Jargon and insider slang have become so prevalent in Internet culture that cultural satirist Sam Sifton mockingly suggests the New Economy should be referred to as an ARE, or “acronym-rich environment.” Sifton’s observations in his latest book, A Field Guide to the Yettie: America’s Young Entrepreneurial Technocrats,  illustrates a common frustration of many information technology (IT for short) managers and executives—if you don’t stay on top of the latest acronyms, you’re bound to end up looking like a dinosaur in a staff meeting or presentation.

Like each segment of IT, the practice of customer relationship management, or CRM, has developed its own set of acronyms.

Here are a few of the most commonly used acronyms associated with CRM as well as some links to additional information and vendors associated with each concept.

CRM stands for customer relationship management. Using this acronym without defining it first is common practice in this field.

CRM represents a new way of combining technology and age-old business practices to deepen customer relationships. CRM can be defined in several ways, including:

  • A process to manage customer relationships in organized ways.
  • A business strategy designed to anticipate, understand, and respond to the needs of an enterprise’s customers.
  • An internal and external process to capture customer data and place it in a repository where it is analyzed, stored, and distributed to service representatives and customers.

Three acronyms that are synonymous with CRM, the business practice and the related technology, are:

  • CIM: Customer Information Management.
  • CIS: Customer Interaction Software.
  • TERM:Technology Enabled Relationship Management.

Gartner, the technology consultancy that coined CRM, defines it as “the concept of moving ownership of the customer up to the enterprise level and away from individual departments.” (TechRepublic is a subsidiary of Gartner.)

Gartner also calls CRM “the largest grouping of IT concepts to date.” Some current CRM concepts and applications include data warehousing, data mining, e-mail management, sales force automation, and campaign management.

Many CRM vendors exist and new mergers and acquisitions happen daily. Gartner contends that “about 500 enterprises claim to sell CRM software, but only 200 actually do so. Of these, we believe only 50 will survive until 2004.”

For a current list of CRM vendors, please visit TechRepublic’s  CRMSuperSite Quickfinder. WhatIs.com  also provides general information on CRM.

The “e” in eCRM stands for electronic and indicates Web-based applications added to CRM. This acronym is not accepted by all of the leaders in the CRM field, however. For example, The Aberdeen Group,  a consultancy in Boston, does not use this acronym. ECRM is an implied progression of CRM, said Christopher Fletcher, Aberdeen’s vice president and managing director.

Michael R. Alix, who writes the Technology Beat  column for arizonareporter.com,  provides this succinct definition of eCRM: “When a customer calls up an eCRM-enabled Web site, that site begins at once to track, monitor, and model the information available from the customer to facilitate the close of a “buy”—or from the customer’s viewpoint, a purchase.”

Web-based eCRM applications also provide organizations with online access to customer databases and enable customers to contact organizations via Web or chat and e-mail.

Customer demand for more online interaction with organizations is a driving force behind the use of eCRM. ECRM technology is also used to:

  • Give managers online access to analytical reports.
  • Allow efficient identification of profitable customers.
  • Integrate analytics across the enterprise.
  • Provide access to enterprise statistics from remote locations.

The eCRM market is more immature than CRM. Some vendors like QuintusOctaneeGainXchange,  and Talisma,  specialize only in eCRM whereas established vendors like Siebel  and PeopleSoft  are adding eCRM solutions to their existing CRM offerings.

Suffering from acronym burnout?

Have trouble keeping up with the latest additions to the CRM acronym list? Tell us which acronyms give you a headache,  and we will provide clear and concise definitions for them in an upcoming download to be featured on our site.