What is CRM?

CRM is an effective tool for generating sales, but true customer service demands a more customer-centric approach.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is software for organising, maintaining and retrieving relevant customer information in real time. CRM gives marketers and sales professionals an up-to-date, holistic view of each individual customer. But CRM focuses primarily on generating sales, sometimes neglecting the more-service oriented responsibilities businesses have to their customers. Businesses that rely exclusively on CRM may find themselves losing out on essential customer-service opportunities.

Here, we explore CRM—what it is, what it can do, and most importantly, how your organisation can go further to deliver a truly exceptional customer experience.

CRM: cloud vs. on premises vs. hybrid

Organisations who are interested in CRM generally have three deployment options: cloud-based, on-premises or hybrid. And while cloud CRM is undeniably the most popular choice for businesses worldwide, on-premises and hybrid solutions offer their own, unique benefits.

Cloud CRM
Today, many software-as-a-service (SaaS) technologies operate exclusively in the cloud. This means that rather than storing programs and relevant data on on-site hardware (such as a server in a company’s data centre), the software and information exists on off-site, third-party servers. Organisations use cloud services to access their data by way of the internet.

Cloud CRM allows businesses to manage customer-related sales and marketing efforts without the added costs and ongoing maintenance of on-premises deployment. Additionally, users can access cloud-based CRM and essential data from anywhere in the world, provided only that they have secure internet access. Finally, off-site solutions outside of the geographic region remain unaffected in case of local disasters or office emergencies, such as fire, floods, earthquakes etc.

On-Premises CRM
While the cloud provides many clear advantages in terms of CRM deployment, some organisations prefer an on-premises approach. As the name suggests, on-premises CRM maintains all related programs and data on site in company computers and servers. The business deploys and maintains the CRM.

Some would argue that on-premises CRM entails greater cost and effort on the part of the company. However, for organisations with the right resources and IT experience, on-premises solutions may allow for greater control over sensitive data.

Hybrid CRM
Hybrid CRM offers a mix of cloud-based and on-premises CRM, allowing organisations to switch between the two options. They can maintain most data and programs in the cloud, while keeping critical information on site. For businesses with strict regulatory requirements for data handling and storage, hybrid cloud may allow them to enjoy the online infrastructure of cloud CRM while still ensuring regulatory compliance.  

Open-source vs. Proprietary CRM

When choosing a third-party CRM, organisations have the option to choose between open-source and proprietary CRM options.

Open-Source CRM
Open-source CRM gives organisations increased flexibility and adaptability, by making the CRM source code available to users. Open source CRM generally costs less than proprietary options, and allows businesses to operate free from commitments or restrictions imposed by CRM vendors. On the other hand, open-source CRM offers little-to-no official support, and usually only offers the most basic out-of-the-box functionality.

Proprietary CRM
Proprietary CRM usually costs more than open-source options, and users cannot modify or debug proprietary CRM without vendor assistance. Likewise, vendor lock-in makes it difficult and expensive to switch from a specific proprietary product to something else. Conversely, proprietary CRM usually provides improved security, and out-of-the-box functionality is normally more comprehensive than open-source CRM options.

At its heart, CRM is primarily an organisational tool. It allows businesses to track and record customer interactions, including leads and opportunities. The main focus of CRM is sales and marketing. Many businesses also rely on CRM for customer service, though this may create potential issues.

Who uses CRM?

Although CRM functions as a single repository for customer data and activities related to customers, it’s really only designed for use by a few, select departments.

Sales and marketing automation
Using CRM for sales and marketing gives companies a single customer view for both functions. CRM dashboards generally offer a unique page for each individual customer, detailing specifics related to the relationship between the customer and the business. These details may include customer sales histories, previous marketing efforts, client data and other relevant information.

Customer service
Once a sale is made, customer or account information is available to customer service agents, enabling them to better engage with customers for service. Where it becomes challenging is when expertise outside customer service is needed. Sharing customer and case information with those who are not support agents, and facilitating a seamless customer-service experience in the process, demands a product like Customer Service Management (CSM).

