3 Steps to Building a Strong Foundation for CRM to Deliver Great Customer Experience

Matching expectations to advance retention and sales
In my last article, I covered the advantages of amplifying customer satisfaction and the subsequent loyalty through consistent Customer Experience. At a broader level, the following 3 strategies should be executed to assure the finest Customer Experience:

1 Establish expectations by adopting an outside-in approach
A critical aspect of creating an ideal customer experience is setting expectations in accordance with brand values, which are direct manifestations of the company’s reputation. Brand values must be distinguishing, appeal to customers, and should be in perfect alignment at all organisational levels. Also, the expected customer experiences should be clear amongst the workforce across all verticals, and their actions must be aligned with the associated expectations of customers.

A host of factors are responsible for shaping customer expectations – past experiences, advice/ validations from family and friends, online communities and reviews, website comparisons, etc. Since, all these factors happen to fall outside the organisation’s purview, customer expectations influenced by them may not always be right, which is when organisations may need to reset the same. Social media monitoring is the next mandate that follows – this includes first ascertaining, if the company is being discussed on online social networks, and if 'yes', then finding out if the projections are authentic.

It goes without saying that the best customer experiences result only when they are crafted entirely from the customer’s point of view. An outside-in view becomes essential here. Depending on the heterogeneity of the organisation’s clientele, the customer segments will also differ, due to which, multiple, varied experiences will emerge. Organisations that do not adopt this approach and only focus on their own risks and benefits are sure to create inferior customer experiences.

An optimum CE necessitates reference to multiple, assorted sources. A complete scrutiny of competitors and also incorporating best practices from other industries as and where applicable is wise. Each customer touch-point should be well aligned, and simple process designs should be employed which augment profitability by balancing business needs with customer expectations.

Successful organisations completely understand the customers’ mindset and constantly reinforce this understanding with ongoing research and customer validations.

2 Live up to customer expectations
All resources – human, financial and technological - must be focused to ensure that workforce productivity is enhanced and the expected CE is delivered. Optimisation of customer processes and systems to deliver the intended experiences could involve cultural changes for workforce, including training, motivation and empowerment. This will ensure that every employee comprehends, values and exhibits brand values with conviction.

Customers’ experiences should be consistent across all departments and channels. A single view of customers and their interactions with the company, helps personalise the CE further. Investments that blend cost-effectiveness and productivity with worthwhile customer experiences will be most successful in raising brand recognition, profitability and customer loyalty.

3 Transcend the Customer Experience
Constant enrichment of customer experiences depends primarily on customer feedback. This purposeful feedback is embodied in customer dialogues which emerge from varied communication channels. It is also necessary to use multiple mechanisms and technologies to continually capture, store and analyse direct, indirect, or deduced customer feedback. Enterprise feedback management, social media monitoring, web and speech analytics are some of the technologies which can be coalesced to render a comprehensive understanding of the VoC. A continuous feedback loop should be incorporated into maximum feasible customer processes across the complete customer experience.

The information that surfaces from meaningful customer insights should then be dissipated to the right people (decision makers and employees at all levels) using the right channels and at the right time. Information timing and format will however vary depending on the employee’s role in the organisation. It would be ideal, if the information transfer is done in real time or as close as possible, depending upon the urgency of the issue and probable adverse ramifications of delaying appropriate action. If any negative customer situations or trends emerge, it is critical to intervene immediately and nip them in the bud to avoid further escalations.

A very important aspect of customer satisfaction is that problem resolutions and/ or change implementation should be communicated to customers at the earliest. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that a large percentage of customers give companies a maximum period of one week to respond to their queries, following which they discontinue associations with the brand.

It is thus clear that timely and meaningful responses to customers have multiple, long-term benefits. When customers discern that organisations really listen, care and actually act upon their feedback, companies gain credibility. It also inculcates zeal in customers to continue providing information in a scenario where customers are most often than not, apprehensive about sharing their thoughts and time.

