Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the methodology, strategy, and software that helps businesses manage the sales and customer support lifecycle. CRM software has really matured in the past few years and has become a key software solution for customer facing activities.
One of the more recent technological advances that is having an effect on CRM software is social networking. Blogs and the popularity of online social networking sites like Facebook have become a part of many companies’ Customer Relationship strategy. CRM software vendors are adding this functionality into their software and you will see more of these capabilities in future CRM software releases.
CRM is tailor made for the Cloud (Software as a Service (SaaS)) software environment and many leading software vendors offer a mature CRM solution in the Cloud. Cloud solutions are hosted on the software vendor’s server and users access the software via the internet. In fact, CRM solutions have really led the way with Cloud user adoption. Many software vendors now offer Cloud solutions including Salesforce.com which is one of the pioneers of CRM in the Cloud.
CRM functionality can be divided into 3 main areas:
- Sales Automation
- Service Management
- Marketing Automation
The following are some of the key functionality that you should consider as you evaluate CRM software vendors. No one vendor provides all of the following CRM functionality and even the depth and breadth of functionality provided within a specific area will vary. This list is meant to give you a basic understanding of some functionality to consider as you evaluate Customer Relationship Management software vendors.
Customer Relationship Management software supports the selling process from lead qualification to closing a sale. It facilitates the sharing of sales information between employees, and provides a complete view of a potential customer. The following are a few of the major components of sales automation functionality:
- Contact Management. This is a very standard capability offered by even the smallest CRM software vendors. Contact Management tracks names, addresses, contact profiles, history information, notes fields, and all of the information pertinent to that contact in one place where the information can be maintained and accessed.
- Lead Management. Lead Management tracks a lead from the moment initial contact is made through the lead cycle where it gets turned into an opportunity. Many software products offer the ability to distribute leads to the appropriate salesperson or territory manager.
- Opportunity Management. This is the conversion of a lead to an opportunity. The potential customer is continually tracked through all of the milestones of the sales process including literature sent and any contact made. This functionality enables companies to track opportunities by a variety of criteria, route leads to appropriate individuals, departments, channels, and partners.
- Customer Account Management. When the opportunity becomes a viable account, the customer is tracked, and account history is maintained. It is also a strong marketing tool to up-sell existing customers.
- Time Management. This capability tracks staff scheduling, productivity and work by hours, tasks, or projects of the sales staff. It can also track any related costs of the sales process like travel and expenses.
- Territory Management. Territory Management allows managers to assign, track, and reorganize sales territories.
- Quote and Proposal Development. The ability to create unique quotes based on product, customer and pricing standards. Pricing can also be flexible and configured based on many factors. These quotes can then be converted to proposals or orders.
- Order Processing. This is the ability to enter an order into the system and track the order status. Catalogs can be created with various pricing setups. Portal technologies allow customers to look up their own order status on the internet. Invoicing can also be handled by some CRM software products, but this functionality is usually handled in ERP software.
- E-business. Along with order processing, e-business functionality is being offered by CRM vendors. They can handle both Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) transactions.
- Competitor Tracking. This is the ability to track what your competitors are doing and allow you to manage strategies to maintain a competitive advantage.
- Workflow. The entire sales process can be set up with automatic routing of leads, alerts, escalations, and other types of workflow. It also creates automatic triggering of actions (based on responses and offerings), and some initial pre-qualification of leads.
- Partner Relationship Management. Some CRM solutions have the ability to manage an indirect sales force. Lead management and distribution, channel marketing support, product pricing and configuration, co-marketing, and collaborative activities are all key functionality in this area.
- Reporting. Reports include: sales pipeline analysis, sales reports and tracking, sales rep activity analysis, quotas, revenue forecasting, performance metrics, and others.
Service Management covers both the support of customers after the sale of a product or service and the support of internal employees. Although most people think of support when a customer has a problem, CRM software offers functionality to take a more proactive role to enable quick resolution of customer issues. Some of the key functionality offered by CRM software vendors include:
- Case Management. The ability to set up a case and manage the problem and customer through resolution.
- Product Tracking. The ability to track a product or group of products to the customers that bought the product. This is useful for both marketing add-on products as well as servicing customers quickly and efficiently.
- Workflow. Workflow can be set up to automatically route service calls and escalations to the appropriate personnel. Alerts can be set up to make personnel aware of problems and issues.
- Self Service. Web portals are increasingly being set up to allow customers and employees access to information and assistance online without human intervention. A Knowledge Base or Answer Book is implemented to allow information to be provided quickly and efficiently to the user. This information can be distributed through the web or via interactive email response.
- Call Center Operation Management. Call center management includes Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) which links the CRM system to the phone system.
- Field Service. This is the ability to manage service contracts and service calls to customers at their location. Functionality includes service ticket tracking, technician scheduling, dispatch, and logistics, and resolution tracking. Some solutions offer scheduled preventative maintenance and inventory management.
- Help Desk. This is the ability to provide help desk support to internal employees. It includes capabilities such as call history tracking, and service ticket resolution.
- Reports. Some of the reports available for this aspect of CRM include: service performance and analysis, case analysis, call resolution tracking, product tracking, customer tracking, service analytics, and many others.
Finally, Customer Relationship Management software offers the ability to create marketing campaigns and track the results. This functionality helps the sales organization target the best customers and generate quality leads for the sales team. This functionality includes:
- Campaign Management. Campaign management tracks the process of managing the life cycle of a marketing campaign from the creation of a campaign through execution and final analysis. Some solutions offer multiple marketing program tracking capabilities that allow you to run many campaigns concurrently.
- Email Marketing. The ability to send out mass emails. This includes emails to a target market such as current customers or trade show attendees.
- Target Marketing. This is the process of identifying the groups of people who are most likely to buy a product and design of a marketing campaign focused on that target market.
- Collaborative Marketing. The ability to conduct collaborative marketing with business partners.
- Reports. Reporting on the effectiveness of a marketing campaign includes lead status, win-loss analysis, customer demographic analysis, trend analysis, and ROI analysis.