Friday, August 21, 2009

CRM Systems Thrive with Five Kinds of Data

First-time buyers of CRM systems often wonder what makes customer relationship management software tick. Effective CRM tools go beyond lists of names and addresses. They collect and help teams interpret five critical types of data:

Transactional DataThe most common kind of data found in CRM systems, transactional data includes information about completed sales or service requests. Customers provide personal information willingly during the ordering and shipping process, offering the purest data stream possible. However, this data stream can only be initiated or maintained when customers make regular interactions with customer service teams.

Prospect Data“Warm leads” refers to prospective customers who have specifically requested to learn more about a company’s offerings. These days, most warm leads get into CRM systems from websites, often in exchange for access to special deals or targeted information. Warm leads can also include existing customers who want to make additional purchases or reactive inactive accounts. “Cold leads” refers to prospects whose information has been borrowed, bartered, or bought for import into a CRM system.

Supply Chain DataInformation from warehouses, shippers, and suppliers enters CRM systems more often than ever. Direct fulfillment data matched up to customer orders assures buyers of consistent delivery. Third party service professionals add their own appointment confirmations and discovery details to catalog the results of maintenance or support sessions. CRM software data feeds back into the supply chain, dictating vendor orders and triggering inventory movements at warehouses.

Analytical DataThe most robust CRM software on the market can combine information about customers, prospects, and supply chains to build predictive analysis. For instance, retailers can discover hot neighborhoods for future store locations. Fulfillment managers can learn the most strategic locations for warehouses. Using data from CRM systems, analytical modules can build strong guesses about the success or failure of project proposals.

Social DataIncreasingly, CRM software informs executive decision-making by merging publicly available information with proprietary data. For instance, a marketer can use social data to determine which of its existing customers carries the heaviest online influence. CRM systems that analyze blog posts and social media updates can help companies save money on crisis management by identifying online trends that haven’t yet been tracked by formal call centers.

Of course, gathering and maintaining this data does no business any good without the ability to leverage customer relationships. Strong CRM systems put information into the right context for decision makers and strategy experts.