Though the ‘Customer is King’ philosophy is a timeless concept, what really forms the core of this concept is the manner in which organisations design, create and maintain phenomenal experiences for their customers. An effective financial CRM solution ensures continual improvements based on voluntary customer feedback or comments captured from social networks. The crux of customer-company associations is 'respect', when customers are given their due respect, everything falls into place – increased profitability, customer satisfaction and business relationships are sealed for a lifetime.

Why Building a Strong Foundation for CRM with 'Customer Experience' Ensures Continual Growth

It is a proven fact that customers are the nuclei of organisations – this customer-company bond is further strengthened by a superlative Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. To establish a lasting relationship with customers, it is crucial to understand critical and diverse Customer Experience (CE) dimensions, and then work towards meeting, probably even exceeding customer expectations. The natural consequences will be intensified customer loyalty, and the resultant higher sales will elevate profitability. Designing unrivalled customer experiences will not only augment customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, and profitability; but will also eliminate the possibilities of negativity proclamation and the backlashes that result therein.

Ensuring CRM success
Customer experiences are interwoven with an organisation’s people, processes and technologies. As the number of customer touch-points across various departments continues to grow, it becomes necessary for organisations to monitor, manage and amend these scattered touch-points because each of them impact the overall customer experience. Also, because the proliferation of mobile and social channels has infinitely multiplied, the magnification of negative customer experiences is quick - ensuring nothing but the best customer experiences in recent times has become even more essential.

It is mandatory for businesses to ensure a perfect understanding, motivation and empowerment of workforces, and also work towards a perfect alignment of systems, technologies and processes with the driven workforce on one side, and loyal customers and prospects on the other.

Customer experience management
Customer experience management includes devising positive and fruitful customer-company encounters which are bound to elevate customer satisfaction. Focusing on customers and capturing the Voice of Customer (VoC) is a must, as it will ensure that optimal CE is delivered which will have positive results for the organisation as well.

With each encounter and interaction with companies and their workforce along with the utilisation of customer facing processes/ technologies, customers decide - positive, negative or neutral experience. These inferences can be literally become value mines for organisations, and hence customer experiences cannot be detached from CRM initiatives, if companies wish to outdo competition and sustain brand quality and goodwill. This is precisely why the requisite to correctly manage customer experience assumes great importance.

'Customer 360 View' across touch points
With every subsequent customer experience getting better than the previous, customer satisfaction and loyalty is raised, naturally improving customer retention. Increased sales, reduction in marketing and other costs improve as a consequence. It could be safely said that not giving customer experience the attention it deserves will have cost implications, revenues and profits will be lowered, and sales may also see a dip.

From the customer perspective, unpleasant experiences adversely affect loyalty and satisfaction, which has a directly negative effect on the brand. As discussed before, multiplicity in mobile, online and social platforms have become the latest communication fads, and there is an increasing dependency on external communities to seek recommendations and validations about companies, their products and services. This leads to customers amplifying and sometimes even distorting their unhappiness and dissatisfaction, which makes it even more important to always offer outstanding customer experience.

Why the emphasis on a positive Customer Experience?
A recent survey has shown that in exchange for an extraordinary CE, customers willingly spend a larger portion of their wallet, make more recommendations through word-of-mouth, and stretch their association with the organisation for a longer period of time. When customers have a congenial attitude towards the enterprise, a direct effect on the bottom line can be experienced - higher sales, lower overall costs, and even increased early renewal rates.

Shunning customer experience is sure to push customers over to competitors. Studies have found that a poor customer experience is the number one cause why customers begin doing business with a rival. Therefore, it is of prime importance for organisations to commit all the necessary and relevant resources to ensure central management and constant improvement of customer experiences. As discussed, the rewards of positive CE are plenty. At the same time, poor CE can damage a company and brand's reputation within minutes .

Formula for success
An intelligent CRM strategy places customer experience at the centre, and all other activities revolve around this one pivotal objective. However, it often happens that companies pay so much attention to their own organisational benefits, that the focus on CE starts dwindling. Successful CRM solutions are those which manage to strike the right balance between organisational and operational enhancements, and top notch customer experiences. With improvements in internal processes along with an upsurge in productivity and efficiency - profitability, lead conversion and ROI boosts then become inevitable.

