Evolution of CRM


It’s no secret that customers and customer satisfaction drive the growth of your organization. Since the pre-PC era, business owners and entrepreneurs have been forging ways to capture and capitalize on invaluable information of their customers. Let’s take a look at how their CRM journey has progressed from being a mere necessity for data entry to becoming a boon for their business.

The 1950s

Businesses recorded their day-to-day tasks on pen and paper. File cabinets were purchased in bulk to support the documentation process while tracking information and updates became increasingly frustrating. Later in the year 1956, the first rolling index or Rolodex was invented to store contact information of business prospects. 

The Rolodex was invented in 1956 by Danish engineer Hildaur Neilsen for a manufacturing company in New York.

The 1960s

Most businesses reached out to their customers by scheduling on-ground meetings. Sales executives would sell products either by engaging with people in one-on-one sessions or cold calling. 

The 1970s

With the emergence of early mainframe computers came the ability to register customer information such as name, address and transaction history on a standalone digital database. Database marketing enabled businesses to customize communications to their customers with targeted messages and monitor business relationships as they progressed, on a screen. 

Customer databases were created to enable business-to-customer(B2C) marketing, and business databases were created to allow business-to-business(B2B) marketing.

The 1980s

In the year 1987, a digital version of the Rolodex called ACT! was launched by Conductor Software. It had a contact management tool built-in and paved the way for Content Management Systems or CMS prototypes to be developed.  

ACT! Was earlier known as Activity Control Technology and later renamed as Automated Contact Tracking before settling on the acronym.

The 1990s

Database marketing expanded its set of features like tracking and analyzing customer data while allowing trivial tasks to be automated, transforming itself into Sales Force Automation (SFA). In 1993, Tom Siebel left Oracle and founded Siebel Systems. His company took the lead and became the most popular SFA provider at that time. By 1995, SFAs were capable of converting leads and automating marketing campaigns at the click of a button, and the term Customer Relationship Management or CRM was coined. In 1999, Tom’s company released the first mobile CRM called Siebel Sales Handheld into the market. It was also the year that SalesForce launched the first cloud-based CRM as an affordable alternative to on-premise CRM.

The leading technology research company Gartner was among the first few advocates of the term CRM.

The 2000s

Does anybody remember the Y2K bug? It was primarily responsible for the dot-com bubble burst. And with it, it managed to topple online service providers and CRM vendors in one shot. Thankfully, Paul Greenberg’s book titled ‘CRM at the Speed of Light’ managed to shift the conversation to a more coherent CRM system as a solution. This was followed by the launch of the first-ever open-source CRM by SugarCRM in 2004. Shortly after that, Vtiger also launched an open-source CRM in the same year.

Paul Greenberg’s book ‘CRM at the Speed of Light’ is now in its 4th edition and published in over 9 languages.

The 2010s - Modern CRM Systems

With the advent of mobile computing and Big Data in recent years, CRM solutions are now fully equipped to manage sales pipelines and deliver outstanding customer experiences for small businesses, mid-size enterprises, and large multinational corporations. Modern CRM tools can project pragmatic sales forecasts for every quarter and can be integrated with social media platforms and a surplus of applications, including Zapier and Gmail.

CRM Software Industry

As more and more industries have begun to incorporate CRMs into their ecosystem, it has become evident that CRM systems can make or break your business. CRM trends in the market today are composed of features that can help you optimize business processes and cut down on operational costs while increasing customer retention and satisfaction.   

Future of CRM

CRM is now among the fastest-growing sector in Software as a Service(SaaS) space. With each innovation, CRM systems are moving the needle towards customer satisfaction. 

Breakthrough technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will help your sales team shift their focus from identifying prospects and pushing products to care for the customer. It’s only a matter of time before the barriers between your sales, marketing, and support teams entirely breakaway to provide a holistic roadmap for your business growth.

If the CRM evolution maintains its pace in the coming days, data-driven deep insights about your customers can reshape the way you conduct your business. Titbits of information such as your customer’s favorite sport or their favorite car can unlock a level of relationship that was previously thought to be unimaginable. Only time will tell what’s next and we’ll have to wait and watch.

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