Customer relationship management (CRM) systems improve the way businesses interact with their existing and potential clients.

With tightly-integrated applications and functionality that streamline and automate customer-facing processes across both the front- and back-office, CRM systems empower companies to deliver consistent, responsive, high-quality service throughout the entire customer lifecycle. At the same time, CRM systems can provide dramatic productivity increases and significantly reduce the costs associated with sales, marketing, and service operations.

With the robust, broad-reaching capabilities that CRM systems offer, companies can seamlessly centralize and consolidate the disjointed, repetitive, and inefficient processes that often exist across multiple departments and business units. Without CRM systems, these fragmented activities can put a tremendous strain on both staff and financial resources, and negatively impact customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Most of today’s CRM systems provide:

* Sales Force Automation

CRM systems make it easier for sales professionals to identify potential opportunities and win new deals. Reps can more effectively manage their contacts, accounts, pipelines, and related activities. Additionally, sales directors can generate accurate and timely forecasts, and manage quota performance across teams and territories.

Most CRM systems also offer mobile capabilities to provide on-the-go sales staff with anytime, anywhere access to up-to-the-minute customer data via laptops, or Palm, Blackberry, Windows Pocket PC, and other handheld devices.

* Marketing Automation

With CRM systems, companies have the insight they need to put more successful lead generation strategies into place.

CRM systems enable marketing professionals to effectively track and manage prospect databases, organize and launch initiatives across multiple communication channels, and conduct in-depth analysis of campaign results. So, they can increase response rates and boost conversions while reducing cost-per-lead and accelerating return on marketing investment.

* Customer Service, Help Desk, or Contact Center/Call Center Automation

Businesses can leverage CRM systems to empower customer service, help desk, and call center teams to rapidly respond to customer issues and inquiries, and to accurately track and manage problems from the time they are reported until they are resolved.

CRM systems can also transform these departments from cost centers into profit centers by giving staff the tools they need to actively participate in up-sell and cross-sell programs. Additionally, many CRM systems offer solutions to enhance field support operations such as scheduling, dispatching, and other related processes.

* Reporting and Analysis

Business intelligence is a key component of most CRM systems, allowing companies to maximize the value of their customer data by using it to make better, more informed decisions.

Reports, performance management dashboards, and analytics provide users at all levels with complete visibility into customer-related activities within and across multiple departments. So, businesses can gain insight into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors; identify emerging business trends and opportunities; and uncover problems or areas in need of improvement.

* Collaboration

Effective customer acquisition and retention requires synchronized, well-executed efforts across multiple customer-facing departments. CRM systems provide features that enable sales, marketing, service, and support staff to share information, coordinate activities, and eliminate overlapping or redundant functions. As a result, they can work together to deliver a superior experience and build strong, long-lasting customer relationships

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