What is a customer relationship management platform?


PHOTO: Daniel Cheung

CRM platforms have been around since the 90s and have evolved over the past decade to include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and enhanced functionality. With that said, what is a CRM platform, what is its main purpose, and how is it used to increase sales and turn leads into customers? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and explain why the martech stack should include a unified, comprehensive CRM platform.

What are CRMs used for?

Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are most commonly used by salespeople, marketing professionals, and customer service staff to manage and refine a brand’s relationships and interactions with prospects and current customers. . CRMs are able to manage the relationships that a brand has with its customers throughout the customer’s life. While many brands use Customer Data Platforms (CDP) to unify customer data across all channels, CRMs are still used by the majority of businesses. A recent Stellaxius report found that 91% of companies with more than 11 employees use a CRM.

As brands grow and become more sophisticated, their use of a CRM grows with them to take on more tasks, said Tony Kavanagh, Director of Marketing at insightfully. “CRM has an increasingly broad mandate that goes beyond sales to include marketing, service and support, field service, e-commerce and analytics,” he said. declared. “Customer experience, by definition, refers to every interaction a customer has with your business, from the unknown website visitor to the fully satisfied customer for life. CRM should be seen as the technical backbone to help manage this whole journey, ”he said.

Older CRMs had the problem of siled customer data resulting in a very fragmented view of customers which negatively affected a brand’s ability to engage customers consistently and in a timely manner. “The way to solve this problem is to consider moving to a unified CRM platform so that all customer data is in one secure place, and where all the CRM applications required for sales, marketing and customer service and support. This will ensure that all customer-facing teams are looking at the exact same set of most recent customer data, resulting in higher responsiveness rates from sales and customer service representatives and satisfaction and customer service rates. higher customer retention, ”Kavanagh suggested.

CRMs are also used to provide customer service professionals with instant access to every interaction a customer has had with a brand, including chat history, purchase history, and customer service tickets. Having access to this information enables customer service staff to provide immediate, well-informed responses that leave customers satisfied.

Related Article: Has The Rise Of CDP Changed The Way Businesses Use CRM?

The 3 types of CRM

There are three different types of CRM: operational, analytical and collaborative. Although all CRMs share some basic functionality, the main roles of each are different:

  • Operational CRMs: These streamline and automate the sales, marketing, and service processes, and are used to generate leads and convert them into contacts, while capturing all the details. They also help provide service throughout the customer lifecycle.
  • Analytical CRM: These are used for the analysis of customer data that has been collected from various touch points in the customer journey. They enable brands to make more informed decisions, marketers to assess the effectiveness of their campaigns, sales professionals to increase sales, and customer service agents to improve quality and efficiency. support.
  • Collaborative CRMs: These allow a brand to share its customer information between departments (sales, HR, marketing, IT, customer service, etc.). They also allow all departments of a brand to share the same goal: improving customer service, building customer loyalty and acquiring new customers.

Sridhar Jayaraman, Vice President of Engineering at Qentelli, sees a CRM as a “single platform” used to capture all conversations with or about a brand’s customers, including those that take place during and after the sales cycle. “All of the professionals involved in these conversations – including lead generation specialists, internal and field sales reps, sales engineers, account managers, customer support agents – capture all the information in the CRM, which makes it the unique source of truth! ” noted Jayaraman.

Related article: What is the difference between a CRM and a CDP?

Basic CRM functionality

Although the three types of CRM have different uses, there are three functions common to all CRM platforms: contact management, interaction tracking and lead management. Contact management is used to store customer contact information in a searchable database, including names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and social media accounts. Interaction Tracking is used to enter notes and track the history of customer interactions, which is used to document conversations with specific customers. Lead management allows businesses to manage the process of converting leads into leads (potential customers) by identifying them, rating them, and moving them through the sales funnel.

Additional functionality provided by many CRMs may include:

  • Integration and email marketing models
  • AI-based decision
  • Work flow automation
  • Third-party integration support
  • Reporting / dashboard and analyzes
  • Sales forecast
  • Live Chat
  • Conversational AI chatbot
  • Call center integration
  • Document management
  • Sales pipeline management
  • Mobile CRM functionality
  • Management of quotes and proposals
  • REST API support
  • Social media management

Additionally, some CRMs have the ability to send automated emails to customers, for example, after a certain number of days since the customer’s last purchase from a brand. This allows a business to stay in touch with a customer through personalized emails that deliver relevant content, coupons, deals, incentives, and seasonal promotions.

Customizable email templates can be triggered to be sent based on events, including purchases (“thank you for your order”), product inquiries (“you asked a question about this product “), Cart abandonment (” we noticed that you left several items in your cart “), and customer service calls (” we hope we were able to solve your problem “), among others.

Other CRMs use AI and process automation to identify customer sentiment through analytics and respond quickly to customer service inquiries and social media posts. In fact, some CRM platforms are able to intercept social media issues and complaints that could potentially threaten a brand’s reputation using social listening. Businesses are able to instantly respond to customer complaints before they damage their reputation.

Many brands use CRM to better understand the effectiveness of specific marketing campaigns. “Marketers use the CRM platform to create and track campaigns, get insights into what campaigns are working, and channel the energies to run many such campaigns. This will generate quality MQLs that can be sent to sales teams, ”Jayaraman said. CRM is also useful for contract management and forecasting. “As the sales process involves the efforts of multiple resources, while also identifying the likelihood of a particular opportunity, a CRM platform can provide visibility to sales management with monthly or quarterly review of best and worst case scenarios. . “

Non-traditional uses of a CRM platform

While a CRM is valuable for its traditional functionality, there are many non-traditional uses for a CRM. The cross-departmental transparency offered by a CRM ensures that every salesperson can see the interactions that every customer has had with the brand. This means that customers will not be overwhelmed by multiple sales calls and that managers can easily see the effectiveness of their sales and marketing department. CRM also makes it easier to determine which marketing channels are the most effective.

Other uses include historical market and sales analysis, which allows brands to anticipate the needs and consumption habits of their customers, increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and identify and capitalize on tendencies.

Many brands use a CRM to keep their customers informed throughout the stages of the sales funnel, much like Amazon.com does. Once the customer has placed an order, they will receive an email informing them that the order has been received. After the order is packed and shipped, the customer receives another email notifying them that their order is on its way and usually includes a tracking number. Upon delivery of the order, the customer receives an e-mail informing him of the arrival of his order. Finally, a follow-up email is sent to ask the customer if they would be willing to write a review or provide feedback on their order. The follow-up email also contains offers for related products or services that may be of interest to the customer, based on their personal purchase history with the brand. It’s a great way to keep the customer engaged, emotionally satisfied, and brand loyal.

Final thoughts

The CRM platform is an extremely useful tool for marketers, sales professionals and customer service representatives. CRMs allow brands to manage and strengthen themselves relationships with prospects and potential customers, improve customer service, increase transparency between departments and eliminate data silos between departments.

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