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A Customer Relationship Management System (short: CRM System) is a software that is used to manage customer relations.
A CRM system should offer a basic set of functions needed by every company: an integrative informative system. It should include for example the following functions:
- Information about customers and suppliers in one database
- Possibility of data analysis and evaluation
- Linking with other software systems and various company divisions (e.g. data from sales are also available to customer service)
- Derivation of new strategies for sales and production from the acquired data and findings
- Establishment of additional communication channels
- Cross- and upselling
In addition, it must be clarified which functions are required within the company. For this purpose, concrete tasks have to be formulated which the selected CRM system will later cover. When selecting a CRM system, care must be taken to ensure that all necessary functions are offered and that the CRM system is integrated into the existing IT infrastructure. For this, corresponding interfaces are necessary, so that for example an integration into extensive ERP systems or the data transfer from existing Access or Excel data bases becomes possible.
Selection criteria for CRM systems
There are many criteria that play a role in the selection of CRM systems. The software should be as user-friendly as possible so that fewer resources are required for training. It might also be necessary to easily access the CRM databases on mobile devices.
A distinction must be made between read-only access and modification rights in regards to data protection. As personal customer data is often stored in CRM systems, security is important. The scalability of software solutions is also particularly important when a company is expanding, and there is a high probability that the software solution will be expanded in the long term. This is especially true when it comes to performance with extended data sets or availability.
Well known CRM Systems
There are hundreds of different solutions on the market that specialize in different industries, applications, or platforms. The CRM solution from Salesforce.com is the leader in Customer Relationship Management. Other well-known CRM systems are for example:
- SAP CRM (SAP AG)
- Microsoft Dynamics (Microsoft Inc.)
- CAS genesisWorld (CAS Software AG)
- Cobra CRM PLUS (cobra computer's brainware GmbH)
- MiniCRM (MiniCRM AG)
- Oracle Siebel CRM (Oracle)
- Sage CRM (Sage Software GmbH)
- Sugar (SugarCRM Inc./IBM)
Introduction of a CRM system
The success of the introduction of a CRM system depends strongly on the acceptance of the customer orientation approach in the workforce. It’s also important that the management are unified in their opinion on the Customer Relationship Management system.
The project team should consist of experienced employees who know their respective work areas and associated processes, but CRM experts should also be involved to ensure professional and successful implementation. This team first maps the current situation in the company and then develops the desired target situation. A catalogue of concrete measures can the be derived from this.
The introduction of a CRM system can become problematic if the management or the employees lack acceptance. In addition, in practice, sometimes the systems are maintained at great expense and the databases are expanded, but these are not used to concretely improve customer relationships.
Importance for online marketing
CRM systems are also important in online marketing. The acquisition of new customers is becoming more and more difficult and expensive in view of rising CPC prices in ad placement. CRM systems can help to retain existing customers in e-commerce, improve customer loyalty and generate new sales. For example, a CRM system can be used to evaluate customer preferences. Depending on different customer groups, structured according to their purchasing preferences, individual advertising campaigns can be started to submit special offers to them or to introduce new articles of interest to them.