I recently saw a question on LinkedIn inquiring about the difference between CRM (customer relationship management) and BCM (business contact management). Often these are considered software packages for managing information about your contacts however the purpose and usage between them within an organization can be quite different.
Business Contact Management
Typically business contact management solutions (BCM) are more glorified contact management solutions designed for the centralized management of common contact information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, email history, potentially call history, etc. Most BCM solutions are typically easy to learn and inexpensive. Common BCM solutions are Microsoft Outlook, ACT, Goldmine, etc. These allow you to centrally track contact information but their weaknesses are readily apparent as you start tracking and analyzing transactional data.
Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions should, in theory, bundle customer information (customer strategy and processes) for the purpose of improving customer loyalty and eventually profitability.
As a practice, CRM aligns business processes with customer strategies to build customer loyalty and increase profits over time.
Tale of two Solutions
CRM should really be considered two separate practices, Customer Relationship Management & Customer Relationship Marketing. Successful CRM initiatives are achieved by combining two business practices working – Management & Marketing.
Customer Relationship Management is about organizing and managing the data in order to creatively, personally and accurately communicate with your customers.
Customer Relationship Marketing is about the establishing, cultivating, maintaining and optimizing long term mutually valuable relationships between a company and its customers.
Customer Relationship Management will provide the whole picture on every customer…
- what your customers have done
- how they prefer to be communicated with
- what communication channel they prefer
- when they need to be communicated with
- how to market to other common customers in similar situations
- how to cultivate other consumer opportunities based upon their interaction, or lack thereof
This process is a truly holistic view of the entire consumer engagement including other activities such as purchase history, expressed product or service interest, inbound and outbound correspondence via direct mail, phone, in-person events, etc, social network activities and engagement as well as their recommendations and referrals.
Customer Relationship Management will also be key in outlining what the process and procedures will be based on the strategies identified through Customer Relationship Marketing.
Customer Relationship Marketing focuses on understanding the needs and desires of the customer through the analysis of the data and aligning business practices with business communications. It is the integration with the CRM goals, strategies, people, technology and business processes.
Companies can manage and maintain their customer relationships by combining web initiatives, traditional marketing efforts, e-direct programs, social network engagements, call center operations and all other channels of communication through one, central CRM solution. This one-channel ‘capture and release’ ensures that all communications with the customer are consistent, unified, accountable and ultimately profitable.
CRM is about creating a competitive advantage by excelling at understanding, communicating, delivering and developing existing customer relationships while acquiring and cultivating new customer relationships.
Customers have changing needs as market conditions and their lifestyles alter – to remain competitive – companies must continuously seek to satisfy those needs using CRM practices.