It is very evident that there is a lack of clarity when it comes to definition of CRM or the term customer relationship management. In my experience of the past 10 years, I have observed that the term ‘CRM’ is used very differently across different organizations and within specific verticals. In one large company itself, I have seen that the use of the term differs within.

What is CRM?

Firstly each organization has a huge customer or prospect data. Second, organizations implement multiple processes to handle their sales execution. A CRM automates these processes and gives the organization their control. So basically”

“CRM is the combination of the customer’s high quality data, and the processes defined inside an organization to deliver best value to the end customers.”

Benefits of CRM

CRM systems becomes very complex and clumsy, when one tries to manage all these micro process using a single system. Each of these processes have their own attributes, workflows and exceptions, as these are tailored based on the nature of the work. Let me try and list down the multiple processes wherein people need CRM products to handle them.

Requirements of CRM for different processes

CRM for sales process

The primary objective of the Sales CRM solution is to identify the lead at the initial stage till it becomes a customer. Ideally, a sales CRM should support many types of selling in a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer environment. Few of the common features expected from a sales CRM are:

crm for sales process

CRMs are also classified based on the business type – whether the business sells to the consumers, or businesses. Under this classification, a CRM is typically either a B2C or a B2B CRM.

What is the difference between a B2C CRM and a B2B CRM

Primarily B2B CRM will see a smaller database, longer buying cycles, higher budgets and high expectation of individualized service. Another main feature is that many contacts are involved for a single business account, and there will be more than one decision maker. Defining next tasks is complex in a B2B environment.

Whereas B2C CRM  will have a larger database, and would involve building relationship through various marketing activities, mainly one-to-one relationship. The value of sales is lower compared to B2B.

What is CRM - B2B and B2C CRM difference

CRM for service management

A service or support CRM is used in companies that provide product services. Their use differs from others, because they would employ service engineers for field visits or for online query handling, and would therefore need to track the service events till completion.

CRM for Service Management

CRM for product management

This primarily focuses on customer’s data and product attributes. For instance: Insurance products, automobiles, off-the-shelf retail products.

CRM for marketing automation

Marketing CRM’s objective would be to manage prospects, prospect segments, lists, marketing campaigns, marketing plans, marketing budgets, product launch, newsletters etc.

CRM for partner or vendor management

Primarily focuses on vendor qualification, vendor training, vendor performance, vendor funds, proposal management etc.

So, you can see the different kinds of systems that businesses might need to manage their respective processes. But, the software they ask for is CRM – which might not always be the right choice.

Requirements of CRM in various industries

I have seen many other unique micro processes in various industries for which people use CRM software. For example:

CRM for higher education

CRM for Higher Education

I remember a set of requirements from a Higher Education customer I worked with. This university, like most universities, conducted many events, as part of their student acquisition strategy. They needed a system wherein students can register for the events online. They could also walk in, if there were event slots available. These were some of the requirements:

  • System should be capable of designing registration forms for events.
  • There has to be option for single registration/ multiple registrations.
  • System should send automated invites to all the registered candidates.
  • System should send automated reminder emails
  • System should have option to track cancellation of registration.
  • System should be able to track attendance of the participants.
  • System should send emails with feedback form.
  • System should be able to mark students who are interested.

Although the above requirements are not typical of the CRM product features, but the customer wants to manage these micro-processes. They would also want to integrate them in the core system later, when the registrants have moved to the admission cycle. Even the admissions department would need a CRM system; once again, the requirements would be a little different.

CRM for banks

CRM for Banks

A large bank I worked with, had the following set of requirements. They wanted a CRM to manage mass communication to their existing customers.

  • Core banking system would give a list of the customers for whom a marketing campaign needs to run.
  • System should have the option to design HTML rich mailers.
  • System should be able to create automated workflows based on customer actions.
  • System should be able to send follow up mailers based on the last date of offers and the previous actions of the customers.
  • There has to be unsubscribe option for customers.
  • Once the customer shows an interest in the product, the data has to be pushed to the existing lead management system.

The idea here is to give the marketing (mailing) team only limited access to the database (only names and email addresses), because the core CRM cannot achieve the smart emailing function.

CRM for training centers

CRM for Training centers

A training center came up with the following requirements in their CRM system.

  • They had developed a psychometric test tool, and the CRM system should be able to integrate with the same.
  • The customer would visit schools, and these tests links were provided to students.
  • CRM should capture the student details as well as their test results in the system.
  • A counselor would visit the school, search for the student, hand-over the results and also guide him on the next steps to take or the course to choose.
  • Based on the student’s interests, they would send training courses and offers.
  • Also track how many of the students have enrolled in the different suggested courses.

