whatdoescrmstandforYou know how important your clients are to your business. Where would your company be without them?

And since it is in your organization’s best interest to put your clients first, it only stands to reason that you should have resources to help you do that. This is essentially the role of a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. If you want to get to know all about how a CRM solution functions, you can take a course designed to help you understand CRM.

Basic Function

At the heart of a CRM product is the idea that a company should have organized access to information regarding the accounts and people they serve. This way, all departments, whether they are in direct contact with clients or involved in back office operations, can stay connected to and align their work with client needs.

In practice, CRM technology functions on a broader scale, with a range of tools that help businesses organize information and automate practices related to both client service and business growth pursuits.  Here we’ll take a look at some of the functional areas it supports.

Direct customer support

CRM product suites deliver employees the details they need to support customers at a point of transaction. Particularly if a customer might work with different company representatives at different times, it’s important that employees have account details, transaction history, and any other pertinent information in front of them to provide a positive experience.  They also need to make sure any information necessary to transfer to other internal departments is documented and communicated for operational execution.

As businesses’ information systems are complex, this capability often involves CRM as a point of integration to and from other tools that capture information, such as enterprise resource planning and business intelligence databases.

One popular and sophisticated tool that powers and integrates many company’s data resources is Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). Learning about this tool could really help you get a grasp on how data tools, including CRM, work together to ultimately support customers. You can get started with that in a complete course on OBIEE

Sales support and automation

CRM tools facilitate the process of recording and organizing business development information.  Sales reps can easily input information on active prospects, including the revenue opportunity, areas of product interest, points of contact, and the content of any interactions. Sales operations employees can record the status of activities supporting a sale and use account/opportunity details to inform these activities. Additionally, account management employees can create records for upsell opportunities for clients interested in product expansion.  And all of this leads toward a number of common goals, including:

One of the most popular CRM tools to support the sales function is Salesforce.com.  Even with other, operationally focused CRM tools in place, many companies turn to Salesforce for its ease of use and extended features specifically for business development.

In fact, Salesforce is important enough to many small companies that their are often job positions specifically dedicated to its administration.  If you are interested in this type of role, or if you just want to understand what a tool like Salesforce can do, you can learn more about it in an online course on Salesforce.

Marketing and lead generation

CRM products also offer tools to support marketing efforts, the extent of which will vary by platform. Often, solutions include tools designed for market segmentation among prospects to help marketers target campaigns effectively.  Some integrate tools for fetching data on qualified prospects to increase the size of market segments.

A particular area many marketing teams take interest in support for campaign management. Similar to the tools supporting sales operations, CRM platforms offer tools that help marketers document campaigns with regard to strategy, execution, and performance.  This enables all employees within the department to stay up to speed with which tactics are being tried, how well they are working, and where efforts can be increased.

If you are interested in how CRM tools support marketing efforts, you can learn more about this within the larger context of marketing education in an online course in marketing concepts.

CRM Providers

Having an overview of some of the main functions for CRM platforms, you might also want some information on providers to look in to.  Here are three of the most commonly used and respected providers:

Salesforce.com: One of the most well known CRM vendors, Salesforce offers a web-based platform with no software to install. Its proprietary software suite is easy to implement and comparatively easy to navigate.  It is also a highly flexible platform, making available both product extensions and tools for developing custom add-ons.

Sugar CRM: A commercial open-source alternative to a cloud-based option like Salesforce, Sugar CRM can save a company some money, and with support of an open-source community, it also offers users flexibility and options for extending functionality.

Oracle CRM: Oracle offers a range of CRM applications in addition to (and integrating with) their OBIEE system.  These include a web-based app, Enterprise software, and a social CRM application that integrates social networking capabilities in to core functions. Businesses looking for highly customized solutions or some savings over other options might want to consider Oracle’s products.

Summing up

As you have probably gathered from this brief introduction, CRM applications are increasingly a necessity for running a business and effectively serving clients.  Beyond that, sales and marketing departments are increasingly coming on board with them for their ability to easily integrate information and facilitate workflows. If you have been thinking about implementing or expanding your CRM tools, take a look at some of the links to educational resources.  You may find that getting them up and running can be easier than you think!

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