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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to customer experience management best practices, technologies

The role and responsibilities of a customer relationship manager

The customer relationship manager has a challenging and ever-evolving role to play when it comes to optimizing the customer experience.

Can you define the role of a customer relationship manager? Is this role different than that of the CRM manager?...

Have the responsibilities of this role changed as a result of emerging CRM technology and new trends?

In the past, the customer relationship manager was a person who was in charge of just that: building customer relationships and continuing positive customer experiences by understanding the psychology and needs of the customer, reinforcing brand loyalty, and managing service and support teams to solve customer problems.

In many companies, the rise of cloud customer relationship management systems has created a separate, more technical position called the CRM manager, which exists within the corporate depth chart to manage the CRM system technology and customer data governance. CRM managers in this context require an IT background. In other companies, the CRM manager and the customer relationship management leader might be the same person.

Some companies may also designate a third position, the customer experience manager or designer, further subdividing roles.

Soon, data scientists will also be more fully involved in traditional CRM; they will help program and maintain AI tools to help marketing, sales and customer relationship managers employ CRM systems to create more personalized, targeted marketing campaigns to grow the customer base.

Customer relationship manager vs. CRM manager 

A customer relationship manager is typically responsible for customer relationships after the sale or service process is complete, and they continue to work with customers to keep them up to date on products and services to maintain that relationship. They also keep track of customer utilization trends and identify opportunities with other business teams to continue to generate revenue. A customer relationship manager must also monitor and maintain customer satisfaction ratings.

The success or failure of a customer relationship manager is typically based on customer satisfaction and customer retention metrics. Each company has different standards depending on whether they are B2B or B2C, are selling inexpensive vs. expensive products, or are offering quickly executed vs. long tail services that may take years or decades to complete -- such as a mortgage loan. The number of upsells during a customer service engagement can be another metric.

CRM manager vs. customer relationship manager

Other customer service efficiency metrics may come into play as well. For example, if a company has a large call center, time-to-response; hold times; and workforce management metrics, such as overstaffing vs. understaffing, can have an effect. CRM systems can help create efficiencies to improve customer retention and, at the same time, reduce the overhead required for omnichannel customer service on phone, email, live chat, video and social media channels.

By contrast, CRM managers are technical experts who help marketing and IT teams reach the customer base via CRM applications, along with sales and marketing automation tools, while also helping customer relationship managers maintain their customer service technologies. They need to keep up with current technologies, as well as strategies to segment and migrate the right customer data from, for example, sales databases to a marketing automation tool.

A Salesforce CRM manager's job responsibilities, for example, might include configuring, developing and administrating Salesforce cloud applications, working with APIs, testing CRM apps in the company's sandbox, implementing new CRM features, managing workflows and access controls, and ensuring the technologies are working properly within the organization.

Customer relationship manager roles by industry

Customer relationship managers and their CRM manager counterparts have different job descriptions and responsibilities depending on their vertical industries.

Heavily regulated industries, such as financial services and healthcare, may require the CRM manager to interface with the company's compliance officer.

For example, heavily regulated industries, such as financial services and healthcare, may require the CRM manager to interface with the company's compliance officer to ensure customer data is properly handled. For example, any company with customers in the European Union must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation's right to be forgotten requests. In almost every industry, companies must consider compliance with certain standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for handling payments or security protocols to protect intellectual property data.

Customer relationship managers, in contrast, focus on customer experience throughout the customer journey, from initial contact to repeat purchasing activity. They ensure that customer service and marketing outreach are all working together, and, in conjunction with marketing staff, they conduct retrospective customer surveys that help inform improvements in customer retention and customer satisfaction.

This was last published in June 2018

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What is the most important skill required for a CRM manager?
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Understand both the entirety of your business (every department and potential touchpoint with a customer) and the needs of customers. 
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what are the roles and responsibilities of in house CRM who manage the internal vendors and contractors?  
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It depends on how automated your company is in these internal processes (i.e. government procurement on a purchase order vs. managing a fleet of private jets for an executive team) .

It will be more IT-based if the CRM is mostly self-service, less so if it's a high-touch business that requires multiple phone and face-to-face meetings to effect good service.
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