What is CRM? And what is a CRM system?

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CRM stands for customer relationship management. We explain what the term means, why companies benefit from a CRM system, and how to find the right CRM software for your business.

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What does CRM mean?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM summarises all of a company's strategies, practices, and technologies for managing interactions with customers and prospects. CRM puts the customer at the centre of things.

Why do I need customer relationship management?

CRM is based on the idea that particularly satisfied customers buy more and stay loyal to a company for longer. By analysing customer behaviour, you can develop appropriate solutions to attract new customers, make existing customers more satisfied, and, thereby, ultimately, increase your sales.

So, it's a win-win situation!

What is a CRM system?

To put it very simply, a CRM system is primarily a digital diary in which all the information that may be important for the customer relationship is recorded. In addition to the customer's personal information, this may include their order history or information about (historical) communication with the customer.

Furthermore, with a CRM system, you can also carry out various evaluations and thus obtain further interesting insights, for example, about the customer's purchasing behaviour.

Objectives of a CRM system

But why bother with it all? It's very simple: a CRM system ensures that every interaction with the customer – from start to finish – runs smoothly and efficiently. A CRM system is therefore an effective tool for increasing the profit of a company.

The most important objectives at a glance

  • To win new customers
  • To improve the relationships with existing customers
  • To address customers individually and personally
  • To improve customer service and support
  • To make all customer data accessible in a centralised location
  • To automate customer-relevant processes

→ Increase customer satisfaction and the profitability of your company!

Features of a CRM system

Overall, CRM is intended to support the management of customer relationships. So, what exactly does a CRM system do?

Operational vs. analytical CRM

Different CRM systems have different features and offer greater and lesser levels of comprehensiveness and complexity. In general, however, customer relationship management can be divided into two major components:

Operational CRMAnalytical CRM
Operational CRM supports employees in their daily operational activities. Among other things, CRM provides customer information that, for example, helps your customer support team to communicate with customers in a targeted manner. This may include information about the customer's order history or the availability of products.Analytical CRM is usually used to evaluate customer data. Analytical CRM primarily provides you with information that is intended to help you better understand the customer. Among other things, these evaluations can help you to determine the value of a customer and to segment customers.

Operational CRM and analytical CRM interact closely here: the insights gained from the analytical CRM flow back into the operational business, and vice versa – thus creating a closed cycle through which customer relationships can be continuously improved:

operative and analytic crm EN

The most important features of a CRM system

Of course, every company is different and has individual goals. Accordingly, the requirements for a CRM system will be different for each company. In practice, however, the following features are likely to be important for most companies:


A CRM system is a central database in which all customer data – from personal data to previous interactions with the customer – is stored centrally. The advantage: all relevant teams (usually sales, marketing and support) have access to the current customer data in the system at any time. A good CRM system also allows you to assign contacts and tasks, for example, to different users. This greatly simplifies collaboration within the team!

Contact management

The contact management provided by a CRM system gives you a good overview of all relevant customer information. In addition to the customer's personal data, this can include the customer history or customer-relevant notes, so that your team always knows what was discussed with whom and when. For example, if a customer has raised an issue with a sales representative, the member of the support staff can directly see what has already been tried in order to resolve the issue. This way, if all relevant teams have access to the same information, the customer is helped more quickly and, most notably, more effectively.

CRM systems can also provide you with an overview of relevant projects or to-dos as well as the customer's documents, such as offers, orders, invoices, correspondence or contracts.

In the customer management provided by bexio, for example, this looks like this:

bexio product contact management orders en
bexio's contact management provides you with all projects, recorded times, tasks and documents at a glance.

Offers and orders

Some CRM systems also allow you to send and manage offers and orders.

A practical example

In bexio, you create an offer in your contact overview and send it directly to your customer from the software by email. If your customer accepts the offer, you can create the order from the offer in just one click. You then have the option in bexio of creating tasks or projects directly from the order and assigning these to employees for processing. Once the work is complete, you convert the order directly into the invoice and can also send it directly from bexio.

Automate workflows

By automating workflows, you can avoid manual recurring tasks and reduce costs. You can even automate numerous other processes that go beyond your CRM system and its integrations if your CRM system can be connected to online platforms like Zapier. This is because platforms like these act as a kind of bridge between your CRM system and thousands of other common web applications.

Real-life examples

Example 1: In bexio, you can automatically send friendly payment reminders to your customers when invoices are overdue. The software compares your invoices in bexio with your e-banking and sends reminders to customers who have not yet paid at the right time.

Example 2: Do you have an online shop on Shopify and want new customers to be automatically created in bexio's customer management system? To do this, simply connect Shopify with bexio.

Example 3: Do you use Gmail and would like to automatically store invoices that you receive as a PDF attachment in bexio for further processing? The Zapier integration connects bexio to your Gmail account and automatically uploads Gmail attachments to the bexio inbox.


