Customer relationship management (CRM) is important in running a successful business. The better the relationship with your customers and suppliers, the easier it is to conduct business and generate revenue.
Technology can greatly help you to optimise your CRM and make your service more efficient, cost-effective and reliable.
Types of CRM systems
Different types of CRM software exist. Most are capable of performing key CRM functions - storing, tracking and sharing your customer data. However, many software solutions can also support specific business goals. For example:
- operational CRM - can help better manage your day-to-day operations, such as marketing, sales and customer service
- analytical CRM - can help track customer interactions or improve your customer acquisition and retention processes
- collaborative CRM - can strengthen engagement across various departments, suppliers or stakeholders
See also what is a CRM system.
Examples of CRM solutions
CRM software typically falls into four broad categories: outsourced, off-the-shelf, bespoke and managed solutions.
Outsourced CRM solutions
This includes web-based CRM solutions for your business, including cloud CRM software. A few examples of outsourced CRM are:
This approach is ideal if you need to implement a solution quickly and you don't have the in-house skills to tackle the job from scratch. It is also a good solution if you are already geared towards e-commerce.
Off-the-shelf CRM solutions
Several software companies offer CRM applications that integrate with existing packages. Cut-down versions of such software may be suitable for smaller businesses. One such example is Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Off-the-shelf products are generally the cheapest option as you are investing in standard software components. The downside is that the software may not always do precisely what you want and you may have to trade off functionality for convenience and price. The key is to be flexible without compromising too much.
Bespoke CRM software
Consultants and software engineers can customise or create a CRM system and integrate it with your existing software. However, this can be expensive and time-consuming. If you choose the custom-tailored option, make sure that you carefully specify exactly what you want. Costs will vary, so it may be worth getting several quotes from different reputable professionals.
Managed CRM solutions
A half-way house between bespoke and outsourced solutions, this involves renting a customised suite of CRM applications as a bespoke package. This can be cost effective but it may mean that you have to compromise in terms of functionality. Examples include Maximizer CRM and Sage.
Find tips to help you decide if your business needs a CRM system.