3 phases to ensure positive customer experience
To constantly ascertain that customer experience keeps getting better, organisations need to mould processes and touch-points in a way that the value of offerings and brand reflections are in sync with the expectations and objectives of customers. Once this designing/ moulding is successfully completed, every single touch-point influencing customer needs should be optimised and aligned for undeviating delivery assurance. Following this, the necessity of assessing customer satisfaction emerges, along with the mandate of constantly enriching their experiences even further.

Alignment of organisational design has to be matched with the before, during and after stages of the customer experience. The action plan in each of the stages is highlighted below:
  • Before – involves understanding the customer inside-out, shaping processes and designs in congruence to customer expectations, and going all out to generate rich value.
  • During – involves timely delivery of anticipated customer expectations and ensuring utmost efficiency. Importantly, meeting and where feasible, exceeding customer expectations.
  • Listening to VoC – involves continual monitoring of customer experiences, measuring reactions, studying emotions, identifying areas for improvement followed by taking corrective action, and refining processes on an ongoing basis.
In a recent survey, researchers found that 79% customers agreed overall experience is the most critical factor when making a purchase and 74% did not mind spending additional money for a "unique" experience. An effective CRM solution will ensure all relevant teams can collaboratively work towards identifying 'game changing' experiences and product innovations to lure new customers and increase repeat purchases.

4 Ways CRM Software for Sales Increase Revenues

With the continual introduction of competitors into the market, it is imperative to stay ahead with a large base of loyal customers and their repeat purchases. The Cloud CRM Software is a cardinal pivot for all activities associated with sales in a firm such as automated lead conversions, sales quotas, opportunity pipeline and customer communications. Handling these activities should serve as the top priority for increasing sales and result in a highly profitable company. Now the question arises as to how a CRM solution can assist your business in directly increasing revenue.

CRM software plays a key role in analyzing customers’ purchasing patterns, inquiries and response to various kinds of marketing campaigns, which fine-tunes the way you interact with them to deliver better services and leverage revenues.

1. Offers, Leads and Opportunities
The data derived from a Cloud CRM Software endows one to create targeted offers that consider each customer’s needs and preferences. This offer might be a special discount on a product that already exists or an introductory discount on a new product that suits the person’s requirements. Once finalized, an offer can be instantly converted to a lead along with all its pertinent details which are automatically populated for the new record through field mapping. CRM solutions facilitate speedy access to accounts, collating and sharing information and analyzing opportunities by following the history of activities like tasks, appointments, telephonic conversations, etc. This kind of precision brings an increase in the likelihood of a sale. Reviewing the outcome of various sales as well as marketing campaigns assists in identifying progressive factors and designing targeted campaigns to generate better results and thus generate higher revenues.

2. Product development and enhancements
Creation of new products is an intricate procedure, if firms dispatch products without taking into account the needs of customers, they stand a high chance of failure. Assessment of data in a Cloud CRM software enables users to diagnose trends, study product feedback and pinpoint advantages that address the needs of a larger base of customers. Incorporating this kind of information into the new product's strategy, leverages the probability of a successful launch and thus builds a durable stream for revenue. Reporting and analytics enable identifying popular/ unpopular products and features through close analysis of customers' social media posts, product feedback and purchase history.

 Nurturing and valuing customers

An effective CRM solution is facilitated to compile all the activities connected to customers into a single window and automate communications with customers through dynamic mailing lists and auto-populated templates. This assists in nurturing existing and prospective customers in an effective manner with personalized marketing messages, automated multi-channel responses and special occassion greetings. This is done in accordance with the customers’ interests, activities as well as habits. By carrying out an analysis of customers’ purchasing trends through the CRM solution, it is easy to recognize the most frequently purchased products and accordingly stock up warehouses. The revenue contributed by each customer can be increased by boosting iterative purchases and accurately identifying cross selling products based on an understanding of customer's needs.