The customer wanted a CRM, but a CRM system doesn’t necessarily provide all of this out-of-the-box. So, it’s important to understand the actual requirements, goals and processes of the customer, and then give them a customized solution.

Implementing CRM across various industries

In my implementation experience, in case of large CRM setups, the requirements cut across many departments, and each department had different goals and different processes.

The wise solution

Sometimes the wise solution is to provide two different instances to them so that their processes can be handled more efficiently. These two instances join at certain point, so that the management can have a unified view to analyze the performance of the departments.

Let me show the examples of implementations across a few industries.

Full service brokerage firm

These firms have large amount of transactional customer data. They look for analytical capabilities to manage customer retention and to enhance cross-selling opportunities. In this case, data mining techniques can be used to identify the transactional behavior of the customer. This includes brokerage values, AUM values, change in portfolio, share of wallet etc. to identify potential customers for cross-selling opportunities. Also data like continual service requests to reduce brokerage rates can be combined with profit/loss statements to identify the likelihood of the customer to get lost.

If a sales person can see the customer’s net worth data, along with history of customer’s transactions, he will be able to make better cross-selling decisions.


Banks also deal with large number of individual customers. In banks, few processes might be outsourced to call centers and online services, in an effort to reduce costs. Typically, they will have different departments using different tools handling different data.

Likewise, even banks would want to have a 360-degree view of the customer data from various channels and across products. Banks would want a CRM to manage customer churn rates, increase cross-sales and share best offers to customer.

If the salesperson has the complete view of a customer, the system prompts him with the best offers for each individual customer, and also help him speed up the process via online KYC/documentations, he/she will definitely love the CRM system.

Higher education

Institutions deal with data of a large number of prospective students. In addition, they also buy data from agencies to run their admission campaigns. As the admissions happen within a particular time frame, this time frame is really important to them as well. During this time frame, institutions would want to know the activities performed by the students on their website, so that informative emails and event invites can be sent appropriately.

In some cases, even existing students can be prospective leads in the system. So an undergraduate student becomes prospect for postgraduate courses inside the institution. Hence, the CRM system integrated with Student ERP =can trigger appropriate mailers and invites so that students are aware of the offers/opportunities within their institutes.

A higher education institute would expect the following things from their CRM:

  • Prompt students to fill their application forms
  • Keep them engaged during the admissions cycle,
  • Segment student data based on their scores and other attributes
  • Send well designed, triggered emails to prospective students.


Automobile manufacturing companies rely on their dealers, so the requirements would differ accordingly. They would want to have good relationship with dealers, check their performances, and mange their grievances.

Dealers in turn would want to have CRM system which would capture all the end users’ data, including their feedback on the vehicles purchased, tested, serviced etc. along with their buying potential.

The change in CRM usage

Implementation of CRM has changed a lot in the recent years; few differences between the old and recent times are:

  • Modern Customers want to implement a CRM to address their business issues; old customers would have asked for feature lists such as up-sell, cross-sell, mass mailing etc.
  • Modern customers want to know what is the benefit that their end customers get by implementing the CRM, instead of asking for benefits for their marketing team.
  • Modern customers look for execution platform in the form of CRM (the ease with which a CRM helps them in their day-to-day activities). However, older customer would rely on capabilities of software, and would define their own processes accordingly.
  • Modern customers want to meet their business goals from the implementation of CRM (what has changed in the organization, are the goals met, are the customers happy). Older customers would focus on outputs like the new contacts in the system, the open tickets etc.
  • Modern customers look for long term solutions and long term relationship with customers, unlike older customers who would evaluate the CRM on short term benefits.

Finally, breaking down the CRM

If we have to finally summarize the CRM capabilities, based on type of organization, then it would be mainly:

1. Sales oriented organizations

This will mainly include methods to capture leads from all possible sources, and build large lead databases, validate data as much as possible, Send marking and sales emailers, run social campaigns etc.

2. Product oriented organization

This will mainly concentrate on current customers, trying to capture product feedback, build next gen products based on their feedback, and provide best of services, and experiences to them. The strategy is to build referrals based on happy customer strategy.

3. Service oriented organization

This will mainly concentrate of the number of channels that can be used to service the clients, the speed of issue resolution, and to provide a consistent customer experience across all channels. They also need to capture service feedback, and make sure they meet SLA’s terms.

I would summarize by saying that “what is CRM” is not that straightforward a question when it comes to the practical sense. Within an organization, the requirements are provided by functional experts of different departments based on their goals. The processes need to be connected at a certain point only, to give a complete picture.

In such cases, the better solution is two different CRM systems or two different instances of CRM systems. This would make sure that each department can manage their process efficiently. The connection of the processes would be handled by the integration.

So, which CRM software system you should buy? Let’s find out in the next chapter:

Go to Chapter two