What is CRM?
CRM or Customer Relationship Management is the process of managing interactions with existing and prospective customers. It essentially helps businesses to manage customer data and is a vital tool for uncovering customer insights and supporting sales management. The term is often used to refer to a CRM system or a CRM technology
What is a CRM technology?
CRM technology is simply the tool or a group of tools that allow brands to collect, organize and analyze customer data to optimize customer engagement and communications. While this is the core functionality of a CRM system, it’s actual usage will vary across the different departments in an organization. Here are some examples
Evolution of CRM
While customer relationship management has been done in varying forms, the primary goal remains the same - understand more about a brand's customers to consistently provide experiences that delight them.
1950s to 1960s Rolodex
Customer information was stored in rolodexes, filing cabinets and personal holders.
1970s to 1980s First Use of Digital Spreadsheets
The inception of database marketing led to brands using digital spreadsheets and simple software that stored customer information on standalone mainframe computers.
1980s to 1990s The Birth of CRM
Siebel launches the first CRM product which kickstarted large scale usage of sales automation
1990s Dawn of Mobile & Cloud CRM
The rapid increase in smartphones
2000s Full Stack CRMs
CRMs evolve to incorporate entire brand and customer interactions into a single platform, including new age channels like social media and apps
2010s Advent of AI-Powered CRMs
Brands start using smart CRMs capable of advanced prescriptive and predictive analysis to drive contextual and personalized customer engagement
Current State of CRM Industry
By 2025, CRM software sales is expected cross $80 billion; rendering it the fastest growing software market by a massive margin. The reason for this staggering growth rate can be attributed to several factors but the primary reason is the increased focus on Customer Experience.
CRMs are essentially the connecting node between your business and your customers. And as you might be aware, the entire customer experience/engagement theme is increasingly becoming a pivotal factor in deciding the success of a brand.
Today, smart, cloud-based CRM powered by ML and AI has empowered brands to connect and engage with customers like never before. In an ironic contradiction, despite being powered by 1s and 0s, these CRMs ultimately help brands to exhibit classic human traits like self awareness, empathy and conscientiousness.
Latest Trends Reshaping CRM Systems
trending_upCRMs will become a critical component of Customer Experience
CRMs will play a major role in orchestrating and enabling delightful customer experiences and driving highly personalized engagement
CRMs will increasingly leverage ML and AI technologies to help employees make better and more profitable decisions at every customer touchpoint. Blockchain technology is also expected to augment CRMs with enhanced data security and minimize fraudulent transactions.
Social-focussed CRMs will be able to collect and analyze social media behaviour and conversation to create highly accurate sentiment analysis to empower brands to act proactively to customer needs.
trending_upCRMs will thrive in IoT era
Connected CRMs that can consume and analyze massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices will soon become the norm
trending_upMobile is a must
Smartphone internet usage has been steadily increasing across the globe and CRMs that enable superior mobile engagement will lead the way
trending_upOne-size-fits-alls will find the going tough
Vendors with a one-size-fits-all CRM solution will find less takers as businesses will demand highly customized features and solutions pertaining to their market and product. This trend is already prevalent in the retail segment with several brands opting for retail CRMs over generic ones.
trending_upCloud will remain a popular platform
Today, 87% CRMs are hosted on the cloud and this trend is expected to continue for some more time.
Types of CRM
Like most things in life, when it comes to CRMs, it's difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore it's important to assess the unique goals, challenges and requirements of your business before taking the plunge. We cover the three most common types of CRMs that are available along with their benefits to make your job easier
In terms of functionality, CRMs are broady segregated into 3 types
An operational CRM offers you a single view of each customer's touchpoints with your company. These are typically sales-focussed CRMs and uses a combination of customer data and marketing automation to boost engagement and sales.
An operational CRM automatically stores and updates your contact list in a central platform. Every time a customer interacts with your brand, it automatically updates their contact information.
