A popular and efficient strategy throughout the years, customer relationship management is a step towards knowing better your potential or existing customers, through a set of processes and technological solutions, implemented mainly in the areas that directly interact with the customer, such as marketing, sales, and support.
Currently this concept has evolved a new level called Customer Experience Management, which deepens the originally defined concepts to obtain an even more detailed level of knowledge of your customer and business, through the creation of “Customer Journeys” for example. However, to achieve this level of detail, it’s first necessary to understand and implement the foundations that stem from the original concept of customer relationship management.
Understanding customer relationship management
CRM is not a tool or software, but a business strategy that integrates internal processes and external networks to generate added value for potential or existing customers. It is based on qualified and standardized customer data, activated by information technologies, hence its natural association with technological solutions and the category of software called with this acronym.
However, it’s crucial to understand that achieving results through customer relationship management is not only ensured by technology, but through a business strategy that combines both processes and technology to achieve it’s goals.
Understanding CRM types
There are three strands of CRM that we list below:
Customer-oriented business strategy from where the term customer-centric comes from, that aims to gain and retain profitable customers by generating increased value in relation to its competitors.
Centered on automating processes in areas that interact directly with the customer, such as Marketing, Sales or Support, however it can also impact processes in other areas.
Is the process by which the organization transforms customer and process data into relevant information that improves it’s performance, supporting decision making and process evaluation.
The combination of these three strands allows the definition in the strategic part, the implementation in the operational part, where the various types of CRM solutions fit to implement the defined processes, such as Marketing automation, sales force automation and service automation, and in the analytical aspect, the evaluation, through solutions that mold base systems information to produce performance indicators, forecast models and other analytical information.
Centralization and integration of information
One of the important steps towards a “customer-centric mindset” is the centralization of customer information, in order to provide a complete vision, consolidating all processes and interactions with the various areas of the organization. This holistic view of the customer is crucial to identify the customer’s evolution, their background in the organization and above all to provide a positive customer experience.
In this centralization process, the integration of information across the organization’s several systems plays an important role, in order to eliminate information silos that isolate and fragment relevant information.
As mentioned before, customer relationship management is a business strategy, so the implementation of its customer-facing processes is one of the key aspects of the strategy.
Campaign management in the case of Marketing, management of leads, contacts and opportunities in Sales, or service level management in the case of Service automation, are examples of processes that should be implemented and periodically revised according to the desired level of optimization.
The way to monitor process performance will be carried out through the technological solutions implemented for this purpose, whether at operational level, in the case of CRM solutions, marketing automation, or support automation, or through analytical solutions that generate key performance indicators and other relevant aggregated data.
Whether through the implementation of information systems, or through the optimization of these same systems to reduce the effort in “data-entry” tasks, automation plays a preponderant role in the optimization of business processes.
The solutions at operational level, such as the aforementioned CRM, marketing automation, or support automation solutions, must ensure that information is integrated, secure, and accessible to the organization’s relevant resources, while ensuring the performance of business processes.
These systems must also ensure a low effort in data insertion and updates, minimizing the impact that the strategy has on the organization resources. I’ve already written an article on this subject for CRM, that you can consult here.
Another critical success factor of a CRM strategy is the quality and integrity of the information collected, since performance indicators are the main method to evaluate the success of implemented strategies, and these cannot be obtained through erroneous or missing information .
Duplicates, redundancies or incorrect data are enemies of a successful CRM strategy, given its crucial importance in assessing the effectiveness of implemented processes, which is why this risk must be mitigated right in the design of the operational systems.
Automation also has a preponderant role in this area, through the implementation of validation mechanisms and information complements, however one of the most relevant measures to mitigate this risk is in the solutions design phase, anticipating this issue through the type of fields used as well as the validation mechanisms they will have.
Although this strategy has been known and adopted globally for many years, I hope this article will allow the reader to identify the foundations of CRM, guiding a successful implementation and identifying the most common problems. These foundations are equally important to evolve this concept to its most current versions, such as customer experience management, a topic that I’ll reserve for a next article.
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