4. Sales efficiency
The role of CRM solutions in assisting the sales team to shoot up the revenue cannot be surpassed, as it works a long way in elevating productivity and efficiency. The CRM software has a centralized base for customer related data which assists managers and sales representatives to work collaboratively with an eye on Service Level Agreements to ensure a better experience at every customer touchpoint. Automation for assignment rules, escalations and conditional alerts ensures everyone is paying attention to their core activities to improve win rates.

Sales automation and effective lead management are heightenend with a successful CRM implementation through a hugely cost-effective increase in conversions, loyalty, advocacy, repeat buying and lower churn rates in the mid and long term.

To know more about Cloud CRM Software, visit: www.crmnext.com

Preventing Data Leaks from CRM Systems

Validation Widget's response to user inputs
All CRM enhances organizational efficiency by efficiently collating diverse data and processes. While efficiency gains are important, a likely consequence of such organized data is 'data leak', leading to large customer churn and sometimes litigation. With an effective strategy for the security of customer information, businesses can confidently put more qualitative data about their customers on their CRM without fearing data leaks.

Compared to how data processing services were provided to business years ago, CRM technology is light years ahead today.  It used to be that programs ran on a centralized computer system, usually in the same building.  A main frame or mini computer from which users had access through a computer screen and keyboard (called a terminal) was the mode of the day. Distributed processing between desktop and laptop computers back to the main company over the world wide web was still in its infancy!

Looking at a typical CRM software
Today, computer systems and data networks operate freely, sharing information over the internet across the world.  Anybody that has a home computer or laptop or even a tablet and an internet connection can make a connection with virtually any other computer system on the internet via Web Portals and VPN (virtual private network) connections. Access speed and data security remains an issue for companies that are sharing data with business partners all over the globe.  Current CRM solutions, should provide the latest state-of-the-art secure data leak protection available today to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands.

Currently, CRM software is able to provide its many IT services to enhance customer experience management using the latest secure web application technology.   The .NET FRAMEWORK is a web applications environment that is utilized in many leading edge secure applications, most implemented CRM solutions inherit the features and facilities that enable data acquisition and manipulation through the most secure means available to this environment.  A web CRM solution's environment can be accessed simply by typing a URL (web address)  into any internet browser, making it extremely portable for any web server farm that is ASP.NET enabled.  Behind the interface, users see a web CRM software which has a secure encrypted Database channel at the core that feeds it.  This is significant because SQL (System Query Language) is a robust relational database environment that lends itself to secure encryption of data and fast input and output of desired data queries.  This state-of-the-art technology is the compatibity standard for web application development in today's world.  Even other front-end web application languages like PHP work with this secure database foundation.

Web CRM inherently allows for handling multiple simultaneous connections from virtually any location to facilitate business partner access to information because it is compatible with current Secure Portal technology.  Adherence to current data security standards is critical to maintaining excellent customer relations on every level.  Because a ASP.NET web app CRM solutions lends itself to operating through Secure Portal and VPN technology, all business partners can be assured of complete protection for all data communications from remote users back to the source company. So, not only is this kind of CRM tool for use on multiple levels of corporate operation, it is compatible with the sophisticated protection aspects in current VPN (Virtual Private Network) and secure web PORTAL access. Third party validation and secure certificate technology is fully implemented in CRM solutions.

I must emphasize that any CRM solution doesn’t have to recreate the wheel to provide it’s own unique and secure access to its services. This kind of CRM solution is seamlessly compatible with existing secure protocols such IPV6, SSH & VPN that already are in use over the world wide TCP/IP based internet. This is because 3rd party secure compatibility is the issue here and this kind of CRM solution inherently conforms to current security standards!  The current secure corporate WAN/INTRANET technology is an international standard that any ASP.NET/ Web App CRM solution fully conforms to.  It is important to understand that this kind of CRM application development will integrate seamlessly with existing secure technology so that the issue of data leaks and controlled secure access will be at par with the latest and greatest levels of security available on the global internet today. Specifically unauthorized access is screened through the use of multiple keyword validations (known as Advanced Data Leak Protection). 3 tier validation utilizing unique passwords along with specific personal keyword requirements known only to the individual user, along with specific provision of dated transactions must be provided for user access. Current CRM solutions can therefore be fully  PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant by virtue of ASP.NET standards to which they conform.

