corrections or where to increase marketing spend. Common marketing automation features include brand management, list management, real-time offer management, loyalty management and marketing budget ROI analysis.
Sales Force Automation (SFA)
Sales Force Automation software solutions seek to automate the entire sales cycle from planning and forecasting to negotiation and closure. Typical SFA functions include lead management, sale opportunity management, communication management, sales forecasting, product configuration, order processing, product information, quota management and sales analysis.
The customer service component of CRM software automates help desk, call center and field service management, providing automated, end-to-end incident or case management resolution. Customer service applications track and automate call routing, case management, response methods such as FAQs or knowledge-base lookups, incident escalations, and the capture of customer data for performance measurement, quality control and future product development.
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The value of CRM to the enterprise only begins with an improved and more competitive customer experience. The big CRM payback comes as customer information is captured and analyzed to gain intelligence into both individual customers and the market. When intelligently analyzed this information becomes the basis of future product development, targeted marketing messages and enhanced services. Ultimately, CRM produces a more competitive enterprise that is able to predict and act on market trends rather than respond after the fact