An automated lead scoring mechanism helps you prioritize leads based on multiple factors like conversion probability, deal value etc.
gradeSales team automation
An operational CRM can streamline sales process by auto assigning tasks to the team based on customer interaction or lead score
An operational CRM can help you enhance your customer engagement strategy by creating segments based on multiple factors like account size, product preference, organization size, page visits etc.
check_circleCreate Seamless User Journeys
Employees can quickly track the last interaction with a customer and pick up where someone else left off.
Create highly personalized and relevant campaigns using micro segmentation.
check_circleEfficient Sales Process
Prevent warm leads from getting ignored by auto assigning them to the sales team
check_circlePrioritize Warm Leads
Assign scores to each lead and ensure the high potential ones gets closed faster
An analytical CRM is essentially a fusion of Business Intelligence software and a contact management tool. It helps you make better business decisions by aggregating and analyzing sales and customer data like monthly recurring revenue, customer lifetime value, average deal cycle etc.
An analytical CRM acts a data storehouse and give you insights around customer behaviour by running complex statistical, linear, multi regression and cluster analysis.
gradeReveal cross-sell and upsell opportunities
By analyzing customers’ behavior and past purchases, analytical CRMs can reveal patterns which can be leveraged for upsell or cross-selling your products.
gradeCreate customer personas
By combining customers’ preferences, interests, and personalities, analytical CRMs can create unique personas to help you personalize content and communications.
By analyzing your company's past sales trends, the CRM can predict trends like store sales in a location for a specific period.
Analytical CRMs can reveal which brand interactions led a prospect to become a customer. This is a great way to understand which channel is most effective in terms of conversion and average deal size.
check_circleCreate Micro Segments
Advanced analytics can help you create micro segments to target the right people with the right messages.
check_circlePredict Purchase Patterns
Understand and predict the product a certain segment of customers are likely to purchase next.
check_circlePersonalize Customer Experience
Personalize all brand interactions using multiple customer attributes to create highly accurate personas.
check_circleStay Future Ready
Predict long term trends and sales by analyzing past sales and customer data
check_circleMeasure Marketing Effectiveness
Using multi-touch attribution analysis, you can understand which channel contributed to bringing in high value customers
Collaborative CRMs are more focussed on customer service/support rather than acquisition and acts as a centralized customer information warehouse. They are used for sharing information across internal and external stakeholders, such as marketing, sales, customer service, suppliers, and distributors.
Similar to an operational CRM, a collaborative CRMCMS creates a centralized log of customer interaction that can be accessed by sales, support, vendors or anyone else with the access
When a new customer is onboarded, the sales team can tag his/her preferences, aspirations and other information on their contact profile. This can help teams to be better prepared before starting a customer interaction
Collaborative CRM can help in organizing contracts, agreements, documentation and proposals in a centralized folder that can be accessed by select employees.
check_circleBreak-down Information Silos
A collaborative CRM can help break down silos and share that information across teams. This can reveal valuable insights like upsell opportunities, customer pain points and product preferences.
check_circleOffer Personalized Services
Use customer information tagged by employees across the organization to offer more personalized services.
check_circleEfficient & Organized Workflows
By centralizing documentations, businesses can optimize workflows and improve productivity.
Based on sector, CRMs are broady segregated into 2 types
CRM can take on a different context and usage depending on whether a brand is B2B or B2C focussed. While there might be overlapping feature-sets, there are several differences between a B2B CRM and a B2C CRM. This is primarily due to difference in sales and marketing functionalities between a B2B and B2C business.
B2B CRMs tend to be much more complex systems due to the nature of sales cycle and multiple stakeholders involved. These are designed for long term management of an individual lead and supports extensive tracking in various stages of the sales cycle (suspect, prospect, near lead, customer etc) The amount of data is usually is lesser, therefore the focus is more on quality rather than quantity. Since diverse teams need to work closely to seal a B2B deal, the CRM should support seamless integration between accounting, client support, marketing automation, shipping etc to be effective. The long term goal is efficient closure of deals by helping the sales rep with accurate data and automation of the sales process.
