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Defining CRM

·3 mins

CRM or Customer Relationship Management, simply put, is to manage customer information in a way that provides value to both the business/individual storing the information and to the customer whose information gets stored. An older definition of CRM from Wikipedia stated it as:

“Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term applied to processes implemented by a company to handle its contact with its customers. CRM software is used to support these processes, storing information on customers and prospective customers. Information in the system can be accessed and entered by employees in different departments, such as sales, marketing, customer service, training, professional development, performance management, human resource development, and compensation. Details on any customer contacts can also be stored in the system. The rationale behind this approach is to improve services provided directly to customers and to use the information in the system for targeted marketing and sales purposes.”


Paul Greenberg, well known CRM guru and the author of CRM at the Speed of Light books, defines CRM as:

“CRM is philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment. It is also a continuing business initiative that demands a dynamic, ongoing strategy of customer engagement.”

CRM will encompass any customer interaction that the individual/business will have. It is a combination of front office & back office functionalities that enable organizations to “see” and make sense of a customer. CRM will include the following high-level business areas (and more):

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Customer interactions incl. social media interactions
  • Customer Analytics

While CRM software had traditionally been supported by “On Premise” (or hosted in customer’s site) model, it changed to being one of the favourites of “Cloud” vendors. CRM today is available in both models by most providers of CRM software, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Some of the prominent software in CRM are listed along with the more popular option of the implemented model:

ProductVendorPopular Implementation Option
SiebelOracleOn Premise
SugarCRMSugarCRMOn Premise / Cloud
Zoho CRMZohoCloud
Microsoft CRMMicrosoftOn Premise

The term “CRM” is a term that has evoked resentment in the past, but has been undergoing a transformation for good. It had and continues to suffer from problems like:

  • lack of a clear business case and objective
  • systems that are “data hungry” without being responsive to sales/service needs
  • being considered a “management” tool to “track & punish” rather than help create value

The perspective of CRM has been undergoing major changes. CRM is no more just about storage/retrieval of customer information or ROI tracking, it is “all about the customer!”. For those businesses/individuals that do not recognize this, Social media (and the associated ‘Social CRM’) is forcing this change. CRM is not just the software alone, but the way of putting customer at the heart of the organization.