Clearly, customer relationship management (CRM) is not a “thing”, it’s a philosophical process, an idea. The term itself has been over-used, and misused, to sell everything from phone jacks to delivery vans. By lumping products and services into a nebulous, all-encompassing category, manufacturers did not have to define what it was their offerings really were. But we’re all a lot smarter now, and recognize that the ultimate goals of this process are; providing a superior customer experience, building customer loyalty and value, and optimizing the way the first two goals are achieved.
CRM software tools are designed to interconnect customers – both directly and indirectly – with the people, process, systems and knowledge within an organization’s external partners and suppliers. Sales, marketing and customer service are the Big Three of CRM. Whether you are looking for a complete suite of products or desire an application that delivers a point solution, appreciate how your present processes and systems will affect and will be affected by your automation decision. Remember, too, that CRM solutions are also about providing customers with the interaction media and channels of their choice: seamless, fluid communications for both your customers and your organization provide the bedrock of successful, ongoing business relationships. Leveraging the Internet in this regard delivers benefits to customers, including self-help, self-service, Web chat and call, e-mail, collaboration and personalization, and our company (workflow optimization; per/call cost reduction; enterprisewide views of customers; better structured sales offers and marketing campaigns; etc). Ultimately, the “best” CRM solution will bring your customers closer to you. For some practical advice, we recommend that you read Ernie Megazzini’s article, “Selecting, And Buying CRM Software”, and “Solving the Puzzle Of CRM Solutions” by Rene White, both of which appeared in the March 2001 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions (available online at www.tmcnet.com/cis/0301/0301crm.htm).
CRM software products are components of an organo-inorganic compound; your company. Successful deployment of a CRM solution presents a synthetic of people and processes – thinking, behaving and operating on a higher plane of (company) consciousness – all attuned to the impact of customer relationships and interrelationships that propel your organization forward to sustained success. The companies and products presented in the following compilation exemplify a complete range of technologies and attendant consultative services available toward that end.