So, What is CRM Anyway? Everything.

No technology or business strategy has been enveloped in as much ambiguity as CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Why? Because in large part everyone has their own definition of what CRM is and how it helps organizations strengthen customer relationships. Depending on who is asked, CRM is defined as sales force automation; others vociferously claim that CRM is the front-end, customer-facing applications that allow business to be conducted online. This creates controversy as well as confusion. Perhaps it is time to flip the equation completely around. Maybe we should be asking, "Just what isn't CRM?" Across an organization there exists a series of activities, processes, and events that touch customers, partners, suppliers, and employees on a daily basis. Think for a moment about which business processes, activities, or events ultimately impact the customer. Chances are, you came up with quite a list. There are obvious processes like responding to incoming customer service calls and notifying customers that payment has been received. Although companies may differ by products and services, most can list numerous applications that touch the customer. Organizations will find that all business processes from customer service to payroll, have an impact on the end user. All of these touch points can be considered CRM. By looking at CRM in this way, you will begin to ask what part of business is not CRM. That said, CRM initiatives must focus on creating greater visibility and access to critical customer data. To better serve customers, organizations must ensure that information can be accessed through one single source throughout the enterprise. From account status to what products are being used, all employees involved with a customer across a company must have this information at their fingertips. More important, to ensure that information is as up to date as possible, organizations must be able to update and access valuable customer data in real time. In addition, as more companies use the Internet for business, customers and partners must also be given access to this information. In essence, an organization needs to unify all people, processes, and knowledge to ensure the best service to its customers. Only through this approach will organizations be able to streamline business processes, and as a result build better customer relationships. About the Author Mike House is the general manager, e-Synergy, for Exact Software. House joined Exact in early 2002 to spearhead the company's efforts and build market awareness for its flagship product, e-Synergy. He brings more than 15 years of senior-level management and leadership experience, rooted in software engineering, business development, and strategic planning. Contact him at
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