Customer relationship management (CRM) is not a new idea, but it’s a sure bet that every day an IT manager somewhere is confronting the process for the first time.

In this article, we’ll discuss e-mail response management systems (ERMS) and sales force automation (SFA) and provide links to additional information and vendors associated with each concept. For a breakdown of CRM and eCRM, check out this TechRepublic article, “The latest acronyms will keep you up on CRM.”

An e-mail response management system (ERMS) is a large part of current eCRM solutions.

An ERMS automatically sends precomposed responses to e-mail inquiries. According to Gartner, “E-mail response packages ensure that a company provides consistent yet personalized service to each and every customer.”

An ERMS can also:

  • Reduce service representatives’ workloads.
  • Answer frequent, routine inquiries automatically.
  • Show special attention to customers with personal e-mail responses.

A response management system is analytical in nature. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai is founder and CEO of EchoMail Corporation, a company specializing in ERMS. In an interview with TechRepublic, Ayyadurai explained the business this way: “Our goal is to analyze the hell out of an e-mail. Once we do that, then it becomes trivial to figure out how you want to categorize it, route it, or respond to it.”

Response systems are growing in importance as more organizations use the Web to communicate with customers and clients. Two vendors that offer ERMS solutions are Mindwave Software and Brightware.

Be aware that many ERMS offerings are expensive as stand-alone products. If you are considering an ERMS, consult with Gartner’s research report on the ERMS market first. (TechRepublic is a subsidiary of Gartner.)

Sales force automation (SFA) employs technology to organize sales and marketing processes.

SFA applications integrate sales activities into automatic processes, allowing sales representatives to develop deeper customer relationships instead of spending all their time generating leads.

SFA essentially keeps an organization’s right hand in sync with the left and is an important step to an organization’s success. For example, with SFA, sales departments can track who calls a client, how many times the client was contacted, and the purpose for each encounter.

“Even the best sales professionals don’t have an organizational system. They don’t know what questions to ask or how to compare their relationship between different accounts,” said Scott Simmer, an independent CRM consultant.

SFA is also referred to as customer asset management or total customer management. FrontRange Solutions, formerly Goldmine, Siebel, and Interact Commerce offer comprehensive SFA packages for small and mid-sized organizations.

For more information on SFA, read Gartner’s product analysis, “Siebel remains the leader in field sales automation.”

Suffering from acronym burnout?

Have trouble keeping up with the latest CRM acronyms? Tell us which acronyms give you a headache, and we will provide clear and concise definitions for them in an upcoming download.