The technology landscape has undergone a radical transformation over the past few decades, reshaping how businesses operate and interact with their customers. One of the most pivotal advancements that have revolutionised business operations globally is the inception and evolution of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This article embarks on a comprehensive journey through the history of CRM, illustrating its evolution, integration, and influence on modern business operations.
The genesis of CRM can be traced back to the 1950s when customer data was manually managed using physical cards stored in a filing system, such as the Rolodex. It was a rotating filing device that housed index and business cards, enabling businesses to store and update their customers’ information. This period marked the inception of CRM, albeit in a rudimentary form.
The 1970s ushered in an era of digitisation with the widespread adoption of mainframe computer systems. Businesses began digitising customer information, such as names, addresses, and contact details. However, these systems were limited in functionality and required users to log in through a company terminal, offering little value to salespeople. Instead, many continued to use their personal Rolodexes, as the system was primarily designed to capture and share information across the organisation, rather than aid the salespeople.
The 1980s were a period of significant technological advancements, with computers becoming more accessible and affordable. In this decade, database marketing emerged, which involved collecting and analysing customer information to customise communication. In 1986, ACT! was introduced, becoming the world’s first contact management software for PCs. It was essentially a digital Rolodex, which enabled salespeople to record and access their data more efficiently. However, CRM systems during this period were still rudimentary and offered little support to salespeople in terms of how to utilise the information and enhance sales.
The 1990s marked the true birth of CRM software. Companies like Brock Control Systems began to transform contact management software into sales force automation (SFA), which automated business tasks like inventory control and sales tasks such as customer interaction tracking. By the mid-90s, SFA began to resemble modern CRM software. However, it was not until the term ‘CRM’ was coined by Pivotal Software that it truly took off.
The latter half of the decade saw the CRM industry undergo significant changes. Enterprise resource management (ERP) vendors entered the market, and the competition led to an expansion of CRM services. Additionally, e-CRM vendors offered intra-organisational collaboration, which was previously unavailable in the CRM industry. The end of the decade saw the launch of the first significant Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor, Salesforce, offering CRM services to smaller businesses.
The 2000s were a challenging period for the CRM industry due to the burst of the dot-com bubble. However, the industry bounced back and witnessed several innovations. In 2007, Salesforce introduced the world to cloud-based CRM, addressing concerns about customisation in cloud-based applications. CRM also expanded into the mobile market, and social CRM emerged, focusing more on customer interactions.
Over the years, CRM systems have evolved to integrate sales, marketing, and customer service departments for improved customer relationships and increased sales. Today, CRM is an essential component of a customer experience (CX) strategy, focusing on fostering customer relationships throughout their journey with a business.
Xapsys has played a crucial role in the evolution of CRM. As a leading provider of an integrated CRM solution, Xapsys has continually strived to develop and provide CRM tools that help businesses manage their customer relationships more effectively through integrations with popular finance software packages such as Sage 50, Sage 200 and Xero. Xapsys CRM and Workflow system pushes and pulls data to and from your ERP finance software solution, eliminating the need for double data entry whilst providing real time business intelligence enabling sales staff to spend time doing what they do best and workforces to stay on top of customer requirements. Xapsys also syncs data with various marketplaces and website sales platforms to automate ecommerce sales admin.
Xapsys’ strong focus on integration has made it easier for businesses to link their CRM systems with other business applications, leading to improved data management and customer service.