Consumer relationship system
Consumer relationship systems (CRS) are specialized customer relationship management (CRM) software applications used to handle consumer products and services company's dealings with consumers and customers. Consumer affairs and customer relations contact centers within these organizations, that are typically consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies providing consumers with packaged items, such as foods and beverages, household consumable products and durable goods, as well as travel services, e.g., passenger airlines and cruise ship lines.
The companies' trained contact center representatives handle in-bound contacts from anonymous consumers and customers, replying to inquiries and fulfilling responses. Representatives capture consumer contact information, issues, and verbatim feedback which is stored in the CRM and made available to company stakeholders such as marketing, product management and development, legal, public relations, etc., for input to product and service improvements. The CRS workflow processing and reporting enable issuing of early warning alerts to product problems in the marketplace (e.g., product recalls) and capture of current consumer sentiment ('voice of the customer'). The system has been used to effectively create best-practice actionable voice of the customer (VOC) processes (See ICMI's Customer Management Insight Magazine, September 2007, pp 44–50.)
The first such CRS was developed in the 1980s. In 1981 Michael Wilke and Robert Thornton founded Wilke/Thornton, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, to develop new software application systems. By 1983 Wilke/Thornton was creating and implementing a specialized CRM application system for inbound consumer contact call centers of CPG companies, including Kimberly-Clark, Quaker Oats, and Yokohama Tire . This consumer/customer contact management system was designed to capture and record consumer response (inquiries, reactions, and related issues, such as how-to-use and where-to-buy items) to packaged products and services.
The CRS established a niche category and, because Wilke/Thornton was the earliest developer, become the system became the de facto standard for the consumer packaged goods industry niche. Now hundreds of consumer packaged goods companies with global consumer response handling operations now use consumer relationship systems (Consumer Relationship CRM). Some 10,000 contact center representatives use these systems daily worldwide. The CRS facilitate the processing of workflow by the representatives who receive the calls, letters, email, and online chat messages from consumers in many locations, across time zones, communicating in many languages, having different postal address formats, and a vast multitude of different product items and issues. These representatives assign item, issue, status and action codes to contacts and carryout the appropriate replies and fulfillment actions.
While the goal of these consumer response handling operations is to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, the consumer relationship systems also collect consumer response for early detection of local market product problems and of consumer preference trends to provide detailed response data, including verbatim transcripts, for analysis and insight development reported internally to support product and service improvements. Many of the consumer contact center managers who use the CRS are members of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals International, a global organization that supports the aims and purposes of these customer care professionals. 
Current consumer relationship systems integrate with telephone and call recording systems, with corporate enterprise systems for input and reporting. Consumer response flows from consumer products companies’ branded Web sites directly into the response systems. These systems are popular because they can deliver the ‘voice of the consumer’ that contributes to product quality improvement and corporate success. (See ICMI's Customer Management Insight, December, 2007, pp. 45–50.) The CRS area available by traditional perpetual license and by online subscription service. In recent years Consumer Relationship CRM vendors, like Wilke/Thornton mentioned above, have begun adopting the software-as-a-service business delivery model (SaaS)SaaS which benefits users by reducing up-front capital costs and by being scalable to meet user needs. With the on-demand Web-based CRS subscription service, subscribers pay only for their usage of the system, like traditional utility services.
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