B2C CRMs are designed for short term sales cycles and focussed on marketing activities. The focus is on accurate customer data updation and management since it forms the basis for campaigns and customer interactions. These type of CRMs should be able to manage a massive amount of data and leads in a short period of time. The customer stages in B2C is fairly straightforward : prospect and buyer. This means there are fewer sales cycles to manage, therefore the focus is mostly around building long term, loyal customer base.
CRM Strategy Roadmap
A CRM strategy is equally important than the tool or system you ultimately choose. Your CRM strategy should first and foremost put the customer at the center of all business operations. Here are the steps to create an effective CRM strategy for your business.
Data-Driven decision making
To stay relevant and ahead of the competition in a competitive market, brands, regardless of the product or industry will need to adopt data-driven decision making. Leading brands are increasingly using advanced analytics to understand user behaviour and engagement rates to create highly personalized experiences to boost loyalty and revenue. In fact, personalization and highly tailored experiences might be the only way to capture user attention in an information saturated world. And data forms the crux of a personalized and highly engaging experience.
Here are the key focus areas around data that you should include in your CRM strategy
Single View of Customer
A Single View of Customer is essential for a successful CRM strategy for two reasons
Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics
As previously stated, the CRMs of yesteryear were primarily involved in collecting, organizing and analysing data. However, a new breed of CRMs powered by AI and ML are capable of automating the analysing aspect by providing business and customer insights that can predict actions customer churn, steps to increase revenue from a specific store, or suggest content to boost conversion rates from a specific segment of customers.
Attribution Modelling for Mapping Purchase Journeys
While data is critical for growth; unstructured and fragmented data doesn't hold much value. The key is to connect data from multiple customer touchpoints like in-store behaviour, social media behaviour, customer support interactions and website browsing patterns to create a complete sequence of events that led to a sale. This attribution modelling based on advanced statistics and Machine Learning will help you to understand the exact ROI of every touchpoint and its contribution to a sale.
A persona is simply defining a set of characteristics for a specific segment of customers. Personas are a great way to understand your customers and create personalized engagements at every touchpoint. A key thing to remember while defining personas is that your customers are not static entities, i.e, their behaviour will change overtime and your CRM should be able to factor these while crafting content or communications.
Here are the common research modalities brands typically use to define customer personas:
Refers to standard characteristics of a customer like education, income and geography
Defines the mindset of a customer like opinion, value, interests, aspirations, attitude etc
Focuses on insights derived from participatory observation as the customer goes about his daily tasks
Includes first-person and third-party information about purchases and other post-sale services rendered to the customer
Reveals insights about customer engagement levels with brand content and collaterals across website, app, social media etc.
Once you have the customer personas, the next step is to describe the customer journey starting from engagement, to conversion and finally advocacy. The paths are traced on two factors : the typical path for purchase for a specific product and lifetime association with a customer. The latter is a critical factor that will eventually lead to higher customer loyalty and repeat purchases. The customer journey for each persona will vary quite significantly and its important that your CRM supports micro-segmentation features to map out several journeys.
While omnichannel is typically classified as a channel strategy, it's an important aspect to consider while evaluating your CRM. We'll not dive into the benefits of omnichannel strategy here since we have covered it here and here. The point is that your CRM should be able to support your omnichannel strategy and operations. For instance, your CRM should be able to connect the customer journey if he/she opts for a 'Click and Collect' option where they have placed the order online and chosen to pick up the product in-store. A different instance is mapping a customer who purchases a product from your in-store Endless Aisle interface. Will your CRM be able to connect the dots between the customer’s in-store behaviour, in-store purchases and the Endless Aisle purchase? For these reasons, it's always a good idea to consider an omnichannel CRM if you have a business that has already gone or plan to go omnichannel.
