What Are CRM Tools?by Sue Smith
Customer relationship management (CRM) is what is used when an organization has some coherent strategy for handling relationships with its customers. This strategy may involve a number of policies and practices, and will most likely be facilitated partly through the use of software tools. There are many CRM tools available to help organizations develop, maintain and maximize on the relationships they have with customers, each focusing on one or more aspects of customer relationship management.
Often when people refer to CRM they are actually referring to contact management software, which is a central tool within a CRM framework, but is only one of the tools available. In general terms, contact management is any system that records or facilitates communication between customers and the organization. This communication may include telephone conversations, emails, faxes, mail correspondence, and, in some cases, communications through on-line social networking services.
Commercial organizations with customer relationships involving buying or selling may regard the transactions that take place as part of customer relationship management. In this case, any software or Web applications used to carry out transactions are also CRM tools. Many systems, particularly for Internet business, integrate the sales and contact management aspects of CRM, with linked databases containing information relating to customers and their orders.
Marketing is a key element in managing customer relations, and many CRM tools therefore include marketing facilities. Using existing customer data, organizations can use CRM tools to effectively target their marketing promotions and materials, offering greater return on their publicity investments and making it easier to measure the success of such campaigns. Given that most CRM tools use digital communications, marketing is also low cost through these channels in comparison with more traditional models.
CRM tools can be used for most aspects of customer service, from sales through to support. Depending on the product or service in question, a level of customer support in the longer term will typically be required whenever any goods or services are being sold. CRM software can therefore be used to manage this support, including such communication methods as telephone, email, and other Internet contact, such as instant messaging or social networking.
Given that CRM tools hold their data in digital form, there is a natural opportunity for analyzing this data for the purposes of feedback and marketing. Customer transaction and contact data can be used to provide an insight into the operation of an organization, as well as to highlight any potential problem areas of the CRM operation. Some CRM tools include the facility to visualize and analyze data through a user interface.
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