The CRM Landscape: Why Now
CRM System Evolution
Marketing Department Changes
CRM and Transaction Processing
Change Management and Market Strategy
The Technology of Microsoft CRM
Over the past ten years, CRM systems have evolved from departmental client/server systems to semi-integrated systems. Most CRM systems currently cooperate at the portfolio or application suite level, sharing information between a limited set of marketing, sales, and service applications. The newest CRM suites take CRM functionality to the Internet-enabled, fully integrated Web services applications that are being developed today.
CRM System Evolution
The first stage of CRM systems focused on department-specific objectives, delivered via client/server systems. These systems usually addressed the needs of isolated departments such as the marketing department, sales and service, tech support, or the call center.
One system would extract a list of customer names for direct mail purposes, whereas another would focus on collecting customer information for marketing initiatives. Yet a third system would provide case management to the technical support team or call center personnel.
These systems were limited in their scope and focused inwardly on solving immediate problems of one area within a company. They were often developed by various vendors at different times, with no attempt to integrate information between systems.
During the second stage in the development of CRM systems, the focus shifted to customer relationships, with an emphasis on supporting integration of all customer information for a complete 360-degree view of the customer and all customer interactions.
Disparate systems on disparate platforms began to be rearchitected so that they could operate together. Vendors came out with integrated suites of applications that provided cross-functional customer information.
With the advent and popularization of the Internet for business use, the third wave of CRM saw e-commerce systems developed, enabling customers to serve themselves through your customer Web site. New opportunities opened for collecting customer information, and interacting on a one-to-one basis as never before. Mass customization became a reality because the mechanisms could be put in place to enable customers to personalize their experience on your Web site and to customize your products for their specific needs.
The next logical step in e-CRM systems was to integrate customer-facing applications (Web, customer support, and so forth) with the back-end systems that run your business (ERP, supply-chain management, and so forth). Such integration would give your customer visibility into your inventory so that ordering could be done automatically, and the entire delivery process could proceed seamlessly from there.
For example, when all your business applications are integrated, customers can place an order at your online store, and then have several avenues from which to check the progress of the order: telephone, online support, or dropping by a physical storefront and having a customer service representative pull up the order on the store's computer. Back-end integration is what provides for your customer's order to turn up in synchronized fashion on several different computer systems at the same time.
The Holy Grail for current and future evolutions of CRM systems is the customer-driven portal, which puts the customer first, enables the customer to define the interaction and the relationship, and provides ongoing direction for the reinvention of your business process.
A portal is a Web site that serves as a starting point to other destinations or activities on the Web. Your customer portal is a starting point for customers to interact with your business and find information, services, and resources via your Web site.
As CRM evolves, the customer portal is evolving from a static window on your business to a dynamic focal point for customers to carry out multiple interactions, and to provide the feedback necessary for you to understand how your business can best keep pace with their needs.