The Types of CRM Systemsby Sam N. Austin
Customer relationship management (CRM) software serves the needs of small businesses as well as large enterprises by creating a focus on the business's customers. The different types of CRM systems share the common goal of creating opportunities, through the use of technology, to improve the quality of service a business provides to current and prospective customers. CRM systems pool the information sources from sales, marketing, customer service, and accounting databases to create a single, comprehensive tool.
Operational CRM systems focus on the software applications that integrate disconnected data sets in a business. These systems bring the focus to customers programatically, often providing information from numerous databases on a single Internet web page so that a business's employees can provide rapid service to customers. The main benefit of these systems consists in their ability to let employees provide rapid service and responses to customer without the need to use one software application to access a customer's sales records, another to access technical support records, and still another to access billing information. Operational CRM systems streamline the customer service process.
Analytical CRM systems focus on gleaning insights about customers from a business' available data. Like all CRM systems, analytical systems integrate data from a business's different databases. Analytical systems differ from others in the way they use that data. Analytical CRM systems apply techniques such as data mining, where specialized software applications examine data to look for patterns and trends. The analyses the systems create improve customer service by pointing to widespread problems that may not be evident from individual instances so businesses can address the problems before they worsen. This proactive approach to customer services can help reduce a business' costs.
Collaborative CRM systems move outside a business to incorporate the business's external contacts such as vendors, suppliers and distributors. The systems allow a business to bring additional data into the service of its customers, often by making information available to the customers themselves through a special kind of website, an extranet. Collaborative CRM tools focus on enabling customers to work interactively with a business to improve the service the business provides them. The systems seek to improve the communication between business and customer with new lines of communication, incorporating new technologies, such as instant messaging tools, to supplement phone and email communications.