Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to manage a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with a company to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth.
One important aspect of the CRM approach is the systems of CRM that compile data from a range of different communication channels, including a company’s website, telephone, email, live chat, marketing materials and more recently, social media. Through the CRM approach and the systems used to facilitate it, businesses learn more about their target audiences and how to best cater to their needs
The main components of CRM are building and managing customer relationships through marketing, observing relationships as they mature through distinct phases, managing these relationships at each stage and recognizing that the distribution of value of a relationship to the firm is not homogeneous. When building and managing customer relationships through marketing, firms might benefit from using a variety of tools to help organizational design, incentive schemes, customer structures, and more to optimize the reach of its marketing campaigns. Through the acknowledgement of the distinct phases of CRM, businesses will be able to benefit from seeing the interaction of multiple relationships as connected transactions. The final factor of CRM highlights the importance of CRM through accounting for the profitability of customer relationships. Through studying the particular spending habits of customers, a firm may be able to dedicate different resources and amounts of attention to different types of consumers.
Relational Intelligence, or awareness of the variety of relationships a customer can have with a firm, is an important component to the main phases of CRM. Companies may be good at capturing demographic data, such as gender, age, income, and education, and connecting them with purchasing information to categorize customers into profitability tiers, but this is only a firm’s mechanical view of customer relationships.This therefore is a sign that firms believe that customers are still resources that can be used for up-sell or cross-sell opportunities, rather than humans looking for interesting and personalized interactions.
CRM systems include:
- Data warehouse technology, used to aggregate transaction information, to merge the information with CRM products, and to provide key performance indicators.
- Opportunity management which helps the company to manage unpredictable growth and demand, and implement a good forecasting model to integrate sales history with sales projections.
- CRM systems that track and measure marketing campaigns over multiple networks, tracking customer analysis by customer clicks and sales.
- Some CRM software is available as a software as a service (SaaS), delivered via the internet and accessed via a web browser instead of being installed on a local computer. Businesses using the software do not purchase it, but typically pay a recurring subscription fee to the software vendor.
- For small businesses a CRM system may consist of a contact manager system that integrates emails, documents, jobs, faxes, and scheduling for individual accounts. CRM systems available for specific markets (legal, finance) frequently focus on event management and relationship tracking as opposed to financial return on investment (ROI).
- CRM systems for eCommerce, focused on marketing automation tasks, like: cart rescue, re-engage users with email, personalization.
- Customer-centric relationship management (CCRM) is a nascent sub-discipline that focuses on customer preferences instead of customer leverage. CCRM aims to add value by engaging customers in individual, interactive relationships.
- Systems for non-profit and membership-based organizations help track constituents, fundraising, sponsors’ demographics, membership levels, membership directories, volunteering and communication with individuals.
Consultants argue that it is important for companies establishing strong CRM systems to improve their relational intelligence. According to this argument, a company must recognize that people have many different types of relationships with different brands. One research study analyzed relationships between consumers in China, Germany, Spain, and the United States, with over 200 brands in 11 industries including airlines, cars and media. This information is valuable as it provides demographic, behavioral, and value-based customer segmentation. These types of relationships can be both positive and negative. Some customers view themselves as friends of the brands, while others as enemies, and some are mixed with a love-hate relationship with the brand. Some relationships are distant, intimate or anything in between.
Analyzing the information
- Managers must understand the different reasons for the types of relationships, and provide the customer with what they are looking for. Companies can collect this information by using surveys, interviews, and more, with current customers. For example, Frito-Lay conducted many ethnographic interviews with customers to try and understand the relationships they wanted with the companies and the brands. They found that most customers were adults who used the product to feel more playful. They may have enjoyed the company’s bright orange color, messiness, and shape.
- Companies must also improve their relational intelligence of their CRM systems. These days, companies store and receive huge amounts of data through emails, online chat sessions, phone calls, and more. Many companies do not properly make use of this great amount of data, however. All of these are signs of what types of relationships the customer wants with the firm, and therefore companies may consider investing more time and effort in building out their relational intelligence. Companies can use data mining technologies and web searches to understand relational signals. Social media such as social networking sites, blogs, and forums can also be used to collect and analyze information. Understanding the customer and capturing this data allows companies to convert customer’s signals into information and knowledge that the firm can use to understand a potential customer’s desired relations with a brand.
- It is also very important to analyze all of this information to determine which relationships prove the most valuable. This helps convert data into profits for the firm. Stronger bonds contribute to building market share. By managing different portfolios for different segments of the customer base, the firm can achieve strategic goals.
- Many firms have also implemented training programs to teach employees how to recognize and effectively create strong customer–brand relationships. For example, Harley Davidson sent its employees on the road with customers, who were motorcycle enthusiasts, to help solidify relationships. Other employees have also been trained in social psychology and the social sciences to help bolster strong customer relationships. Customer service representatives must be educated to value customer relationships and trained to understand existing customer profiles. Even the finance and legal departments should understand how to manage and build relationships with customers.
Contact center CRM providers are popular for small and mid-market businesses. These systems codify the interactions between company and customers by using analytics and key performance indicators to give the users information on where to focus their marketing and customer service. This allows agents to have access to a caller’s history to provide personalized customer communication. The intention is to maximize average revenue per user, decrease churn rate and decrease idle and unproductive contact with the customers.
Growing in popularity is the idea of gamifying, or using game design elements and game principles in a non-game environment such as customer service environments. The gamification of customer service environments includes providing elements found in games like rewards and bonus points to customer service representatives as a method of feedback for a job well done. Gamification tools can motivate agents by tapping into their desire for rewards, recognition, achievements, and competition.
Contact-center automation, the practice of having an integrated system that coordinates contacts between an organization and the public, is designed to reduce the repetitive and tedious parts of a contact center agent’s job. Automation prevents this by having pre-recorded audio messages that help customers solve their problems. For example, an automated contact center may be able to re-route a customer through a series of commands asking him or her to select a certain number in order to speak with a particular contact center agent who specializes in the field in which the customer has a question.Software tools can also integrate with the agent’s desktop tools to handle customer questions and requests. This also saves time on behalf of the employees.
Social CRM involves the use of social media and technology to engage and learn from consumers.Because the public, especially young people, are increasingly using social networking sites, companies use these sites to draw attention to their products, services and brands, with the aim of building up customer relationships to increase demand.
Some CRM systems integrate social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to track and communicate with customers. These customers also share their own opinions and experiences with a company’s products and services, giving these firms more insight. Therefore, these firms can both share their own opinions and also track the opinions of their customers.
Enterprise feedback management software platforms combine internal survey data with trends identified through social media to allow businesses to make more accurate decisions on which products to supply.
CRM systems can also include technologies that create geographic marketing campaigns. The systems take in information based on a customer’s physical location and sometimes integrates it with popular location-based GPS applications. It can be used for networking or contact management as well to help increase sales based on location.