The acronym CRM is increasingly becoming a household name or at the very least a well-known business term.
But what exactly is CRM these days?
To most, CRM has the fairly straight-forward definition it started with: Customer Relationship Management – the ability to track leads, prospects, customers, opportunities, sales, marketing, and customer service.
But CRM really has a double definition.
There is the common sales-oriented definition and then there is a newer additional definition for CRM referring to CRM as a platform, or “xRM“. In the past few years the xRM approach to CRM has gained so much momentum that it often overshadows the traditional CRM definition.
Hence, there tends to be some confusion when trying to compare a wide variety of solutions that include the term “CRM”.
Some businesses simply want the sales features of a CRM solution, while other organizations don’t want any sales features at all – they want CRM to meet a unique need like tracking meeting registrations or managing members of an organization. Both may refer to their system as CRM. A group other than “customers” may have taken over the first letter of the acronym.
There are still CRM systems that can only provide the traditional CRM sales features. But most modern commercial CRM solutions (such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM), provide both – the traditional CRM features and the increasingly popular and powerful platform features that help extend CRM as well as leverage the latest technology such as:
- Outlook integration
- Skype integration
- Social media monitoring
- Easy analytics and dashboards
- Intuitive user experiences
- Automated workflows
Microsoft Dynamics CRM and xRM can disrupt legacy software
There are other business applications (e.g., accounting software) that may include some CRM features, maybe a CRM add-on. This take on CRM, which is added to an existing application, may only provide basic sales features and not have the latest technology/platform capabilities. Nonetheless, the general term CRM is easily thrown around, so businesses selecting a new CRM need to be careful.
Here is an example from the association industry of how CRM becomes xRM. Similar examples exist in a range of industries from the public sector to education to franchise management to wealth management and beyond. In the world of associations, there are specific solutions to help associations called AMS systems (association management software). These solutions manage membership, meetings, certifications, committees, and a lot more.
Some of these AMS systems are built upon modern commercial CRM systems (like Dynamics CRM) so an association can leverage the latest technology, extend the platform to meet specific needs, as well as utilize the inherent traditional CRM sales features if needed.
More traditional AMS solutions from legacy providers have to compete with these modern CRM-based AMS solutions. These vendors have started to offer CRM add-ons that will handle sales and service (the traditional CRM definition). It is an effort, I guess, to say, “Hey, we have CRM too”.
Anyone who has seen a complete CRM solution like Dynamics CRM or one of its competitors understands that a real CRM/xRM solution is in another class from a CRM add-on to a legacy system that’s vertical-specific. If an association executive is looking for modern features, they should take care when selecting a new AMS system with merely a CRM add-on.
In conclusion, CRM has become a rather common (dare I say…trendy?) business term for many businesses and organizations. But examples of xRM success are showing that modern CRM platforms do a lot more than they used to. Just remember the double definition of the modern CRM.
Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.