What are CRM Systems? - Definition, Types & Examples

Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

In this lesson we define customer relationship management (CRM) as the process of managing customer interactions. This includes organizing, automating, and synchronizing customer information pertaining to sales, marketing, and customer support.

What Is a CRM System?

If you have customers, you will probably need customer relationship management (CRM), which is a controlled system that involves the gathering and secure storing of customer-related information. Customers support the businesses, and businesses support their customers in three critical information collection sources: marketing, sales, and customer support. It is upon these three sources that an effective CRM system is founded.

These three business areas include all aspects of advertising, shipping, storing, selling products, and customer support. With customer-related information being collected in each area, emphasis is placed on data collection with the objective of enhancing and maintaining a customer information database. The overall goal is to make this information available when needed.

CRM - Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support
Marketing, Sales and Customer Support

Information Accessibility

For customer information to be useful, it must be accessible. Therefore, where and how the data is stored is critical. Do we file marketing data in a desk drawer, on the marketing manager's tablet? Do we store customer-related sales data on a flash drive installed on the sales manager's desktop computer?

What problems would be encountered if Tonya, the marketing manager, Robyn, the sales manager and Benjamin the customer support manager were not in their offices when access to customer information was critical? What if Ben needed information from Kara's boss, Tonya? What if Tonya needed to talk with Robyn's boss in sales to compile a critically important report for senior executives? How would the various business departments communicate and access stored customer data? The answer is through a distributed CRM system database, centrally located, and accessible by all via remote access.

Types of CRM Systems

Most businesses in operation today depend upon CRM systems to provide detailed information in regards to supporting their customers. To assist in managing customer relations, companies might employ three CRM systems, including operational, analytical, and collaborative, with each system different in the type of customer information stored. Each type of CRM system provides a unique perspective of customer-related information and is described in the paragraphs that follow.

Operational CRM

Imperative to most business endeavors is the establishment and control of interactive customer sessions. To accomplish interactivity, businesses use a variety of customer touch points designed to limit costs, make improvements to existing processes, and effectively utilize different communication technologies. Customer touch points, such as web sites, surveys, checkout stations, etc., are used as collection points where relevant customer information is gathered and used to populate a CRM database. Information included within a CRM database includes customer opinions, both positive and negative, data relating to preferences, customer interests, and potentially, details concerning their children's likes and dislikes.

Analytical CRM

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