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What is CRM? It stands for Customer Relationship Management. A pint down the pub is the way I like to manage relationships. Get with theprogramme. The business consultants Bain & Company say that CRM "is a processcompanies use to understand their customer groups and respond quickly - and attimes, instantly - to shifting customer desires". Bain's 2007 survey ofmanagement tools shows that it is used by almost 80 per cent of companies andscores highly in terms of satisfaction. That's all very well, but what exactly is it? According to Paul Landini, adirector at Blue Donkey, a telemarketing company: "It is a technical solutionfor managing customers and sales. In its simplest form it is a database ofcontacts with information on the conversations you have had with customers andinformation about them." Great, it's a way of snooping on people? No. Roman Carel, the international director for Pierre et Vacances PropertyInvestment, says that CRM allows companies to offer better services tocustomers because they understand their needs better. For example, if youwanted to buy a holiday home in Kabul, Carel might not have any properties forsale in the region at the moment, but your information could be logged on theRM system and in a few years' time when a swish new property is developed he'dgive you a call and you'd be first in line for the penthouse. I don't want a penthouse in Kabul, I'd rather have a new white van, please.Tailored systems can be built for any number of different industries andclients. Christine Geissmar, a divisional director of operations at TheWarranty Group, has helped to devise a web-based CRM system for car dealers andcustomers offering extended warranties, service and insurance agreements. "Wewanted to make it easy to use, understand and claim on - if necessary. It is atransparent and immediate system," she says. Anything else it can do? CRM systems can be linked to all kinds of othersystems: accounts, logistics, stock and training to name but a few. Landini andcolleagues have been using it to show how sales people are doing againsttargets, budgets, the competition and colleagues, so that training can betailored for their needs. Anything it doesn't do? Make tea.
From Times, The (United Kingdom), Feb 28, 2008