CRM solutions can improve your relationship with customers by providing you with specific customer data. This, in turn, can help you provide services or products that your customers need. Helping your company better understand current and potential customers, improve your customer service and therefore help your company cross-sell and up-sell, retain current customers and close deals.

Most CRM software applications include the following capabilities:

  • Sales Force Automation (SFA) – Integrates and automates sales processes such as quote and order management and fulfilment, opportunity management, sales forecasting and incentive compensation management.

  • Marketing Automation – this automates the entire marketing process. It provides campaign and email management, lead reporting and analytic's, website search engine optimisation and landing page and form creation.
  • Customer support and service – this includes case and ticket management, knowledge management, customer portals and time tracking.

How it all started

Database marketing emerged as a new form of direct marketing in the 1980's, it collected and analysed customer information, which is where CRM applications started. Metrics such as customer lifetime value and the application of financial modelling and econometric's to marketing strategies were introduced by Robert and Kate Kestnbaum who were pioneers in this area.

Contact management software appeared on the market in the mid-1980's. These applications let companies store and organise their customer’s information.

Contact management software, then advanced into Sales Force Automation (SFA) software in the 1990's, with the term “Customer Relationship Management” coming into use by 1995. The competition then rose due to Enterprise Resource management vendors such as SAP and Oracle entering the market, this led to more features being added to CRM. At the end of the 1990's, “e-CRM” vendors appeared, the first ‘software as a service (SaaS) CRM applications and the first mobile CRM applications were also introduced.

In the early 2000's, the industry began concentrating on more comprehensive CRM applications, as well as solutions that could interoperate with legacy systems. This was due to the e-CRM vendors getting hit hard by the dot-com bust.

At the end of the 2000's, cloud-based and SaaS CRM solutions had a low cost, high speed of integration and flexibility, this meant that they started to become very prominent in the market. The market experienced 12% of growth in 2012, three times the average of all other enterprise software, and by the end of 2012, four out of every ten CRM systems sold were SaaS-based.

The term “social CRM” came into use due to the rise of social media. This referred to customer relationship management which arose due to communication with customers through social networking.

  • CRM software market reached $20.4 billion in 2013
  • Up nearly 14% from 2012 to 2013
  • More than 41% of total CRM software revenue in 2013 came from SaaS solutions.

Today

Most experts agree that the previous generations sales cycle has given way to a customer cycle, where the buyer has the power, this is due to today’s digital, mobile and social world. Due to this, visibility into your customer’s lifestyle is becoming increasingly important. Companies are now also seeking CRM solutions that can deliver quotes, order management, commissions, sales forecasting and integrated eCommerce capabilities in addition to the traditional CRM capabilities.

Real-time data and access anytime to the information they need is critical to business users today, and therefore support for mobile devices is becoming a key component for CRM solutions. Companies also want CRM applications to harmonise with social solutions such as Yammer, as well as with leading email tools such as Microsoft Outlook.

How to Select a CRM system

To select the right CRM system for you, you need to analyse the functions offered by the CRM product, to see if it matches the processes that, not only you currently use, but that you strive to use within your business.

Cloud software is becoming more the ‘norm’, using a cloud CRM system, such as NetSuite, means that people from all aspects of your business can easily stay in touch with real-time information. Meaning, the salesperson can easily update information on the road, or the operations team can stay on track with communication regarding billing, ensuring that every member of the business has up to date information. Along with the added benefit of no hardware set up, and no need install software onto your employee’s phones or computers.

Conclusion

To Summarise, CRM is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction, and in turn, growing your business. Getting a CRM system that you can use aligned with your strategy, will help streamline the processes used to manage your customers and the relationships that are being built with them. At the end of the day, everyone has customers, they are the most important asset of a business, and managing them correctly will only assist in growth.

Finding a cloud-based CRM system that delivers all that your company needs might seem difficult, however, the right solution and provider can help transform your company.

 

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