Ensuring data security
Effective data leak prevention allows companies to implement a holistic data security policy to limit the extent of data that users can view based on the level of their authority and function. It also allows the administrators to set security gateways to ensure access to specific information only on validation of some critical information. To illustrate, you can set data leak prevention in a financial CRM Software to ask for a valid phone number and date of birth from a customer before displaying/ sharing requested details. Only if the user enters the correct details, they can access the customer's complete record.

7 Ways CRM can Enhance Customer Experience at Call Centers

Today’s business scenario is a tough one. The term ‘Customer is King’ has attained a whole new dimension now, when, with the click of a button, they can share their experience on the web, with peers or on social media websites. This 24/7 connectivity coupled with customer awareness brings a double-edged sword for businesses. 'Customer experience' or 'Cx' is critical. In such a situation, two scenarios can be possible:

Scenario 1: positive Cx
With a consistently good experience through your call center and other channels, a customer may recommend your business to their peers and become a great brand ambassador. Their loyalty towards your organization may also be cemented, resulting in continuing business with you. This hence becomes a win-win situation, wherein you can not only retain the customer, but may even get additional business through their recommendations.
Scenario 2: negative Cx
This is a scary situation to be in. If it so happens that your customer’s experience is less than satisfactory, customers may call the support center to register a complaint. In case their complaint is not resolved satisfactorily or there is a considerable delay in the turnaround time, your business faces the risk of losing the customer. In such a scenario, earning the trust and loyalty of customers may have taken you years, but, losing it may take less than a day. In addition, your brand may take a severe beating when the customer vents their frustration or anger among peers or their entire social network. Your reputation may be tarnished seriously in this case leading to large churn rates.

CRM to the rescue!
For obvious reasons, all businesses wish that they are always in Scenario 1. But, you have to admit, Scenario 2 always remains a possibility. To eliminate this risk, it is necessary to reinforce your customer service employees and call center with the optimum technology that enables them to deal with customers in a satisfactory way. Call centers are known to be at the hub of customer service and work with multiple departments to exchange two-way information between customers and their organization.

The call center employees may not be responsible for poor customer experience in entirety..Maybe, the volume of calls was so high that many customers ended up holding for a long time or being unattended entirely. Maybe the call center employee took time to find the details of the customer due to multiple software being deployed on his terminal or the application was not user friendly. Whatever be the reason, the result is one: a dissatisfied customer. It may take no more than two or three similar experiences to make the customer go to your competitor. What the employee needs is a system that removes the roadblocks or hurdles and enhances their abilities and skills. What can be the solutions to all these issues? The answer is simple: an effective CRM for customer service. A strong Cloud CRM software for your call center not only eases the path for call center employees, but also ensures a consistent customer experience.
  • Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): This facility enables the interactions with customers on a telephone and a computer to be integrated or coordinated, allowing call centre employees to efficiently manage and pull up customer information. Employees are able to see relevant details about callers as soon as the call is received, and can enter information about the call into the system with ease.
  • 360 degree view of the customer: Past interactions and preferences are made available through activity manageent and rolled up objects' records to the customer service representatives. Many times, this information allows the employees to effectively deal with a customer in such a way that they have an excellent experience and their issues are resolved within SLAs.
  • Auto/ manual escalations: A major issue faced by the customer may sometimes be out of bounds for the customer service representative attending to him. In such cases, a good CRM solution in the call center allows the employee to escalate the issue to the next level.
  • Solutions database: A lot of automation features within the Cloud CRM softwares also allow call center representatives to automate many of the functions, due to which they can work at a faster pace and solve the query of the customer instantly. For example, pre-approved solutions can be displayed based on a Case's Type and Category,  the most appropriate one can be selected by a user for a particular case.
  • Cross-channel functionalities: CRM for customer services and social CRM allow customers to contact the call center through phone, web (including social networks) or email. This flexibility provides the customer more convenient/ practical choices and enhances their experience.
  • Secure customer records: A unified solution allows call center representatives in different roles a specific set of CRM operations, allowing different people rights to open, close and update records related to customers on the basis of their assigned roles. This activity ensures that customer records remain secure at all times through read/ write configurations.
  • Inter-departmental collaborations: In addition to call center employees who are involved in customer service, sales and marketing teams can also utilize customer data from the CRM system to pursue relevant leads and execute relevant marketing campaigns. Other departments within the organization can also utilize the common CRM solution to maintain effective communication with customers and improve products by analyzing customer feedback.
CRM software solution for call centers can be more than just a business tool to manage customer information, they can empower your employees to cost-effectively retain and satisfy existing customers. The effect of this positive customer experience will reflect in the following:
  • Repeat purchases
  • Referrals
  • Word-of-mouth advocacy
  • Feedback for improvements
  • Better cross-selling opportunities
  • Positive employee morale
In the long run, your brand will become stronger and better through consistent customer experience optimization, regardless of which channel a customer chooses to share their request, opinion or issue with your teams.

