CRM can mean many things to many companies. At their very essence as utilized inside a call center, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms are software or web based programs used for tracking and managing a company’s interactions with its customer base.
The evolution of the CRM tools since the 90’s has been a fascinating process as it has moved towards more nimble and flexible systems that are quick to deploy and easy to customize.
In the early 90’s tools such as Oracle, Siebel and SAP ruled the roost. These tools were client/server based and companies relied on these organizations to extend software licences via software to specific agents to log data. The platforms were expensive to implement as well as to continually modify but were bullet proof. They worked well but had so many options that it was rare for an organization to use even half of the system’s functionality.
Starting with the mid to late 90’s, systems such as Remedy, Clarify, Vantive and Scopus were becoming popular and making investors quite a bit of money. They were typically a little less expensive, easier to deploy and allowed for more customization, however they still operated as client/server platforms, thus implementation was typically time consuming and expensive as consultants were typically involved, thus increasing costs and deployment time.
Kana, eShare, RightNow and a number of others tools started showing up in the late 90’s and early 2000s. This was the beginning of an interesting alternative approach to contact center management: CRM tools targeting specific live agent support channels, such as web chat, email or phone support. While still client/server software, they were evolving, and a new idea and company in the space was beginning to appear.
The early 2000’s saw the emergence of Salesforce. Here was a true sea change in CRM: SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) or web based CRM tools which could be pushed quickly through the cloud to specific agents real time anywhere, allowing for rapid deployment of rich functionality under a subscription-based payment model. Originally positioned for smaller organizations, the leading packages such as Salesforce evolved, developing enterprise-scale viability.
Web based deployment eventually pushed software (client/server) to the background and companies such as RightNow, Oracle and Siebel embraced the new SaaS model.
Today’s tools readily embrace the cloud. CRM platforms such as Zendesk, Desk.com (now Salesforce), NetSuite, RightNow (now Oracle), FreshDesk and a host of others are rapidly building highly flexible, cost effective web based platforms that are scalable for even the largest of enterprises.
What the future holds for CRM is anyone’s guess but today’s leading tools have proven to be easy and quick to deploy, cost effective, and able to integrate across multiple platforms.