What is an “Operational” CRM?

CRM Types and What They Mean
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Note: this is a part of our CRM Definitions Series.

What is an operational CRM?

When looking at descriptions of CRMs, the term “operational” gets thrown around. The dirty little secret is that it doesn’t really mean anything special. An “operational” CRM is a regular ol’ CRM, in that it can help your business manage contacts and customers.

What is an operational CRM?

Operational CRMs help many customer-centric processes, such as marketing, selling, and services, run at any given business. Keeping records of customer data and touches, tracking various workflows for sales and lead generation, and summarizing a contact’s relationship with your company can all happen within an operational CRM (instead of 12 different spreadsheets). Essentially, an operational CRM will link or bring together customer contact info, order history, and any previous communications between the customer and your company into one place.

Any product that markets itself as a CRM should be able to do these things, though they’ll have varying degrees of automation and different features. So the word “operational” doesn’t indicate much as far as how a particular CRM is different or better for your company.

Do I need an operational CRM?

This depends on whether or not you need a CRM to begin with. Any CRM (including those that market themselves as “operational”) will give you a comprehensive look at your relationship with a customer so that you can always start from where you left off when on the phone, emailing, or meeting in person. If you’re on the lookout for a contact manager and a way to keep your business more organized, then CRMs are a great product to check out.

Finding an operational CRM is easy, in that all CRMs will have the ability to track a relationship with a contact. I would probably recommend against simply googling “operational CRM,” however. Definitions of “operational” CRM almost always include a vague rundown of what a CRM can do, plus descriptions of salesforce and marketing automation, which is by no means a mandatory feature of any CRM. What's more, many CRMs don’t market themselves as any particular “type,” while others will describe themselves exclusively with vague buzzwords.

The bottom line is that buzzwords like “operational” CRM aren’t particularly helpful to your CRM search. Although the term itself doesn’t indicate much, I think it is worth noting when a company needs to use lots of jargon to make their software seem “fancy” or like every feature on their list is a “must-have.” The fact of the matter is, the way a description is worded doesn’t change the product or what it can do for you. So if a CRM system seems like a bad fit because it’s too complicated to even use or the “awesome” features aren’t doing much for you, it probably is.

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