Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CRM Software Solutions

I have often wondered whether to call it a CRM solution or CRM software or as the title suggests as CRM software solutions. By whatever name we may choose to call it , an effective CRM implementation will only be possible if we take both software and solution as part of the system. Necessarily, we must consider the business aspects before even venturing towards CRM. The three broad aspects which need closer examination are data collection, classification and deployment. CRM software solution must be able to address all the three aspects effectively. A good CRM software solution would be capable of data mining, data abstraction which would include business intelligence and providing solutions.

In the end, the CRM software solution will only be as effective as the sum of its parts. What surprises me is the level of confusion among industry experts when it comes to implementing a CRM software solution. As a result enterprises land up with solutions which are rather inappropriate to their situation. What’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander. One has to therefore make a wish list of what exactly they want from their CRM software solution and then hunt for the right one.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Web based CRM

Web based CRM has slowly but steadily made inroads into the main CRM industry and I must admit it is time it established itself. To me a good CRM package should be able to deliver information across the entire enterprise. Another advantage of a web based CRM is the multitude of services it can offer. Voice enabled chat, automated tele-response; email, online and offline help provide an integrated CRM solution. I have a firm conviction that a customer would rather visit the enterprise website and access information than use any other vehicle.

The other aspect of a web based CRM is development and maintenance. Our focus should be on providing quality assistance to our customers and peripheral activities like developing and maintaining the CRM system should ideally be outsourced. Fortunately there are numerous vendors operating in this space. They offer setting up of systems, install software, running CRM operations, up gradation and continuous maintenance. The only point I would like to emphasize here that the contract with a vendor must be detailed covering the entire scope of work and technical specifications. With the right contract in place, we can ensure quality service to our customers.

The best part is that Web based CRM solutions are available as freeware. For complex solutions I would recommend partnering with professional CRM providers who have been proactive in this area. It certainly seems as if web based CRM solutions are the way ahead and you might as well embrace them now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So, you want a hosted contact center?

A hosted contact center with a third party raises visions of dollar savings for most businesses. However, there are certain factors to keep in mind if you wish to benefit from efficiencies that arise from a hosted contact center.

Be sure to provide a dedicated line for your contact center traffic so that it does not have to compete with email and other applications for bandwidth. Bifurcate corporate traffic and contact center traffic, you may have to invest in a new WAN connection and router. Another alternative is to increase your network bandwidth so that contact center performance does not suffer because of corporate staff surfing the net and sending large email attachments. However, you need to be aware of peak loads that can increase latency in contact center communication.

Get an SLA from the vendor to cover various performance parameters such as latency and uptime. Spikes and valleys in latency can cause frustration to customers and prospects that may be on line at that time.

So, an SLA, an internal infrastructure, and your own security measures are some pre-requisites that you need to consider for a hosted contact center solution.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Advantages of web-based CRM for your SMB

Web-based CRM has come on very strongly as a viable alternative to on-premise CRM. This is great news for SMBs who earlier could not afford on-premise CRM because of its prohibitive costs.

Some of the advantages of a web-based CRM system for an SMB include:

  • A tremendous cost saving as you pay only for what you use besides you are not required to maintain an IT team, you can also free precious real estate which would otherwise be used for placing servers and other hardware
  • A great opportunity for SMBs to test the CRM waters before adding more functionalities and modules. SMBs can explore business ideas that they were earlier unable to execute because of poor information on sales and marketing opportunities
  • Greater scope to close deals and resolve customer queries by the field staff that remains connected to the database via the internet
  • Smooth and inexpensive integration of a lot of customer-data that hitherto had been lying in discrete databases
  • Perhaps the biggest advantage of CRM for SMBs is that it gives them a platform to compete with businesses that operate on a larger scale with larger budgets

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Building a Loyal Clientele

Relationship building is the central theme of CRM. It lays the foundation for building a loyal clientele. Retaining an existing customer always works out cheaper than adding new customers to the existing customer base. Customer loyalty is nurtured over a period of time by making intelligent and sensitive use of data generated from your CRM systems.

It pays to remember that customers are individuals with distinct needs, customization of products and personalization of service goes a long way in winning the customer’s hearts. Simple acts like discussing their requirements, communicating regularly with them, maintaining contact lists will not only keep you in your customer’s mind frame but also involve them in the communication process. These interactions eventually lead to a burgeoning sense of loyalty and finally more sales.

Customers that offer their loyalty will usually go that extra mile to do business with you, they may be fine with traveling a little more and paying a little bit extra but at the same time they will demand a higher level of service as compared to those who are one-time shoppers. Your customer-facing staff and your contact center executives should be at the forefront of your customer loyalty initiatives.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

A good word spoken by a satisfied customer is worth hundreds of dollars of advertising. At the same time, a disgruntled customer can do serious damage to your reputation. Prevention is better than fire-fighting. There is always a reason why a customer acts difficult. Know the reasons and treat each customer accordingly.

A few things that can come in handy when dealing with difficult customers include giving them time and maybe some micro management. Communicate more frequently with them to find out about their expectations, a dialogue helps in reaching a decision on manageable and realistic expectations that you can fulfill. At times you may have to be a little firm and take a call on what comes first – the comfort of your employees or the customer’s requirements. Although the customer is king it is critical to remember that he is not always right.

A customer may be difficult because of some personality trait or some genuine reason, in both the cases educating the customer can help. This can be done through customer-orientation programs and greater personalization when interacting with them.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Customer Service Basics

CRM software is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is customer relationship management. The basics of CRM do not change. The human angle to it is all important and it is these good old-fashioned virtues that decide the success of your CRM initiative.

Whether you run a mom-and-pop store or a multinational there are some facts that are common to all forms of business. Remember to treat your customer as you would want to be treated if you were a customer. A smile to welcome a customer is the best way to make him feel relaxed; it gets him to open up. A happy shopping experience with smooth transactions invariably leads to repeat business. Friendly conduct and attentive customer service can make a customer’s day.

As a business owner, it is imperative that you practice the customer care mantras that you preach to your staff. Customer concerns should be addressed immediately with minimum discomfort to the customer, ideally you should absorb the transaction costs of returns and refunds so apportion for these in your budget. Offer incentives that encourage prospects to convert into customers. Remember, there is more to selling than selling at a low-cost. In a competitive market, your service is the only true differentiator.