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What is Operational CRM?

Written by:

Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

What is Operational CRM?

What is Operational CRM?

Are you looking to run your business more efficiently? Would you like your company to be more productive, agile, and responsive? Is it time to take your enterprise to the next level?

If you answered yes to any of the above, consider an operational customer relationship management (CRM) platform to streamline sales, marketing, and customer service. 

Lucky for you, this guide lays out the key features and potential benefits of a robust operational CRM. 

Key Takeaways

  • Operational CRM can improve everyday critical functions and make businesses go. 

  • Operational CRM aims to upgrade customer service and data management, enhance collaboration and communication, and boost productivity, efficiency, and revenue.

  • Your choice of operational CRM platform depends on your business priorities.

  • Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and customer experience indicate a bright future for operational CRM.

What is CRM?

The concept of CRM refers to the common sales practice of tracking customer-company interactions to learn more about those relationships and potentially increase sales.

CRM systems are software tools that record and store all customer data in one easily-accessible location. The goal is to connect marketing, sales, and customer service, and automate many of the routine processes that these departments depend on. 

A centralized CRM database gives businesses a comprehensive understanding of their customer journey, helping shape sales tactics and marketing strategy. These platforms aim to streamline operations, boost sales, improve customer retention, and ultimately drive business growth using the latest technology.

The Three Types of CRMs 

CRM systems come in three primary types: operational, collaborative, and analytical. In reality, many leading CRMs combine aspects of these types, each with certain stresses and strengths. 

Here’s a brief overview of each CRM category. 

1. Operational CRM

Operational CRMs focus on automating and streamlining day-to-day sales, marketing, and customer service processes. They aim to more efficiently manage customer interactions and data, and deliver personalized customer experiences across multiple channels.

Operational CRM systems typically automate key tasks, reducing the workload of marketing associates, and sales and customer service reps. This should free your staff to work on more creative and impactful duties, driving innovation and growth. 

2. Collaborative CRM

Collaborative CRMs are designed to break down information silos between sales, marketing, and customer service via a shared communication platform. They aim to ensure all employees can access the latest customer data, regardless of department. 

This enables businesses to share data and insights across teams and provide better customer service and support. Collaborative CRMs also provide tools for customer self-service, offering access to online communities, document warehouses, and video libraries. 

3. Analytical CRM

The main objective of analytical CRM is to interpret customer data to gain insights into behavior, preferences, and needs. These systems help businesses identify and target profitable customer segments, improve marketing campaigns, strengthen sales practices, and refine service procedures. 

Analytical CRMs use data mining and predictive modeling to extract meaningful insights and projections from customer data, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions that optimize business processes. 

What is Operational CRM?

Now, let’s dig deeper into the focus of this guide. Operational CRMs automate and streamline customer-facing business processes, primarily in sales, marketing, and customer service. 

Unlike collaborative CRMs, which aim to ease communication, or analytical CRMs, which focus on insightful reports, operational CRMs seek to shoulder many of the routine tasks on which your business relies. Many operational CRMs include collaborative and analytical features, but their primary task is to streamline and oversee key tasks. 

For instance, an operational CRM might automatically send pre-written emails for a marketing campaign, or provide standard chatbot responses to basic customer questions. An operational CRM could also log staff hours to calculate overtime pay, or manage your supply chain by tracking consumer orders and maintaining inventory volumes in integration with an order management system (OMS). 

Operational CRMs are all about taking relatively simple business tasks off your hands, and making your processes run smoother and more efficiently.

The Importance of Operational CRM

Operational CRM software manages critical business functions in one centralized location, helping businesses streamline key processes, reducing staff workloads, and improving efficiency. With access to customer data in one place, your team should also be able to provide more personalized customer support, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

What you use an operational CRM for depends on the goals and structure of your company, but some common uses fit many business models. 

For example, your sales team might use your operational CRM to track its most promising leads, refine its sales pitch using AI language models, or schedule automatic follow-up emails after a phone call. 

Customer service teams can access a shared information data bank to personalize service, answer complex questions about your product, or lead customers to helpful videos and tutorials. 

Marketing can use it to launch campaigns at targeted audiences, identify cross-selling opportunities at just the right time, or automatically nudge a hot prospect along the sales pipeline. 

At the end of the day, these platforms should save you time and energy by anticipating potential problems like low inventory or customer pain points before they arise. An operational CRM could make your business more efficient, responsive, adaptable, and profitable. 

Key Features of Operational CRM

One major benefit of operational CRM is its ability to automate various aspects of your sales, marketing, customer service, and workflow processes. 

1. Sales Automation

For a sales-focused company, a CRM with sales automation can automatically send follow-up emails, draft price estimates upon request, process sales online, and track revenue with an integrated accounting program. This means sales reps can focus on their first responsibility: making sales. 

With the ability to track deals through the sales pipeline and notify a sales rep when a deal stalls or needs attention, an operational CRM helps your sales team stay focused and productive. Some platforms can even guide reps through customer conversations and recommend the next steps to close a deal, effectively coaching them to be better at their jobs. 

