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The concept of customer relationship management started in the early The 1970s, when customer satisfaction was evaluated using annual surveys or by front-line asking. At that time, businesses had to rely on standalone mainframe systems to automate sales, but the extent of technology allowed them to categorize customers in spreadsheets and lists. In 1982, Kate and Robert D. Kestenbaum introduced the concept of Database marketing, namely applying statistical methods to analyze and gather customer data. By 1986, Pat Sullivan and Mike Muhney released a customer evaluation system called ACT! based on the principle of digital Rolodex, which offered a contact management service for the first time.

The trend was followed by numerous companies and independent developers trying to maximize leads' potential, including Tom Siebel, who designed the first CRM product Siebel Systems in 1993. In order to compete with these new and quickly growing stand-alone CRM solutions the established enterprise resource planning (ERP) software companies like Oracle, SAP, Peoplesoft and Navision started extending their sales, distribution, and customer service capabilities with embedded CRM modules. This included embedding sales force automation or extended customer service (e.g. inquiry, activity management) as CRM features in their ERP.

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