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Customer relationship management

The stated purpose of customer relationship management (CRM) is to enable a company to better serve its customers through the introduction of reliable service automated processes, personal information gathering and processing, and self-service. It is not however considered universally good - some consider it to invade customer privacy and enable coercive sales techniques due to the information companies now have on customers - see persuasion technology. However, CRM does not imply gathering new data, merely making "better use" of data the corporation already gathers.

Integrated CRM software is often also known as "front office[?] solutions." Many call centers use CRM software to store all of their customer's details on. When a customer calls, the system can be used to retrieve and store information relevant to the customer. By serving the customer quickly and efficiently, and also keeping all information on a customer in one place, a company aims to make cost savings, and also encourage new customers.

CRM solutions can also be used to allow customers to perform their own service via a variety of communication channels. For example, you might be able to check your bank balance via your WAP phone without ever having to talk to a person, saving money for the company, and saving you time.

A CRM solution is characterised by the following functionality:

  • scalability - the ability to be used on a large scale, and to be reliably expanded to what ever scale is necessary.
  • multiple communication channels[?] - the ability to interface with users via many different devices (phone, WAP, internet, etc)
  • workflow - the ability to automatically route work through the system to different people based on a set of rules.
  • database - the centralised storage (in a data warehouse) of all information relevant to customer interaction
  • customer privacy considerations, e.g. data encryption[?] and the destruction of records[?] to ensure that they are not stolen or abused.

Some argue that the most basic privacy concern is the centralised database itself, and that CRMs built this way are inherently privacy-invasive - the commercial version of the debate over the carceral state, e.g. Total Information Awareness program of the United States federal government.

Siebel Systems[?] has been among the most active and outspoken in its appeal to the U. S. federal government's homeland security plans. Shortly after Sept. 11, the company created a homeland security business unit, which now employs 100 people, and announced it would build a set of applications geared specifically for homeland security.

Many other companies supply CRM solutions, including Oracle, IBM, BroadVision[?] and Epicor. These pay varying degrees of attention to usability[?], integration, and privacy concerns - it being widely acknowledged as impossible to fulfil all three constraints - thus it seemed unlikely that any one vendor can dominate in the near term. However, those dealing in Total Information Awareness and fulfilling government contracts to gather data on citizens without their permission or knowledge, clearly have the advantage of prepaid integration contracts and no privacy limits whatsoever, effectively making CRM a key part of the U.S. military-industrial complex[?].

The dominant provider of such "solutions" could thus focus its investment on usability above other concerns, and gain a decisive advantage in the commercial marketplace. This is likely to raise some significant antitrust concerns.

See also: biometrics[?], marketing

CRM news websites

CRM Daily (http://www.crmdaily.com) daily news and discussions in the field of CRM and call centres.

Support Insight (http://www.supportinsight.com) has a CRM subsite with daily news.

Destination CRM (http://www.destinationcrm.com) a website specialising in CRM news



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