Building and maintaining great customer relationships is at the core of any good business model. But staying on top of who your customers are and what their relationship with your business is at any given moment is difficult. And that’s true across the board—whether you’re a small business with a hundred customers or a large one with hundreds of thousands.
The best way to address the challenge is with the right tool, in this case a good CRM. But for anyone as yet unfamiliar with the CRM market, there’s a lot to learn. To start, there are three main types of CRMs: collaborative, operational, and analytical. To help you get your bearings, we’ll cover what a CRM is to begin with, how the three types of CRMs differ, and how to select the right product for your company.
What is CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. While the term describes a larger strategy for working with customers, in practice the acronym CRM is most often used to describe the category of products that enables effective customer relationship management.
The most important thing about any CRM is right there in the first word—it’s about customers. A CRM should help you understand your customers better, and use that information to deliver the best possible customer experience (CX).
That’s a goal that’s gotten harder in recent years. Consumers now move between different channels (such as messaging, email, social media, and phone) to communicate with brands. With more ways to research products and make purchases, the buyer’s journey has grown in complexity. And for businesses selling lots of products to multiple audiences, the difficulties of managing it all are even more notable. The CRM category of products grew out of a need to address those challenges.
Why use a CRM?
At a high level, the reason to use a CRM is to improve the customer experience. That’s the simple answer. But CRMs do that by helping in a number of specific ways.
Web-based (SaaS) CRM tools enable businesses to more successfully collect and organize customers’ data. When the data is organized in an intuitive way in a tool everyone can access, employees across the organization can find relevant customer details the moment they need them. That’s especially important in the age of omnichannel support. An employee needs to know what happened last week when a customer reached out via email, even as they’re responding to a new question sent today over chat.
A good system for accessing customer data ensures that agents can see the contextual details they need to provide the most relevant support every time.
They bring automation to simple tasks
Humans are always central to providing a good customer experience, but automation technology enables humans to do their jobs better. Some CRMs offer automation features that reduce employee workloads. By taking over mundane tasks, they give employees more time to focus on the work they’re best at. That increases efficiency and leads to better results.
They break down silos
A CRM that’s accessible across departments keeps everyone on the same page, and allows them to collectively learn from the data you have. It also makes it possible to accurately track the relationship between marketing activities, sales numbers, and customer relationships by creating a single view of the customer journey.
Marketing and sales reps can reference it to stay up to date while moving potential customers through the sales pipeline. In the process, they collect and capture important data about those customers that customer support will have access to once they convert.
They make personalization possible
A CRM contains all the details about past conversations and interactions you’ve had with a customer, making it a powerful tool for personalization. When customer service agents know the specific products a customer has, any past support tickets they’ve opened, and any recent questions they’ve asked, they can incorporate that knowledge in the support they provide.
Collecting all that data is good for the employees that need it for context, but it’s also valuable for analytical purposes. When you can see larger trends in your customer conversations, you can shift your larger strategy to better serve them. A CRM can put the data you have into a format that helps you turn it into key insights.
With that, you can make your customer relationship strategy more proactive by helping customers before they know they need it, and learn to spot signs a customer may be considering a competitor and needs some extra attention.
What are the types of CRM?
While all those benefits apply on some level to just about any CRM, customer relationship management includes a large category of tools. Different CRM products vary in terms of features and focus, and they can be divided into three main categories.
Collaborative CRM systems
A top focus of collaborative CRM systems is breaking down silos. Often the marketing team, sales reps, and customer support agents are all in different departments that feel disconnected. And for bigger organizations, each of those departments is further separated based on factors like geographic locations, channels they serve, products they focus on, or skill specialties. But in order to provide a seamless customer experience throughout the customer’s journey, you need a way to share information across the full organization in real-time.
Collaborative CRMs ensure all teams have access to the same up-to-date customer data, no matter which department or channel they work in. Not only does customer support have all the information marketing and sales teams collected when working with a prospective customer, but agents in a call center have updated data on customer interactions that happened over email.
That integration between departments and channels saves customers from the dreaded experience of repeating themselves each time they talk to a new contact. Each employee they interact with can quickly and easily pull up a record of all past interactions with the consumer to consult and learn all relevant details. – Read more