Ernst & Young says customer-facing, or front-office, applications of CRM fall into three categories:
1. Customer service and support
2. Sales force automation
3. Enterprise marketing automation
The three are sometimes merged into an enterprise relationship management suite.
Customer service and support apps, which enable reps to track and manage requests, are the most mature applications. The group includes call centre automation and email management, customer care workflow and billing tools. These apps emerged mostly to automate in-house processes, but are increasingly incorporating software for assisting customers through the web.
Sales force automation software, which helps salespeople manage prospects and customers, has its roots in standalone contact management software. It also allows sales forecasting.
Enterprise marketing automation apps allow marketing departments to generate leads, run campaigns and determine how successful efforts are.
Behind these front-office apps sit the database and data analysis technologies that provide organisations with intelligence and insight about their customers, says E&Y. The single, comprehensive view of the customer often relies on the tying together of disparate sources of information, which can then be used for statistical modelling and data mining. These, which may include an ERP system, are sometimes fed into a data warehouse or smaller, unit-specific data mart.