CIM stands for Customer Interaction Management. An analogy can be useful in illustrating the difference between CIM and CRM: think of a CIM system as the folks at the front of the Wal-Mart stores stationed to greet each of the customers. In this analogy, the Wal-Mart greeter would not only welcome you to the store, but that person would also know your name, your shopping history and preferences, and help direct you to the appropriate department so you can more quickly complete your business. While the Wal-Mart greeter (or CIM system) might begin to recognize you and your shopping patterns over time, the memory behind the system would be the transactional systems and the repository of customer data (the CRM system).
CIM is a way for traditional call center players a way to participate in the CRM market. Major providers of technology to call centers (e.g. Alcatel, Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Siemens, etc.) are employing acquisition and partnership strategies to create new solutions that leverage their expertise while also exploiting the customer data within CRM and other e-business systems in order to maximize the initial point of contact with a customer - independent of the communication channel. Customer intelligence can be utilized across channels so that specific organizational objectives (e.g. platinum service for your best customers) can be executed with each customer interaction. As well, CIM is also about maximizing your resources (e.g. self-service tools, contact center agents) so that you are aligning resources to match your business objectives.
The underlying premise of CIM isn't new, though the notion of uniformity of the customer experience across communication channels is a constant business challenge. While CRM gets most of the attention, a solid CIM strategy is vital in achieving the promises of CRM. Think of CIM as the means through which you can give each customer a smile and firm handshake at the door, thanking each of them for their business. Through the knowledge from the CRM system, then you can alert Customer X about a sale on dog food and Customer Y about the new stock of flowers in the garden section.
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