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Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) consists of the processes a company uses to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers. CRM software is used to support these processes; information about customers and customer interactions can be entered, stored and accessed by employees in different company departments. Typical CRM goals are to improve services provided to customers, and to use customer contact information for targeted marketing.

While the term CRM generally refers to a software-based approach to handling customer relationships, most CRM software vendors stress that a successful CRM effort requires a holistic approach.[1] CRM initiatives often fail because implementation was limited to software installation, without providing the context, support and understanding for employees to learn, and take full advantage of the information systems.[2] CRM can be implemented without major investments in software, but software is often necessary to explore the full benefits of a CRM strategy.

Other problems occur when failing to think of sales as the output of a process that itself needs to be studied and taken into account when planning automation.

Overview

From the outside, customers interacting with a company perceive the business as a single entity, despite often interacting with a number of employees in different roles and departments. CRM is a combination of policies, processes, and strategies implemented by an organization to unify its customer interactions and provide a means to track customer information. It involves the use of technology in attracting new and profitable customers, while forming tighter bonds with existing ones.

CRM includes many aspects which relate directly to one another:

Front office operations ? Direct interaction with customers, e.g. face to face meetings, phone calls, e-mail, online services etc.
Back office operations ? Operations that ultimately affect the activities of the front office (e.g., billing, maintenance, planning, marketing, advertising, finance, manufacturing, etc.)
Business relationships ? Interaction with other companies and partners, such as suppliers/vendors and retail outlets/distributors, industry networks (lobbying groups, trade associations). This external network supports front and back office activities.
Analysis ? Key CRM data can be analyzed in order to plan target-marketing campaigns, conceive business strategies, and judge the success of CRM activities (e.g., market share, number and types of customers, revenue, profitability).
Proponents of CRM software claim that it doesn't only allow more effective ways of managing customer relationships, but also more customer-centric ways of doing business.

There are several different approaches to CRM, with different software packages focusing on different aspects. In general, Customer Service, Campaign Management and Sales Force Automation (SFA) form the core of the system (with SFA being the most popular[citation needed]).

Popular Titles
ACT!
GoldMine
Microsoft CRM
Salesforce.com

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