CRM is an acronym for contact or customer relationship management.
It is a securely managed, shared repository of contact information of all kinds and from all sources within your company or organization. There is one CRM for the entire organization, one united view of all of the interactions and transactions your organization has ever had with another organization or individual. That includes letters, emails, meeting notes, documents and contracts. It probably includes all of the sales processes, successful or unsuccessful, invoices, marketing campaigns, project documentation, phone calls and face-to-face meeting notes. It may include a picture and a link to social media comments made by an individual. It will be used to manage all communications of any kind with an individual. Because there is so much information, it can be used to target outbound communications to small and relevant groups and to personalize communication. For significant organizations that you need to know more about there will be links to web-sites and media information about the company or organization.
I invented CRM in 1981. I probably was not the first person to do so, but there were not many systems developers at the time who were designing what I then called “Entity Centered” systems. I was working as a software developer and designer in the early versions of relational databases that allowed free association of information between records. The eureka moment for me was when I realized that whatever systematic functionality we designed for our business, the common element was that someone or some group of people would be involved in some pre-defined action or analysis. Up to that "eureka" point we typically kept information in separate “silos” depending on the nature of the relationship. That meant that employees, suppliers, contractors, customers, prospects and media contacts were all stored in separate files. I recognized that contacts could easily have several profiles and that created duplication and difficulty in keeping contact information up-to-date. Up to that point traditional system design had been to define a “Customer file” to define a customer’s information and a separate Supplier file to define supplier’s information.
I realized that from a design and functionality perspective, a person or organization was the core entity from which all other information and transactions could be hung, rather like a half grapefruit at a party with toothpicks stuck into it carrying cheese or ham wrapped around asparagus spears. It meant that instead of having your software relate specifically a customer file, now you could have a contact file that contained every significant contact that you made within your business and a unified view, listing all of their phone number, emails and email addresses. You simply defined the relationship with coded classifications on the core contact record, check boxes that indicated “Current customer” for example, then associated the relevant information that defined the relationship.
It becomes pretty clear that your biggest business boosters are your employees and suppliers: when you do well they do well. That means that keeping them informed of your capabilities and successes so they can pass you referrals, is as important as marketing to prospects.
So a CRM is fundamentally a central shared database of contacts, organizations and associated transactions, correspondence and contact information, available to everyone in your company, supporting every function and interaction. It can be summarized as the most critical and central aspect of your company’s information resources, requiring careful and controlled access controls and security, both physical and in ensuring accuracy and continuity.
The core concept of CRM is that all information is in one place. All related transactions are gathered in that one place. Current CRM systems are often internet accessible, meaning that you can access and update the information from any device that supports internet access including laptops’ smart phones or iPad-style devices, providing the ultimate in mobility and information ability.
One of the best usability aspects of using a CRM is to be able to quickly find someone, perhaps as you are talking on the phone, then push one button to complete a transaction or series of transactions relating to your entire relationship. For example imagine a conversation with a member of a trade association and the association staff member.
“Hello Mr. Coy, I’m calling you today to see if you want to renew your membership. We sent an email reminder last month but have not seen your reply yet. Did you get the email? OK we’ll send you another right now. Can I check we have the right email firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is 416 564 1446? Great, will you be attending our golf tournament next month at Glen Abbey, we have a few spare spots still open? Yes, Ok I have added you in how would you like to pay for that? OK let’s take your Visa number and while we’re open would you like me to add your membership renewal as well? Great!”
So a CRM is a major implementation factor for efficient and respectful customer service. It coordinates the work of your resources and ensures that critical relationship information gleaned over many years of inter-action is not lost when staff leave.
CRM is often used as a sales tool, monitoring and recording sales activity, as a basis for personalized and automated on-line and mail marketing and response management and a source of information for management to identify trends or attitudes.
I will talk about the various creative and effective uses I have seen and implemented for CRM in my next blog.
Peter Coy | President | Prodigm Inc. | Toronto
“CRM that Fits”
Peter has a Masters Certificate in Project Management from Schulich School of Business and has managed hundreds of projects for large and small organizations in a long IT career in Development, Design, Sales and Marketing.
Contact: +1 416 564 1446 | email@example.com | www.prodigm.ca