Decades ago marketing executives recognized the power of data over intuition in creating programs and processes aimed at attracting and retaining customers. The quest for ever better information, broader statistical insight and “instantaneous” feed-back has only accelerated over the years. Customer (or Client) Relationship Management systems received a huge boost in their ability to collect information about customer behavior, preferences and desires with the advent of the internet. But, as many of us know from painful experience, more data does not necessarily make for easier or better decisions. Data must be transformed into information.
The best CRM systems have grown from their birth as primarily a marketing or sales tool to now coordinate the customer facing activities of Customer Support, Accounting, Operations and R&D, along with Sales and Marketing, to make the most of the customer data collected. There are a number of vendors offering systems which can be implemented as programs running on either company computer hardware, within a “proprietary cloud” managed by the software vendor, within a “general purpose cloud” supplied by one of the purveyors of massive server farms, or as a service delivered across the generic internet.
The balance of control vs flexibility has been moving from owning your own program running on your company hardware to tapping the expertise and cost effective benefits offered by online CRM systems. Fundamental in this shift is the has steady improvement in reliability and security of internet based CRM while the potential vulnerability of in-house programs previously thought to be “inviolable” has been exposed. With comparable security and reliability, the flexibility, cost benefits and access to state-of-the-art data collection and analysis tools makes an online CRM system the easy choice for all but the largest or most specialized organizations.