The CRM system of your choice will integrate applications that you already use in your company. In order for the system to grow with you and for you to be able to expand it with new features if necessary, it is best to rely on a CRM provider that offers you a large selection of integrations and constantly expands them.

A practical example

Your marketing agency has been using clockodo for years to record project times. Recently, you have been using bexio for your CRM. Since clockodo has an interface to bexio, you can now transfer the times you have recorded in clockodo to your bexio account in just one click, thereby easily and quickly creating your invoice.


A CRM system can help you with your marketing efforts. The integration of newsletter tools (e.g., Swiss Newsletter) into your CRM system is particularly common, allowing you to send your email in a targeted manner to the right customer segments and automate this process.


Customer statistics and other evaluations can help you make important decisions to increase efficiency, profit and customer satisfaction.

What types of CRM systems are there?

First of all, in very general terms, there are simple CRM systems and custom, much more complex CRM systems.

A simple CRM system usually does not require a complex setup and needs less training time, while more comprehensive CRM systems offer more features, but first have to be installed and set up individually and often require employee training. Custom CRM systems are therefore usually more suitable for large companies, while a simple CRM system is usually the better solution for small companies.

Apart from their different features, most common CRM systems can be divided into the following types:

  • Desktop software: desktop applications are usually relatively inexpensive. In most cases, a one-time payment is made for the software, and possibly other required user licences. Because desktop applications need to be installed on every computer on which they are to be used, this option is usually only worthwhile for the self-employed or very small businesses that only need one or a few licences.
  • Cloud software: the advantage of a web-based CRM solution is that all users have access to the latest customer data at the same time, and the CRM is not tied to a specific device, therefore allowing it to be used even from a smartphone or tablet. For companies whose employees work in the field or regularly work from home, cloud software is, therefore, usually the only sensible solution. Most cloud-based CRM programs offer a free trial, so you don't have to opt for a paid subscription right away.
  • Custom solution: large corporations often need an enterprise solution that is individually tailored to the conditions of the company, be it thousands of customers or multiple branches. These solutions are usually very comprehensive and often require elaborate setup and employee training. The advantage: once set up correctly, such systems can provide valuable detailed analyses in addition to support for the operational business.

Advantages and disadvantages of a CRM system

When used wisely, a CRM system offers many advantages that contribute to the success of a company.

The biggest advantage of a CRM system undoubtedly lies in the fact that the software can make all past communications with the customer in question available at the push of a button. Your team works more efficiently, can determine the wishes of the customer in advance, and can communicate on a more personal level with customers.

Since a CRM system provides you with various data, this means that various evaluations, such as sales forecasts, can be made more accurate and targeted.

One frequently overlooked advantage is that all customer-specific information remains available even in the event of staff changes, since all customer interactions have been documented centrally and in detail. As a result, new employees learn faster, and customer satisfaction does not suffer.

One major disadvantage is certainly the initial costs associated with the use of a CRM system. In particular, SMEs that only need a simple CRM solution can therefore especially benefit from business software that, in addition to CRM functions, combines various other features in one piece of software and is therefore significantly more cost-effective. In the long term, however, the use of a CRM system ought to pay off for every company. This is also shown by this study, which reveals that CRM systems improve processes and thus reduce costs.

Frequently asked questions about CRM

What is the difference between CRM and ERP?

Both CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) help to optimise processes in a company. The fundamental difference: CRM is mainly concerned with customer data and is primarily used by sales, customer support and marketing teams to increase profits. ERP, on the other hand, focuses on financial metrics and on managing and optimising internal resources to reduce costs. In reality, however, the features overlap in many pieces of software – bexio, for example, offers the functionalities of both CRM software and ERP software.

Which companies use CRM systems?

CRM systems can be beneficial for companies of all sizes. A simple CRM solution can even be worthwhile for small businesses, because it organises all current customer data in a central location and makes it easily accessible for the team members.

Is a CRM system worthwhile for my company?

As a rule, even small companies benefit from a CRM system, since numerous recurring tasks can be automated. However, SMEs, in particular, are usually more likely to benefit from a simpler CRM solution that supports the company in a meaningful way and is easy to set up, but not unnecessarily complicated. After all, the system should create an overview and order and not be a time waster!

What CRM features do I need in my company?

Every company has different needs. It is best to first make an analysis of the current situation in your company: What requirements do you already have that the new system will need to continue to cover? For it is particularly annoying when the new system cannot meet existing requirements because they have simply not been communicated. Afterwards, you can decide whether there are other features that you want to use in the future and whether these are useful and actually support your company. Important: very comprehensive and custom CRM systems are usually more suitable for large companies. Smaller companies usually benefit from a simpler solution that is easy to set up and does not require a long training period.

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