CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a term used to encompass the processes implemented by a company for managing its client or customer base. Modern marketing focuses on the customer as opposed to the product. This is in contradistinction to traditional marketing methods wherein marketers concentrated on the item being sold.
Customer relations can be implemented through several avenues, including person-to-person interaction, telemarketing, and online. Specially developed CRM software can be utilized to facilitate these activities. The company can also use Electronic Customer Relationship Management or eCRM, using virtual contact points such as websites.
The initial stage of CRM is data acquisition. In traditional marketing, the first step is dreaming up a great product, and then figuring out how to sell it. Though this would invariably result in good sales, there would usually be no return business. CRM data acquisition starts with interviewing representative samples of the target customer population. The goal is to determine what the clients need and what they want. Products and services are then developed to match these requirements to encourage brand loyalty and ensure recurrent sales.
Customer Relationship Management includes the entire spectrum of client interactions from identifying and acquiring new customers to conserving and nurturing the customer base to reopening communications with clients who have been lost to follow-up. The key is to optimize customer satisfaction, and in most cases this means giving clients individualized service. Clients must be made to feel that they can access the company anytime that they have any concerns and that these concerns will be dealt with promptly.
This mandatory individualized service can become expensive when done manually, and this is where eCRM plays a crucial role. Sales Force Automation or SFA is a process through which information on clients is gathered, collated, and interpreted without costly manual labor. This ensures that timely data is gathered and disseminated to the proper departments for the optimum growth and development of the business.
One of the most demanding arenas in CRM is handling customer communications. Interactive eCRM gives clients a sense that their complaints, questions, and concerns are being immediately attended to. This increases customer satisfaction and promotes long-lasting client relationships. One example of a highly effective eCRM tool is a company websites where customers can individualize their web pages to enhance interaction.
Some successful businesses are taking CRM one step further by giving clients the option of purchasing custom items. Dell computers offers built-to-order computers where hardware configuration and housing design are crafted to customer specifications. Soon the public may be able purchase a custom Ford automobile interactively online, built with individually chosen exterior elements, paint design, and add-on features.
The Internet is integral to modern business and a company that is not connected will soon be left in the dust. The modern consumer invariably turns to the net when they are looking to make a purchase. It starts with searching for available products online, progresses to reading online product reviews, and ends with a visit to the websites of companies with interesting offerings. Success will require a well-planned CRM strategy and an effective eCRM portal. These are not optional; they are essential tools for the modern business.