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What Is CRM?

Business owner works with his CRM system
Customer Relationship Management technology has all of the tools to help boost business growth. [®STUDIO FIRMA/Stocksy]

What is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology? And what can it do for your business? Here’s what you need to know.

If you’re a business owner or if you interface with customers, you’ve probably heard the term “CRM” bantered around. But what is CRM, and what does CRM do? And more importantly, what can a CRM do for your business to help it grow?

What is CRM? 

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it’s a technology for managing and supporting customer relationships. CRM technology helps companies build and grow customer relationships across the entire customer lifecycle. It helps teams across marketing, sales, commerce, service, and IT with the tools and information they need for personalized and consistent customer experiences that drive business value.

A CRM system allows businesses to manage customer and prospect relationships with data. You can store, track, and analyze customer and prospect information in one central location, including:

  • Contact info
  • Accounts
  • Leads
  • Sales opportunities
  • Service inquiries
  • Marketing campaigns

And, since this information lives in the cloud, this up-to-date data can be shared and analyzed by teams across the company in real time.

Explore the Customer 360 ROI Dashboard

See how connecting more departments on a shared CRM impacts growth.

How does a CRM work?

As a provider of a product or service, you want to start building an informed, long-term relationship with consumers or businesses who could benefit from what you sell. As your company grows, these connections become more sophisticated. Commerce is no longer just a transaction between the buyer and the seller. Whether you’re selling business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), or direct-to-consumer (D2C), you need to manage a myriad of connections with your buyer across a number of platforms (web, social, customer service, etc.), partners, and interactions with your brand.

Inside your organization, you need to share information about your customers with multiple teams – like sales, marketing, service, business operations, finance, distribution, and production. A CRM system can serve as a vital nerve center to track, manage, and analyze the many connections you have with your customer. With visibility and easy access to all customer data, a CRM system can give you a clear 360-degree view of the customer, all in one place. 

Access to the right data fuels the next critical benefit of CRM: process automation. A CRM streamlines day-to-day tasks like executing marketing campaigns, forecasting new sales opportunities, and routing service cases. Teams can work smarter to deliver seamless customer experiences. Built-in artificial intelligence tools make CRM technologies like Salesforce Customer 360 even more helpful, using machine learning and predictive analytics to help teams stay ahead of customer needs and expectations.

How CRM impacts business growth

For growing businesses of all sizes, a CRM system can securely put your data in the cloud, making it up-to-date and accessible in real time to every team across any device. It can free your time to focus on developing products and delighting customers, rather than letting valuable insights and information fall through the cracks.

Similarly, customers don’t want to navigate your org chart every time they engage with your brand. When more departments are connected to a shared system with a single view of customer information, it’s easier to create better customer experiences. That can translate to real growth. A commissioned study from Forrester Consulting found that companies can provide a better quality experience to customers when all teams use a shared CRM.

As your business grows, a CRM can also quickly expand to include more sophisticated features, including:

  • Team collaboration with colleagues and customers
  • Customized emails and communications to multiple targeted demographics
  • Customer insights from social media conversations
  • Holistic pictures of your business health in real time

Who should use a CRM system?

CRM systems got their start as tools for sales and marketing, but customer service teams see big benefits from a CRM platform as well.

Customers may start by sending your brand a Tweet. Later, they may switch to email or phone to resolve an issue in private. They have multiple channels to choose from when looking to interact with your brand. A CRM platform helps service teams manage customer requests coming in from all channels without missing a beat.

As customer relationships become more digitally-enabled and distributed, B2B and B2C commerce teams increasingly use CRM for more personalized and relevant buying experiences. IT also relies on CRM data to develop new, value-added apps.

Why your organization should get started with CRM

With CRM in the cloud, there’s no hardware to set up or upgrade, keeping IT costs low. You don’t need to install software on every computer and mobile device in the organization worldwide. By moving data, software, and services into a secure online cloud environment, businesses can increase productivity, reduce costs, and scale. Cloud-based CRM systems mean every user is working from the same automatically-synced information – no more data gaps, and everyone is up to speed. Teams can work anywhere and everywhere, build new ideas, and get to know their customers like never before.

Keep learning with the Customer Experience Technology Guide

Learn how to build a technology roadmap around your customers, from vision to integration to adoption.

Taylor Price Sr. Manager, Product Marketing

Taylor Price is a senior manager of product marketing. She shapes cross-product positioning, content, and campaigns.

More by Taylor

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