To know more about Cloud CRM Software, visit www.crmnext.com

How CRM Solutions can Lower Customer Churn in the Healthcare Industry

People often feel that the healthcare sector is all about large corporate centres running up unnecessary bills for patients that do not really need such extravagant treatment. And unfortunately, in many cases, this was the exact scenario that was playing out. However, now with a number of corporate hospitals offering state-of-the-art treatment catered to patients by doctors with multiple foreign degrees, the competition is cut throat. This is the reason why hospitals need to turn themselves into dependable brands and for any brand to survive, the most important factor to keep track of is 'customer satisfaction'. Unfortunately, this is where hospitals are lacking most.

A queer problem
An incident that took place a few years ago caught the eye of the healthcare sector like never before. A well known healthcare facility in Washington noticed that many hospitals were reporting cases where patients that had been supposedly treated and discharged just weeks ago were returning with similar symptoms to the ER. The doctors treating the patients felt that perhaps better patient management the first time itself would have prevented this from happening. They said that many readmissions of these patients could have been avoided if better post-op and follow up care had been followed. However, there was no significant way of knowing or predicting which patients would return with an illness again. The situation worsened when Medicare, the American insurance company for elderly patients, decided to penalize hospitals for patients that were falling sick and needed to be readmitted in less than a month after being discharged.

To deal with the problem at hand, rather than consulting with physicians and surgeons, the hospital decided to rope in a computer scientist who also happened to be a physician. Rather than overworking the residents with writing down and filing data, the scientist and his colleagues built an analytical tool that could analyze more than 300,000 patients' visits to the ER. This system tried to predict patient outcomes as well by forming correlations between 25,000 variables including patient medications, vital signs and their attending physicians.

During the data analysis there were quite a few surprising findings. Firstly, it was noticed that the tipping point in the ER was seen to be 14 hours; which meant that any patient that was in the ER for a period longer than 14 hours had a higher chance of being readmitted. Another unexpected finding was that patient charts which had the word ‘fluid’ written on it had a higher chance of being readmitted.

All of these findings were then added to a program that is called the Readmissions Manager, which a top software vendor sells as part of its solution specially designed for healthcare providers. It is said that software like these help to produce a patient forecast on the whole, including the treatment success rate and the patient’s chance of readmission. Also, a physician can assess and decide follow up appointments on the basis of this forecast.

