Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What Is Customer Relationship Management?

Customer relationship management, or CRM, refers to reliable systems, processes, and procedures that allow companies to better manage customer relationships. It is a corporate level strategy that focuses on creating and maintaining effective communication with its customers. Ideally, a sound CRM strategy should develop an end-to-end process that encompasses sales, customer service, and marketing.

A successful customer relationship plan can manage all business-related operations and interactions with customers simultaneously. It often includes special software programs, called CRM programs, which aid companies in tracking and organizing their customer base.

Customer relationship management is just that: learning ways to manage the happiness of your customers by giving them what they want, increasing the effectiveness and profitability of your product or service by adapting them to customer preferences, and creating communication channels between sales reps, sales managers, and the customers they serve.

What are some ideas for successfully implementing a customer relationship management strategy?

There are numerous ways to successfully implement an effective CRM program. Here are some ideas that will start you thinking about the ways you can create a richer and more truly customer based culture. You can improve, adapt and reform your customer relationship plan by such methods as:

• Providing product information and support via a hotline or a website. This would allow customers to better use and understand specific products or services, and get any technical answers they need;

• Creating custom applications that offer point-and-click customization, real-time analytics, ease of use, tracking of all contact points between customer and company, and fast online and offline access to data;

• Implementing a mechanism to quickly schedule and manage follow-up sales calls and create clear, well-built information pipelines and channels of communication;

• Creating a simple, easy and intuitive user interface that is friendly to computer experts and neophytes alike. Thus, even those reps who feel uncomfortable using a computer could easily go online and check out statistics and other information;

• Devising a quick system for correcting service problems before they affect other customers, answering customer questions or complaints, and handling any other problems that might arise.

How does customer relationship management actually improve a company's relationship with its clients?

CRM improves relationships between customers and companies because it allows a company to meet the needs of the customer by keeping track of their interests and improving products and services accordingly.

For example, if a company implements a customer relationship management technology program for a specific product, they can track how much the customer uses the product and how much they repurchase it, allowing the company to grow and adapt the product to the customer's needs.

Used correctly, a solid CRM program can increase customer loyalty, decrease the customer turnover rate, decrease marketing costs, and increase revenue and profits. Essentially, it greatly improves the way your company and sales reps or other professionals do business with customers.

What technical functions should a customer relationship management program have?

A CRM program should have the ability to interface with users through mobile phones, internet, and other similar communications channels. It should also take into account workflow and have the ability to assign sales requests, sales opportunities, and other such assignments to groups or an individual. More importantly, it should be scalable and easily expandable over a very large or small scale.

This means that as long as the customer relationship management system is properly programmed, everyone from the smallest business to the largest corporation should be able to implement an effective CRM strategy.

Implementing an effective and efficient customer relationship management system is the best way to increase consumer confidence in your product or service and stay in touch with your customers, thereby increasing the effectiveness of your product or service.

Diane Newsom writes for salesforce.com a leading producer of CRM software and customer relationship management information.

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