What Is CRM?

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a company-wide business strategy designed to reduce costs and increase profitability by solidifying customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. True CRM brings together information from all data sources within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one, holistic view of each customer in real time. This allows customer facing employees in such areas as sales, customer support, and marketing to make quick yet informed decisions on everything from cross-selling and upselling opportunities to target marketing strategies to competitive positioning tactics.

Once thought of as a type of software, CRM has evolved into a customer-centric philosophy that must permeate an entire organization. There are three key elements to a successful CRM initiative: people, process, and technology. The people throughout a company-from the CEO to each and every customer service rep-need to buy in to and support CRM. A company's business processes must be reengineered to bolster its CRM initiative, often from the view of, How can this process better serve the customer? Firms must select the right technology to drive these improved processes, provide the best data to the employees, and be easy enough to operate that users won't balk. If one of these three foundations is not sound, the entire CRM structure will crumble.