CRM may be an effective solution for managing sales and marketing. In a pinch, it might even help your agents provide better customer service. But despite what many businesses may assume, CRM is not a complete customer service platform.

CRM is designed to engage with customers reactively. It tracks cases and provides sales and marketers with relevant customer information. It also provides actionable analysis into the effectiveness of marketing tactics and offers insights into possible future opportunities. What traditional CRM cannot do is connect with other departments within an organisation to provide a complete, end-to-end solution. And it doesn’t prioritise solving customer problems. As an answer to these problems, more and more businesses are turning to Customer Service Management.

What is CSM?

Customer Service Management picks up where CRM leaves off, leveraging and supplementing powerful CRM capabilities to offer a truly unified view of customer relationships across an entire organisation. Customer Service Management integrates customer engagement with customer operations and service delivery. Where CRM unites sales and marketing and ensures easy tracking of customer data and interactions, Customer Service Management brings together every relevant team, allowing customer service to quickly identify issues and work with outside departments to provide effective resolutions.

Simply put, Customer Service Management empowers businesses with a greater awareness of customer issues. That means improved synergy across your entire organisation, and happier customers overall.

Leading CRM solutions provide effective marketing and sales support, but create gaps in the customer’s experience, and can leave important middle- and back-office facilitation and resolution out of the equation. When comparing features of CRM to CSM, it’s important to ask yourself where CRM might be falling short. Are all relevant cases resolved effectively during the first interaction, and if not, what is happening with those that aren’t? Are your HR, legal, IT and operations teams able to work together on the same request at the same time on the same Platform?

If you’re not satisfied with your answers to these questions, then Customer Service Management provides the solution. Filling CRM gaps with case management and automated workflow combined with service management and operations technology, CSM allows organisations to work together across multiple departments to identify, track and resolve customer issues.

Table outlining the difference between ServiceNow and a traditional CRM.

ServiceNow Customer Service Management brings front, middle and back offices together, to proactively solve customer issues. At the same time, by incorporating digital workflows, businesses can effectively automate common requests. This helps ensure fast resolutions to customer problems while still allowing customer service and other departments to focus on more intensive projects.

But when it comes to the question of CRM vs. CSM, organisations don’t have to take a one-or-the-other approach; ServiceNow CSM can supplement existing CRM solutions. With service-aware capabilities and ServiceNow’s industry leading Service Catalog (a self-service means of automating resolution of common customer requests), businesses can extend their CRM capabilities to provide a fully developed customer experience. ServiceNow Customer Service Management is designed to integrate easily with most existing CRM platforms.

At the most basic level, CSM fills the gaps in CRM, and makes customer relationship management an actual customer-focused solution. Here are four key advantages of integrating CSM with your existing CRM product:

Deliver business outcomes

Although aligned with traditional CRM, CSM emphasises the word ‘service’. And given that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for better service, this customer-centric approach puts organisations on the fast track to achieving business revenue goals.

Improve employee and customer experience

Happy customers lead to growth, and happy employees mean reduced costs and improved productivity. CSM helps improve experiences both inside your organisation and out; employees enjoy automated workflows and improved interdepartmental coordination, and customers receive a more personalised, cohesive support experience that delivers faster resolutions.

Inspire innovation

When employees don’t have to devote their time and energy to routine tasks, they are free to innovate. CSM handles the details, while allowing businesses to keep their creative and strategic juices flowing.

Prepare for the future

A key factor of CSM is its agility. As conditions in your industry change, CSM helps you and your business adapt along with them. CSM can help future-proof your business.

CRM is a valuable technology for connecting with customers, capable of improving and simplifying the way you build enduring customer relationships. But CRM is not the final answer to customer service. ServiceNow Customer Service Management offers a more encompassing solution.

Check out ServiceNow CSM, and see for yourself just how far your customer relationships can go.

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