What does Customer Relationship Management (CRM) mean?
Software that is devoted to synchronizing, organizing, and automating the customer’s relationships with a business. The software will track and measure the marketing campaign of the business over multiple networks.
CRM software will track the customer and his relationship by means of customer clicks and sales. There are several places where you will find CRM, including in direct mail, social media, call centers, banks, data storage files, and customer data queries. In the modern day business environment, every B2B transaction will involve CRM, the software being used to support, improve, and manage the business transactions as well as supporting and interacting with the customers.
CRM systems encompass a very wide range of company activities, from the basic website and emails, to mass mailings (physical and email) and even telephone calls. One of the newest adoptions in CRM is social media, which can help companies improve their reputations and bottom line. CRM was designed to improve customer experience when interacting with a company, and keep them coming back to build a large base of repeat customers.
In the 21st century CRM has been increasingly used to describe the technology and systems used to manage interactions with customers throughout the entire customer lifecycle. This includes the early discovery phase through the purchase process, and even up to the post-purchase phase. CRM technology itself is big business, with estimates in 2018 of a $40 billion global market value.
CRM software is widely considered the fastest growing enterprise software category, and the Gartner Group has predicted that CRM will be the largest driver of enterprise software spending within the next three years. While there are many smaller and mid-sized players in the CRM marketplace, the largest CRM providers are Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, and Adobe Systems.
The CRM Software
Specialized CRM software can aggregate customer information from a wide variety of sources, storing it and making it accessible from a single application. Data stored includes purchase history, contact data, ongoing communications, and any previous communications recorded. Employees use this data to improve their interactions and relations with customers, and it can help anticipate needs, recognize updates, and track the performance goals of various company departments.
One valuable feature of CRM software is the automation of certain tasks, such as sending additional marketing or sales material to a customer based on their purchase of a product or service.
CRM in the Cloud
CRM software has been increasingly moving to cloud based solutions as businesses appreciate the increased availability of the cloud based software. With a cloud based CRM solution, sales staff can access customer data from any laptop, tablet or smartphone with an internet connection. The cloud based solutions also rid businesses of the often complicated setup required for desktop based CRM products. It’s estimated that by the end of 2019 roughly 85% of new CRM installations will be delivered on a cloud based model, up from just 10% in 2008.
Of course there are some trade-offs involved with cloud based CRM systems. When a company faces an acquisition or goes out of business some customer data could be compromised. There are also compatibility issues when attempting to migrate to a different CRM product. And finally, cloud based CRM systems typically cost more than in-house products.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in CRM
One of the downsides to CRM solutions is that all of that data needs to be properly analyzed and distributed if it is going to provide any value to companies. This has required trained humans whose job is to analyze data, weed out any inaccurate, outdated, incomplete or duplicate records, and create useful record sets and automated routines.
While this human need continues in 2018, analysts have been quick to point out the increasing impact of artificial intelligence in CRM systems. The near future could see this impact growing dramatically, and a Salesforce sponsored white paper from 2017 estimates a boost to global revenue in CRM of $1.1 trillion by 2021, all from artificial intelligence. The paper indicates that AI could be responsible for faster sales cycles, optimized pricing and logistics, lowered support costs, increased problem resolution, and less loss due to fraud.
While there are very few real-world AI applications at this time, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and other large CRM providers have already reported that AI features are being integrated with their products.