Another great aspect of today’s CRM software is its ability to create sales emails using templates. All you have to do is choose the prospects you want to send to and the CRM will auto-populate the fields in the template. This can save you time and help improve your pitch’s effectiveness. 

Want to know what’s around the bend? An operational CRM can analyze data and trends to forecast sales and predict future revenue. With a clear picture of anticipated sales, your team can make informed planning and strategy decisions. 

In a process called lead scoring, an operational CRM determines the best customers to follow up with based on demographic and psychographic factors. The platform is able to assess your leads, assign the most promising ones to the appropriate reps, and track their progress.

The bottom line? Operational CRMs enable your sales team to focus on closing, rather than administrating. By managing multiple aspects of your sales pipeline, the system should free up your team to focus on the bigger picture and do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Marketing Automation

Do you want your marketing team to spend their days sending emails and posting to Instagram, or would you rather have them brainstorm your next breakthrough campaign? 

CRM marketing automation can help you write, schedule, and send emails, and post to your company’s social media accounts. And rather than simply sending out old-school blasts, the latest CRMs personalize marketing communication to better reach your customers. 

Using customer segmentation, CRMs leverage demographics, purchase history, social media activity, and more to create targeted marketing campaigns. This means your marketing is directed towards your ideal customer segment using the most effective channel for reaching them. 

CRM also aims to improve lead nurturing, the process of cultivating leads that are not yet ready to buy. With the help of a CRM, your automated campaigns will deliver targeted content to prospects at just the right time in their buying journey – based on hard data, not guesswork. 

CRMs also identify upselling and cross-selling opportunities to promote complementary products and services. Heck, some CRMs can even design and manage complete marketing campaigns on their own using built-in, data-driven AI. It is the 21st century, after all. 

Customer Service Automation

Serving the customer is priority number one for many businesses, and the best approach is to embrace all the tools that contribute to this effort. Today’s operational CRMs offer a host of service and support features to improve your customer experience from the ground up. 

Many CRMs autonomously manage basic customer inquiries and issues using a ticketing system. Customers submit their issues through various channels like email, phone, or live chat, and the system assigns a ticket number and customer service representative to each request. From there, the business can track the progress of each ticket and ensure issues are resolved promptly.

Before bringing in a customer service representative, an operational CRM system can answer many questions with its built-in knowledge base, which includes articles, FAQs, tutorials, chatbots, and videos. Suddenly, customers can solve common issues without the help of a customer service rep.  

Some operational CRM systems give businesses the option to set service level agreements (SLAs) that define response and resolution times for customer inquiries, thereby improving customer relations. 

CRMs also enable businesses to gather customer feedback through surveys and reviews, helping to gauge customer satisfaction, identify areas for improvement, and address customer needs.

Working with a robust CRM is like having a star performer who makes the whole customer service department better. With a quality CRM in your corner, you’re better positioned to beat the competition. 

Workflow Automation

We humans quickly tire of tedious tasks like data entry, creating reminders, and tracking assets, often leading to errors. CRM workflow automation can take jobs like these off our hands, eliminating mistakes and increasing efficiency. The bonus is that employees who no longer need to take care of these duties will likely be more positive since they can focus on more engaging work. 

To put it simply, workflow automation performs repetitive business processes in response to some behavior or activity. 

Let’s say a potential customer visits your website and fills out a brief form to subscribe to your newsletter. The CRM would record which webpages the new lead visited, hinting at their interest, pass their info to a sales rep who will handle that lead, and send a welcome email to the new lead, promoting certain products and detailing the next steps. 

And all that happens automatically in just a few seconds. Another example would be that your CRM, noticing that you’ve only got a few teddy bears left with the holidays looming, would automatically place a large order that restocks your inventory just in time to meet an incoming wave of orders. 

That’s workflow automation, and it often makes for smoother operations, more pleasant customer experiences, and more closed sales. So it’s wise to think about which processes you’d like to automate and see what your preferred CRMs can handle. 

Key Benefits of Operational CRM

The value of operational CRM will touch on every aspect of your business. The most direct benefits are increased efficiency and productivity, and enhanced customer satisfaction and retention. With proper CRM implementation, you should also see a bump in revenue.  

1. Improved Customer Service

Operational CRM organizes and stores all customer information and interactions in real time, enabling your representatives to provide a personalized and relevant customer experience.

Many repetitive customer service tasks and responses can also be automated, leading to consistent and reliable service, increased customer satisfaction and retention, as well as boosted revenue.

2. Increased Productivity and Efficiency

Operational CRMs can increase productivity and efficiency by automating and streamlining business processes. Alleviating your staff of routine tasks, operational CRMs can shoulder many business functions for free, 24 hours a day. The result is serious cost savings and improved business performance across the board. 