The lesson learnt
It is said that around every one in five patients in an American hospital needs to be readmitted in a month’s time. This simple inefficiency costs Medicare (a calculation that can be extended to the regular taxpayer) around USD 17 billion a year. The situation is even worse in hospitals in developing countries like India. The amount of data that is lost, which could otherwise have been used to map out an accurate prognosis of any patient, is often astounding. Patient allergies, precautions, medical contraindications and treatment response, if all compiled, stored and made easily accessible will not only allow patients to go home safely knowing that they won’t be coming back anytime soon but also prevents several lawsuits for the hospital. More so, this data can always be used in journals and has tremendous potential to be used in research for vaccine and medicine responses in the future.

Enabling holistic Knowledge Management
One of the most effective ways to store and access data from a centralized location randomly is with a CRM software. The reason why CRM solutions in healthcare are considered to be so important is that they make essential patient information so easy to find and collate. This makes the work of the physician and the nursing staff trouble-free. This way, even if a patient calls for an emergency consultation, rather than having to wait for a relative to come by with the required information regarding his previous prescriptions and allergies, the doctor can easily view all the basic information related to the patient through a single interface and offer the right treatment course effortlessly.

However, one needs to understand that CRM is a software that must be updated on a regular basis; all the interactions, medications and treatment options of each patient needs to be entered into the system. This includes details of the in-patient and out-patient areas, accessible simultaneously from a single interface.

To simplify through an example, if the hospital in Washington had discovered all the readmissions were due to a specific drug prescribed by their doctors, they could instantly create a mailing list of all relevant patients, add personalized email/ SMS messages and simultaneously blast all of them through the CRM software solutions. The software would also track message deliveries and generate an alert for pending/ cancelled deliveries. In addition, from day one, a special group of experts could monitor social sites to track and respond to all user generated content related to this grave issue through social CRM, thereby lowering rapid customer churn.

Managing large amounts of data may seem cumbersome at first, but, with the help of a practice-led CRM software, this can become an easy and systematic endeavour. A secure Document Management System (DMS) and Content Library will equip physicians and administrators with the tools to take well informed decisions and remain in-the-loop about any changes to important documentations. Also, users can attach notes, documents, images and URLs to any record, ensuring a holistic analysis of expectations and needs.

Empowering staff across departments and roles within a hospital with CRM software will ensure clearer pipeline visibility, targeted marketing campaigns, better collaborations, sentiment analysis, centralized repositories of solutions/ collaterals and other beneficial features.

Top 8 Benefits of Sales Force Automation for Growing Businesses

If you’re a small and steadily growing business and thinking of putting a CRM solution in place, the concepts of CRM and sales force automation to the uninitiated can sound technical and daunting. Yet, at some point, the savvy business owner recognises the need to take their business to the next level. To do this, systems/ software/ solutions are needed. Systems that track sales, customer trends, keep track of stock levels and so on.

It makes sense to have business intelligence software that gives the business owner the accurate and useful information he needs to help grow his business by identifying top customers, new social trends, bottlenecks, popular products, successful campaigns, etc.

What is Sales Force Automation: an outline
Sales force automation (SFA) forms part of the overall Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system which can also include marketing automation, workflow automation and email automation.

In a nutshell, Sales Force Automation or Sales Force Management are information systems that efficiently automate the sales process and management of the sales force. SFA manages all stages of the sales process from initial customer contact to closing the deal.

Effective SFA ensures full integration among all departments. The sales person is not the only person dealing with the customer, various other departments such as marketing, customer service, accounts and technical experts are also involved. If all these different departments are communicating with the customer at the same time or worse still, sending duplicate information to the customer, you’ll end up with one frustrated customer. Excessive communication is a sure-fire way to irritate the customer. SFA ensures that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing – all departments have easy access to see what interaction the other has had with the customer.

Ultimately, a successful CRM implementation's sales force automation tools should maximise the sales team’s efficiency, productivity and lead to increased sales.

