3 Types of CRM: Operational, Analytical, and Collaborative

    Customer relationship management software (CRM) is usually described in generic terms as a tool overseeing the enterprise’s interactions with customers. While this is basically correct, it fails to reflect the fact that there are different kinds of CRM that each focus on the key functions needed to manage customer relations at scale.

    Looking for Product Insights? Check Out Our 2019 Guide to Best CRM Software.

    While the lines are not always clear, and many platforms incorporate elements of various types of CRM, current solutions generally consist of three distinct categories.

    3 Types of CRM Software

    Operational CRM

    Focuses mainly on customer-facing activities like sales and support

    Of the three types of CRM software, operational CRM is the problem-solver in the enterprise-customer relationship. Companies that experience high customer turnover or high service costs will benefit from CRM solutions that stress the operational side. Companies that are struggling with customer relations, for example, usually experience high call volumes. By implementing an operational fix, organizations have an easier time finding the right information quickly and tracking the progress of interactions to a successful conclusion. As these solutions become increasingly automated and infused with artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, direct customer engagement becomes less burdensome on the enterprise and more beneficial to customers.

    Collaborative CRM

    Aimed at streamlining workflows and processes across multi-faceted organizational structures

    As the name implies, collaborative CRM strives for better communication among the various entities that support customer relationships. Most business processes produce a fair amount of friction whenever projects are handed off from one group to another. Marketing must funnel leads to sales in a timely manner, sales hands customer reports to support staff, and everybody has to turn expense reports into the budget office. In a collaborative environment, these exchanges are made on a common platform, with many of the routine tasks handled by automation. By streamlining both the back-office processes and customer interaction, organizations will be able to boost productivity and leverage tighter profit margins.

    Analytical CRM

    Mines data for new sales channels, marketing opportunities and performance calculations

    Analytical CRM, meanwhile, remains largely hidden from the customer. Its primary role is to understand customer behavior, providing insight into broad demographics and highly individualized patterns that can then be used to inform key decisions regarding products and services. Any analytics solution, of course, depends wholly on the volume and quality of data it is exposed to, which means the enterprise must develop a broad feedback loop that provides deep granularity to the decision-making process. It is important to note that this data must be sourced from more than just the customer; it must also come from sales, marketing and anything else the customer process touches.

    Deciding Which Type of CRM is Best for You

    Each of these functions – operations, collaboration, analytics – is vital to a successful enterprise, so why would anyone feel the need to choose between them? Indeed, most leading platforms incorporate all three to produce a well-rounded business environment. Understanding these three types of CRM will lead an organization to then understand what elements of its CRM platform to emphasize and what can be diminished to accomplish organizational goals. They can start by asking the basic question: What problem are you trying to solve? If your sales, marketing and other teams are already tightly integrated, then a solution that is heavy on collaboration might not your best fit. Alternately, if you often miss new market opportunities, then you might need a shot of analytics.

    In this way, CRM is following the same trajectory of most other business tools: Technology deployments are being driven by the use case, not the other way around. As the digital economy evolves, this will prove invaluable to the enterprise in that it enables a highly flexible, highly adaptable business model that can capitalize on rapidly changing market conditions and foster a highly personalized relationship with customers.

    With the right tools to understand customers and then quickly fulfill their desires, the enterprise should have little trouble maintaining its existing customer base even as it expands into new markets.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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