A customer relationship management system, also known as a CRM system, is a computer software suite that’s designed to streamline a company’s interactions with clients and potential clients. The most basic systems usually focus on sales information, including tracking details for purchases, price point data, and statistics for sales volume by location and demographic. This information is important to companies as they analyze their share of the market and project future sales strategies, among other things. More advanced programs are often able to go even further, often coordinating all aspects of customer interaction, including customer service and technical support features. Companies of all sizes can benefit from CRM programs in one form or another, and these sorts of programs can save a lot of work when it comes to compiling and managing information.
Most modern companies and businesses spend quite a bit of energy on customer relations and outreach. In today’s landscape of mobile sales and the relative ease of instant price comparisons, standard sales practices that worked even 20 years ago are fast becoming obsolete. CRM systems don’t help companies strategize better plans, but they do help sales managers track sales data in a very efficient way, which can help with everything from basic file-keeping to the identification of national and regional patterns and trends.
There are usually a couple of options when it comes to the sort of system that’s best for a given company’s needs. The larger “CRM” designation typically covers a range of different programs with different functionalities, and they can be installed a few different ways, too. A system might process data using built-in standard functionality, or functionality can be customized to fulfill a user's specific needs. Product software can be purchased and installed on a network, or it can be accessed on demand by paying a monthly fee to an off-site provider. Off-site services typically employ web-based software.
Optional Features and Expansions
A simple customer relationship management system designed to record and manage information on basic sales activities is relatively inexpensive. As with any product, however, there is typically a range of prices depending on features and capabilities added. More costly sophisticated systems typically have functionality that expands beyond sales activity, and these programs are generally classified by the type of software they include. These more involved systems can be catered to virtually any need. Software options can include analytical pieces, design and marketing programs, campaign and contact management, lead and sales volume trackers, sales force automation, trend forecasters, customer support programs, and more.
Vendors and users often attribute significant benefits to using a large-scale CRM program. Among them are increased sales productivity, better rates of closing sales, improved profitability and enhanced customer service. This leads to higher customer loyalty and retention, more efficient sales and marketing efforts, lower expenses, more effective call center operations, additional opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell, better business intelligence to use in decision making, gains in market share, and greater overall profitability.
As the product category matures and becomes more competitive, benefits are increasingly available in systems that small and medium-sized companies are more easily able to afford. This means that companies with smaller budgets can still reap the benefits of the efficiency this sort of system can offer.
Checking Costs and Making a Choice
There are many consumer websites available that will help a company — small, medium or large — check the costs, capabilities and user satisfaction of the various CRM systems on the market. Trial versions of many of these programs are often available for free download, and sales consultants can also help companies locate these sorts of resources to aid in the decision-making process. In addition, there are also free, open-sourced versions of CRM systems available in most markets that can be built directly to suit a company's needs, provided of course it employs a technical staff savvy enough to work on the programming side.