By Ben Weiner

What is CRM software?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is a piece of software that allows people from within (and outside) an organisation to get a view of customer profiles, buying patterns and other useful customer-centric information. Its’ primary purpose is to facilitate a better understanding of the organisations’ customers' from the products or services that they purchase, the main contacts within the customer base to trends and preferences.

In simple terms, CRM software computerises the process of gaining and a retaining a customer, selling to them, and tracking the ongoing relationship with them.

The future of CRM

CRM is here to stay because of the many benefits that such a system can deliver.

If anything, the use of CRM is set to expand especially with the onset of better mobile technologies (3G) and the use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s). More specific CRM software is being developed so than rather taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach there are different solutions according to market types and size of companies. Naturally the demands of a lawyers’ practice is vastly different to a manufacturer of motor components and the needs a small garage differs to that of a multi national company split over many locations.

Why CRM?

The purpose of CRM is to be able to track a customer's lifecycle; from the initial lead (or source of contact) through to the sale and thereafter for support, services and future sales.

An integrated CRM system eliminates the need for keeping information about a customer in several places. Tracking a customer’s lifecycle in a potentially haphazard or disorganised way may lead to poor sales results because leads are not followed up promptly, up and cross-selling can be difficult, and customer loyalty can decrease if support requests or complaints are not dealt with in a satisfactory way. A good example is when a sales person speaks with or meets a potential client, the information gained and the actions agreed upon are entered into the CRM system to remind individuals when specific dates or milestones have been reached or when action is required.

As a result, companies are likely to achieve greater revenues and margins through improved processes.

Benefits of CRM

CRM helps your organisation get a better insight into the behaviour of customers', such as when they typically buy, what they buy, discounts offered and so forth.

• It will help you improve your customer service because it allows individuals, whether sales technical or support personnel, to have access to all the correct information required to deliver a good service.

• It allows users to maximise sales opportunities because they can spot potential trends early on, allowing them to ‘cross-sell’ other products and services and 'up-sell' existing products, as well as improve closing rates.

• It helps you to profile customers' in order to analyse particular market sectors.

• It will allow senior personnel to gain a better view of sales activities.

• It allows both sales and service departments to see the status of a sale, an outstanding service call, or a complaint that needs to be resolved.

• It enables sales management to track performance by individuals according to the number of leads received and generated, how long it takes them to close a sale and the average order value per sale.

• It can also be used to help determine a company’s marketing strategy.

Ben Weiner is COO for Conjungo, the technology information resource and supplier search engine. Visit crm.conjungo.com to continue reading about CRM software in plain English.

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