Choosing the Right B2C CRM
The choice of B2C CRM will vary quite significantly based on your business operations, especially your sales and marketing funnel. So it's important to lead in your CRM evaluation from that point of view. Making the wrong choice
Here are 10 questions you will need to ask before making your final choice. For the sake of simplicity, we've split the questions based on business or generic needs and technical or specific needs.
Business/Operations Focussed Questions (5)
contact_supportWhat are the business goals we are hoping to achieve with the new CRM and how do we measure success?
contact_supportWho will be the key person within the organization responsible for the CRM and who will be using it?
contact_supportWhat is the budget and timeline for implementation?
contact_supportDo we have enough in-house expertise to handle the deployment, configuration and management of the CRM?
contact_supportHow likely is it that our needs will change in the next one, three, and five years?
Technical/IT Focussed Questions (5)
contact_supportIs it cloud-based or on-premises?
contact_supportWhat support is available for deployment and ongoing?
contact_supportHow customizable is the CRM and what is the product map for upcoming features?
contact_supportWhat are the integrations the CRM supports?
contact_supportWhat is the weakest point in your CRM and how are you addressing it?
Once you’re done with that, here are the major factors you should consider before choosing your CRM
assignment_turned_inCloud vs On-premise
There are pros and cons to each setup so evaluate based on your business goals. Cloud CRMs solutions does not require a server or technical expertise on your side. So you can simply log into the system and access the data located on the vendor's server. The downside to cloud-based B2C CRMs is that you will not be able to access the data if your internet connection fails.
With an on-premise CRM solution, the business will own both the software and hardware which will be physically hosted at the location. This gives direct access to the servers and data rendering it easy to integrate the CRM with other customer applications. Plus, this negates the monthly subscription fees. The downside to an on-premise CRM solution is the higher upfront costs for the software and hardware along with the need for in-house IT expertise.
assignment_turned_inIntegration with Existing Applications
When investing in a B2C CRM, you are not simply adding another item in a list of other work systems. Rather, you are streamlining your entire workflow - from lead generation, to engagement to customer support. A good B2C CRM should be able to seamlessly integrate with a range of software and solution like accounting software, HR systems, your website/web forms, your customer loyalty program, ecommerce platform, inventory management systems as well as marketing softwares. Also, ensure that the CRM supports easy data migration and data export features.
assignment_turned_inFree Demo & Trial Period
Never take a CRM (or any expensive software for that matter) on face-value, instead always take it for a test spin. A good way to start is by asking for a personalized demo where a sales person walks you through the features and functionalities and then follow it up with a free trial period so you can get a feel for the software. This will help you get a feel of the usability and experience the key functionalities of the software.
assignment_turned_inVendor with Industry Expertise & Local Partner Support
For brands that work in a niche segment or domain, it's always a good idea to evaluate B2C CRM vendors who have worked with similar companies within the specific industry. Start by browsing the vendor's website to gain insights into the type of customers and the size of companies that they serve. Another thing to consider is local partner support during pre and post implementation. Make sure you consider the local partner certification status and the number of implementations they have achieved so far.
assignment_turned_inCustomizations & Training Support
Customization is a critical aspect for a CRM effectiveness since the software has to seamlessly merge into your business operations, sales process, marketing strategy and customer support activities. Staff training is an equally critical factor in deciding the success of a B2C CRM. Always remember that a CRM that your employees are apathetic towards is good as a non-existent one. Therefore, the training should not be restricted to online tutorials, instead it should be an on-going, hands-on experience that demonstrates how the solution can increase efficiency and productivity. Therefore it's vital to enquire about any hidden costs for customizations and staff training during the evaluation stage.
According to a research, 86% of prospects cite user-friendliness as their most important factor for choosing a new system. Therefore its important to evaluate the overall user experience and design of the interface. A few questions to consider : Is it intuitive? Is the interface pleasing and easy to use? Or is there something that irks you? How many clicks does it take to complete a specific task?