3. Total Data Management

Operational CRMs provide a centralized customer information database, enabling more effective data management and analysis. You can improve strategy and performance by using this data to inform business decisions. Modern analytics and reporting tools could change how you understand your business and respond to an ever-shifting marketplace. 

4. Cleaner Communication

With built-in communication portals, operational CRMs can ease collaboration between teams and departments, increasing efficiency and bettering decision-making. Everyone will be in the know and have access to the resources needed when working on a shared CRM. 

5. Boosted Sales and Revenue

More efficient and personalized customer service often means increased sales. Similarly, operational CRMs can help businesses close more deals by identifying and prioritizing the best leads. A more productive business means greater revenue, and operational CRMs can help you get there. 

Examples of Operational CRMs

1. Salesforce

Salesforce is a popular CRM platform that provides a range of operational CRM features, including contact and lead management, sales forecasting, customer service tracking, and marketing automation. It’s an affordable cloud-based platform and a solid choice for businesses of all sizes.

2. HubSpot

HubSpot’s CRM has a user-friendly interface and focuses on inbound marketing. The platform is organized into different hubs, including a sales, marketing, and service hub. Each hub includes various features designed to help manage customer interactions and data more efficiently.

3. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is a cloud-based platform known for its affordability. The platform offers a range of pricing plans for businesses of all sizes, including a free plan for up to three users. Despite its modest pricing, Zoho includes advanced features typically only found in more expensive CRM platforms.

4. SugarCRM

SugarCRM is an open-source platform with a lot of flexibility. The platform is open-source, meaning that businesses can customize it to meet their needs. SugarCRM enables businesses to build a system tailored to their processes and workflows.

5. Agile CRM

Agile CRM is a cloud-based platform with an easy-to-use dashboard focused on automation and personalization. Agile allows businesses to automate repetitive tasks, such as sending emails and scheduling appointments, freeing time for more meaningful activities. It also enables businesses to create customized email campaigns and landing pages, improving marketing efforts.

6. Pipedrive

Another cloud-based CRM platform, Pipedrive provides businesses with a range of operational features, including contact and lead management, sales forecasting, and sales pipeline management. It is known for its intuitive interface and its ability to visualize the sales pipeline, which helps businesses easily track sales progress and identify potential bottlenecks before they happen. 

7. Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a CRM that can be integrated with Microsoft tools such as Office 365 and Power BI, making it a good choice for businesses that rely on Microsoft products. Businesses can manage their customer interactions and data from one central platform, while also accessing a range of other Microsoft tools and services.

The Future of Operational CRM

Operational CRM has come a long way since its inception in the 1990s. With an increasing focus on customer experience and data-driven decision-making, the future of this technology is bright. By embracing these breakthroughs and investing in operational CRM, many businesses gain a competitive advantage and improve their bottom line.

Here are some of the trends shaping the future of operational CRM. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

One of the biggest trends in operational CRM is the embrace of AI to boost automation and personalization, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

AI-powered chatbots can provide quick and efficient answers to common customer queries, while AI analytics can highlight patterns in customer behavior, leading to better business decisions. 

This technology is developing quickly and could disrupt the CRM market in the coming years. 

Predictive Analytics

Another significant trend is the increased use of predictive analytics to anticipate customer needs and behaviors, which can identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling and see potential pitfalls before they arise. 

Predictive analytics can also help find patterns to inform product development and marketing. These tools enable some businesses to optimize efficiency and stay one step ahead of the competition. 

Omnichannel Customer Experience

A third trend in operational CRM is the move towards an omnichannel customer experience. Today’s consumers expect seamless interactions with companies involving social media, email, phone, and face-to-face conversations. 

By providing a consistent experience across all channels, CRMs can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Failing to meet your customers where they are risks never meeting them at all. 


A potentially essential business tool, an operational CRM can improve many of your business functions and results, from efficiency and productivity to customer satisfaction and, ultimately, bottom-line results.

But it may not be the right choice for your business, so be sure to take the time to test your preferred platforms before making a significant commitment.


How does operational CRM differ from analytical CRM?

While operational CRMs focus on automating customer-facing processes, analytical CRMs focus on analyzing customer data to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences. Analytical CRM uses data mining and predictive analytics to identify patterns and trends that can inform business decisions and marketing strategies. This knowledge allows you to run your business as efficiently as possible.

How does operational CRM differ from collaborative CRM?

Operational CRMs aim to streamline customer-facing processes, while collaborative CRMs focus on improving internal collaboration and communication. Collaborative CRMs streamline communications between departments and typically include a messaging platform and tools for sharing customer data.

How can businesses choose the right operational CRM system?

When choosing an operational CRM system, businesses should consider budget, the size of their organization, industry, and business needs. It’s important to evaluate different CRM vendors to find one that offers the features and functionality that best meet your needs.

What are some best practices for implementing operational CRM?

Some best practices for implementing operational CRM include involving everybody in planning, establishing clear goals and objectives, ensuring data accuracy and consistency, providing adequate training and support, and continually monitoring and evaluating the system.