Over the last 12 years (yes, I have been doing CRM consulting for 12 years now) I have seen many CRM systems implemented as an very expensive Rolodex, basically to perform the function of Contact Management or Sales Force Automation. There is a difference between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Contact Management. So I thought today I would help define each step in the Contact Management to Customer Relationship Management chain:
Contact Management is typically contact based, and is more or less an electronic rolodex. It is a mailing list for a specific user or group of users, and is normally not integrated across the entire organization. It frequently does not meet all of the data needs required for managing leads, prospects, and customers, leaving many stand alone islands of data throughout the organization. Often companies will know they need to move up from contact management when they begin to have multiple contact management databases or when they have to use outside programs like Microsoft Excel or Access to track additional data about their prospects and customers. Contact management is a great first step into CRM, and Sage software with over 4,000,000 users of ACT! is the world-wide leader in this category.
Sales Force Automation is frequently account based, and includes enhanced note taking and opportunity tracking capabilities. It allows for the tracking of more data though configuration, and can be deployed organization wide. Making the step to sales force automation normally eliminates the need for many of the separate islands of data, leaving only one or two spreadsheets or outside databases for tracking additional data components. Very often, sales force automation will include basic integration into the back office.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is account based, and includes advanced marketing management, opportunity management, quote management, contract tracking, support issue management, and forecasting to name a few key components. Basically, it encompasses data from every aspect of your relationship with the customer. It is fully customizable eliminating all need for outside islands of data about your customer (outside of your accounting/ERP system). It can be fully integrated with back office and manufacturing and can be deployed across the entire organization, including remote offices anywhere around the world. Sage SalesLogix is an excellent example of a true Customer Relationship Management tool. Sage SalesLogix has been the industry innovation leader since 1998 and is consistently winning industry standard and user satisfaction awards.
Hopefully having an understanding of what CRM includes will help you as you focus on the business goals that you are looking toward CRM software to help you accomplish. Don’t forget that your CRM strategy and corresponding software implementation is an ever-evolving part of your organization. While CRM is not about software, we do have a couple resources on our website that will help as you are evaluating software: