Simply put, ERP customer relationship management (CRM) software provides clear detail on each individual customer transaction in one accessible place.
But ERP CRM systems can do much more. They also provide customer data integration, or master data management (MDM), which keeps track of customers across all the sales channels from in-person (field sales) to phone (including telemarketing) to online (teleservice and support).
"Anyone who is dealing with the customer has access to a very detailed track record of everything that has happened with the customer," said Holger Kisker, an analyst at Forrester Research. This record includes data about current product purchases or contract status -- information that can ultimately help increase sales.
The data generated from ERP CRM software automatically provides information that lets you track leads and figure out how many of those leads have turned into deals.
"Ultimately, you're looking at the effectiveness of your marketing programs to see what channels are more successful, what campaigns are more successful, which ones are moving the needle in terms of sales," said Ray Wang, senior analyst at Altimeter Group.
At the core of all ERP CRM is the customer database from which ERP CRM modules generate automated reports and consolidated information. "It's important to be able to slice and dice the reports in various dimensions, per region, per customer segment, per product, and per specific time of the year/seasons," Kisker said.
The three key components of a CRM application are sales, marketing and services. Each of those is broken down this way:
- Customer demand insights
- Customer opportunity management
- Order management (via call center, internet sales, mobile sales)
- Sales performance management
- Campaign and promotion management
- Customer segmentation
- Lead management
- Marketing analytics
- Customer service management
- Complaint management
- Field service management
- Service management analytics
In addition to individual customer information, CRM systems also provide a detailed view of customer segments.
One way ERP CRM systems can increase sales productivity is by getting the right product to the right customer at the right time, which delivers a higher return, which leads to the key benefits that manufacturers and retails can achieve: higher sales margins.
"You can close the sales cycle more efficiently," said Kisker. "Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be improved with the right CRM solutions, the number of calls that a call center agent can handle can be improved, and the number of closings per number of average calls, can be improved."
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About the author: Catherine LaCroix is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She covers technology used in business, education and healthcare.