The Rise of the CRM Industry
Since the rise of consumerism in the 20th century, businesses have striven to establish relationships with customers that keep bringing them back. While the term Customer Relationship Management was coined in 1995, companies have striven to know and track their customers since much before.
CRM is a system that allows businesses to know who their customers are and what are their exact needs. At the base of this complex global interface lies interaction between customers and businesses and leverage the consequent data to improve marketing and sales.
However, CRM was not always this widespread or simple!
Let’s look at how CRM has risen over the past few decades.
Business and consumers are two sides of the same coin. Business owners have always known this. That is why they have always striven to provide the things that they need and keep them satisfied with superior quality and service.
It is this satisfaction that translates to repeat sales and customer retention. However, businesses were not always able to grasp whether customers were satisfied with their offerings. Most tracking methods involved direct communication, which was time taking and complex.
Things changed with the advent of the Digital Revolution in the 1980’s.
Suddenly, everything started shifting from pen and paper to the computer screen. This was a major disruption in how post sales communication with customers took place. Businesses clearly saw it to boost sales and aid growth.
Database Marketing laid the founding pillar for digital CRM in the early 1980’s. This process allowed companies to collect customer information and analyze them to create customized communication. This enabled them to attract prospects at a higher conversion rate.
Businesses were now able to market products to consumers on a more personal level. Email communications started to form the first outbound marketing strategies.
There were still a few loopholes. There was no way to track email communication. There was no way or algorithm to properly classify and organize the information.
However, things were about to change in the same decade.
The latter half of the 1980’s saw mass roll-outs of PCs and server/client architectures. Businesses were the first to get this new technology installed and reap the benefits.
Companies could now collect and analyze consumer data by collecting them into efficient digital rolodex. Analysis and insights were still limited. However, limited insights could still be gained from different threads of company interaction.
The 1990’s saw extermination of interaction roadblocks.
Early 90’s saw a big boost in CRM technology. As the first Sales Force Automation frameworks started to emerge. This allowed company to start automating their sales processes and boost productivity.
It was followed by the evolution of mobile and SaaS based CRM and by the end of 1999, the first mobile based CRM solutions and SaaS services became mainstream.
Earlier, much of CRM involved marketers simply sending information to customers with passive sales pitches, which evolved with requesting return responses.
This is where in 1995, CRM was officially coined as a business process and companies officially started offering customer relationship management solutions.
Loyalty programs were introduced where customers were given special offers if they referred products to friends or joined recurring subscriptions. These were the first customer incentive and reach programs that surfaced, allowing businesses to leverage product based marketing strategies, word of mouth marketing and increased satisfaction.
The CRM industry limped for while after the Y2K dotcom bust.
However, a slow but steady upturn in cloud technology helped businesses to evolve their CRM technology into more sophisticated mechanisms that provided in-depth analytics and details about existing and prospective customers.
Early innovation in the 2000’s saw a lot of barriers break down and CRM focus shifted completely from a transaction base to an interactive base. CRM started evolving as a platform to manage all business from a single dashboard and businesses were attracted to this revolutionary idea.
Some of the key leaps included an increase in CRM operations with legacy software; reduction is overheads through cloud offerings and lastly exponential rise in mobile CRM and advanced Social CRM with the rise of social media.
Present Day CRM Is All About Keeping Up with Customers
If there is one variable in the business ecosystem that has evolved more than CRM itself, it is the customer. Modern consumers are much more advanced, information centric and tech savvy than their predecessors.
Mobile technology is increasingly being used for purchasing goods and services. The new generation is connected over the cloud, interacting over social media and taking utmost advantage of the Internet in all walks of life. Businesses have therefore revamped their existing CRM frameworks into more interactive interfaces.
New CRM frameworks that offer increased efficiency and automation to make customer engagement highly productive have created a big market share for themselves. Today, social media networks and enterprise blogs help businesses develop more personal relationships with their customers. Marketers can now “predict” customer behavior based on analytics extracted from these platforms.
Modern CRM’s like Zoho, Vtiger, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and so many more provide specific features and in-depth insights that help companies to stock and track information about leads, existing customers and possible conversions.
Take Vtiger Ultimate CRM for instance for instance. Some of its features provide highly automated sales, support and marketing whilst providing analyzed customer profiles.
Features like 360-degree historical views of all contacts helps business managers make insightful marketing decisions. They get data like detailed sales deals and are notified automatically about sales transactions. It provides integration with email, Twitter and other channels so that all the communication can be channeled through one central location.
Other features of such modern-day CRM’s include:
- Automated communication through email and social media channels
- Pre-built insights, customized forecasts and reporting
- Self-service platforms and knowledge bases
- Team insights, process insights, data about pipeline efficiency etc.
CRM frameworks like Vtiger & Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM provide advanced forecasting tools.
Vtiger even allows collecting data about sales opportunities and then automatically make adjustments based on sales stage and probability of closing. It will finally lay out how much revenue you can expect in each future period.
These systems make it possible for businesses and managers to precisely predict what will suit their operations and what won’t. Instant decisions and changes can be made with the help of such insights.
Targeted Customer Experience
A major variable in modern CRM offerings is Targeted Customer Experience.
CRM’s are more focused on providing businesses the power to engage customers at the right time, over the right medium and make the entire process a satisfying journey.
They have tools that allow creation of proactive experiences by determining the next best interaction with any customer based on insights.
Internal data and external data are leveraged to identify patterns and trends in customer behavior. Businesses then apply this information to make recommendations and optimize their interfaces based on the same. This makes customer engagement highly predictive.
Where is the CRM industry headed?
According to the Gartner Research, the CRM industry is poised to be worth 36.4 Billion Pounds by 2017. This number shows a clear large-scale interest in companies over CRM adoption and development.
The only confounding variable, which generates concern, is the way in which companies use their CRM frameworks. Researches also find that 63% of all CRM projects fail to deliver the desired return on investment. Therefore, as a business manager, you should always go to a worthwhile CRM consultant who can help you in extracting the full potential of the framework you employ.
New age CRM systems have helped marketers enormously in ensuring continues growth and sell on a personal level by differentiating their brand with targeted insights. It has evolved from a one-way effort into a complex array of connected communication channels involving email, chat and social media.
As the consumer becomes more interactive and tech savvy, CRM frameworks will consistently evolve to serve the purpose of engagement and satisfaction. With the rise of machine learning and AI already happening, CRM is bound to see more disruptions in the time to come.
At present, we can just marvel over its evolution into an automated, interactive and dynamic sales framework ideal for all kinds of businesses.