CRM Tools for Every Business Need

By Ryan Ayers
Updated: March 28, 2011

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions are a proven way to manage and increase the effectiveness of your interactions with your customers and prospects. Helping companies to track and strategize potential lead targeting, better anticipate existing customers’ service needs, and coordinate the efforts of separate employees and departments, these systems have become an indispensable tool in the customer service arena.

The Basics

CRM solutions are basically a tool used to integrate customer information and to allow businesses to set specific parameters for interaction with each customer. An effective contact center utilizes the basic functions of a CRM system in each interaction to define and record the particulars of a given customer issue.

These systems allow a business to retain pertinent information regarding a customer’s service timelines, product specifications, past requests, and contact histories and eliminate the need to re-capture this information with each new contact. This enables a streamlined process for each interaction, ultimately lowering handling times and increasing customer satisfaction.

Tools for Every Business Need

CRM solutions can vary depending on the specific provider, but many aspects are uniform across the board.

Most CRM solutions will have components that are able to:

  • Retain customer particulars – retain customer specifics such as product specifications, part records, billing and contact information.
  • Track/record history – keep a record of past interactions with specific customers, track service issues for a given customer.
  • Generate reports – run reports of sets of customers based on specific criteria (e.g., qualified leads, potential market targets, customers in need of equipment upgrades).
  • Integrate with contact centers – integrate seamlessly with your contact center systems to provide a unified solution to data capture.

These tools allow businesses to function in the manner that consumers have become accustomed to while allowing businesses to better serve customers by anticipating and addressing their needs more efficiently.

Add-on Applications

As with most technology products today, there are many applications that provide additional functionality and are interoperable with existing popular CRM solutions. Many of these applications are either inexpensive or free, while some that offer more comprehensive feature sets are significantly more expensive.

Most of these add-on applications will function with a larger mainstream CRM solution such as Microsoft Dynamics. Many of these increase functionality or increase the specialization in existing CRM solutions. Add-on applications generally provide some form of increased specificity that will function within the parameters of your business’ normal operations.

Typical add-on functions are:

  • Industry specific customizations
  • Customized menus
  • Mail merges
  • Language specific applications
  • Specialized/customized contact center functionality
  • Group/integrated calendars

Once your business has a CRM system in place, there are endless available ways to customize and adjust it so that it fits the way that your business operates. The goal of an effective CRM solution should be that it integrates into the operational processes of your company in a way that can enhance your customer interactions. Whether paid, or open source, there are many add-on options available that address almost every business structure and type.

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