With GDPR coming into the picture, your customers’ data and how it’s stored is more important than ever before. For instance, if a customer requests a report of all the data you store about them, your CRM should be able to generate one with just one click. Otherwise, it will involve painstakingly checking for the data across sales, marketing and customer service databases and manually deleting them; which often leads to human error. An omnichannel CRM typically solves this pain point since it maintains a centralized database.
assignment_turned_inFeatures & Functionality
To make it easier to evaluate the features you will need in a B2C CRM, we've split the features into three groups - "must-have features", "good-to-have features" and "bells & whistles" features.
Measuring Success of Your B2C CRM
Setting measurable goals at the initial stages makes it easier to measure the effectiveness of your B2C CRM later on. A good way to measure CRM metrics is by assigning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to each goal.
We've split the KPIs based on three major departments that a B2C CRM directly impacts Marketing and Customer Service.
Marketing CRM Metrics
timelineCustomer Lifetime Value (CLV)
CLV predicts how much revenue a customer will contribute over their entire lifecycle. You can learn more about Customer Lifetime Value, here. A CRM should ideally increase your CLV by increasing customer retention and bringing in more high value customers.
timelineCustomer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
CAC reveals the total marketing and sales spend that was spent to onboard a customer. A CRM can lower your acquisition costs by helping you targeting more qualified leads and through personalized content.
timelineRevenue Generated by Campaign
Analyzing how much revenue each social media or email campaign is bringing can help you identify what content works for a specific segment within a specific channel. A CRM should help you increase revenue generated by campaign by giving you insights into customer behaviour and preferences.
timelineEmail List Growth Rate
This metric calculate the increase in your email list over a period of time . It can be calculated as follows
A CRM can help in increasing email list growth rate through personalized and relevant content and by creating more opportunities for opt-in forms.
Customer Service CRM Metrics
timelineNet promoter score (NPS)
NPS is a measure of the likelihood that your customers will recommend your brand to someone else. Based on a score of 1 to 10 , it segregates your customers into Promoters (9-10): People who loved your brand and will come back with friends, Passives (7-8): People who were satisfied with your product/experience and Detractors (0-6): People who did not have a great experience and are likely to switch to a competitor. A CRM can boost your NPS score by personalizing the customer experience, analyzing customers who didn't have a great experience and surprise them good offers or rewards.
This dreaded metric reveals the rate at which customers leave. A CRM system can actively reduce churn rates by engaging customers with personalized rewards at the right moment, sending personalized emails and even predicting that a set of customers are at risk of churn.
timelineAverage Time to Resolution
This measures the average time it takes for your customer support team to resolve an issue after a ticket has been opened. An effective CRM should be able to lighten the workload of your support team by empowering them with the right insights and data needed to quickly resolve an issue. If your average time to resolution remains unchanged or increases after implementing the new CRM, it indicates the need for additional training for your customer support team.
timelineAverage Follow ups/Ticket
This measures the effectiveness of the responses by calculating the number of callbacks or email that was required to close a ticket. A CRM software offers insights into customer behavior, activity and previous support tickets in a single place. Ideally, this should help a customer support rep to offer the most relevant and helpful resolution to an issue within the shortest time with minimal steps.
Future of CRM
In 15 years time, CRM will have transformed the way we work and connect in a business environment. These powerful systems powered by smart data is likely to have critical decisioning abilities which will make present day CRMs look prehistoric by comparison. A CRM is likely to become a singular entity, an all-encompassing expert that is always available via wearables or mobile on the go devices, and continuously offers suggestions about the next opportunities and risks at every level of the business.
End-users in CRM will have their time and workflow optimized automatically, with the technology doing all the data enrichment and action coordination for the user. In addition to workflow optimization, systems will be able to recognize the skill-level of the end-user and suggest recommendations to help reps learn faster and perform better, and tailor responses that will resonate with the needs of the customer.
With data from additional touchpoints like IoT applications, CRMs will yield more accurate and actionable behavior models that will deliver better content and offers based on real-time processing of historical data and in-the-moment behavioral data, providing for a very specific and personalized customer journey.
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