How does SFA enhance performance?
Effective sales management
Some of the key benefits for growing businesses from sales force automation:
  •  Contact management and diary management - clear visibility for accounts' contacts through a centralized repositoryion. The customer’s contact information and details (name, address, telephone, email, etc.) are stored in a compact way and scheduling appointments and follow-ups can happen easily with the calendar and diary application.
  • Account management - holistic view of accounts with their related contacts, contracts, cases, opportunities and much more. Keep track of customer interaction, track the status of opportunities, view past sales history and get a good idea of the likelihood of closing the next deal.
  • Driving leads and managing opportunities - automated lead conversions to accounts, contacts and opportunities with related mapping for fields to reduce non-core activities. SFA systems pull possible leads from various sources such as marketing communication, email campaigns, website visits or outbound calls. Once first contact has been made with a prospect this translates into a sales lead. The system prompts the sales rep when new leads become available and the rep can quickly and easily view all leads on a daily basis and schedule a time to contact prospects.
  • Generating quotes and managing orders - streamlined quote conversion to lead and sharing with others. The sales rep is now enthusiastically making contact with all prospects and giving the sales pitch. Once the customer bites and expresses an interest, the rep is now ready to provide a quote. Remember the faster he acts, the faster he can close the deal. Unlike in the old days when the rep had to wait until he got back to the office to type up a quote, today thanks to CRM, he can produce a quote instantly while out on the road. Efficient and impressive to the customer!  The customer looks over the quote and decides to order. Again, the rep quickly with the touch of a few buttons converts his quote into an order. Smooth, seamless quote-to-order conversion! In next to no time the new customer will have his product in hand and is impressed at how quick and efficient the company is. And a happy customer is likely to become a loyal and regular customer.
  • Sales forecasting - effectively predict future sales with the tools provided by SFA. The best predictor of future sales is past sales. SFA measures past sales history, current trends, number of orders and opportunities in the pipeline to provide an intelligent projection of future sales.
  • Tracking competitors - gaining an advantage over your competitors to avoid churn and encourage customer advocacy. SFA helps monitor trends and the reasons why a deal has been won or lost, and if lost – to whom and why. To make effective use of this tool, the sales rep has to be diligent in updating the records with the reasons deals were lost or won and input relevant competitor information. Reports pulled from this type of information will highlight certain trends and problem areas and the business can take steps to remedy the situation. Marketing campaigns can be adjusted or products can be improved.
  • Reports and analytics - view system reports with real-time information or create ad hoc reports. Generate accurate reports ranging from a birds-eye view of across the board sales to drilling down into specific sales territories, per sales rep, geographical regions or demographics. Easily create charts and graphics and export reports to MS Excel or PDF. Sales reps can even schedule the date and time they want reports to be emailed to their sales managers or executives, so that even if he is out of the office, the report will still get sent on time. Valuable information is gleaned from the data in reports. Information that will either tell executives that the business is doing well - so don’t fix it, if it’s not broken, or, result in a re-evaluation of business principles and change of direction, if it is not doing well.
  • Mobile applications - ensure customer information is available through web enabled phones from any location. Sales people spend most of their time out in the field. In today’s world of smartphones, CRM solutions have also become mobile. Field staff can now have instant access to information and leads while being on the road, rather than waiting until they are back in the office to access vital information about customer interaction. This has changed the game quite significantly for businesses.
To summarize, sales force automation streamlines the sales team’s job, making the end-to-end process faster. With the increased efficiency in conversions and closing deals plus the reduced effort on non-core activities, sales professionals can build better rapport with leads and contacts, request referrals and cross sell - increasing your bottom line in the short term through quicker sales and in the long term through customer retention!


8 Ways Organisational Collaboration Critically Impacts CRM Success

Vision is the starting point of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, Strategy sets it into motion, but, it is Organisational Collaboration that takes it to the next level - the pinnacle of success. In order to ensure that a CRM solution is truly rewarding, organisations must be in favour of and committed to remodelling of organisational behaviour and culture while supporting modernity in overall organisational collaborations.

The guarantor to CRM victory is the seamless alignment of resources to CRM vision, strategy and goal, supported by necessary internal changes – and this is exactly what appropriate organisational collaboration effectuates. CRM solutions are not department-specific; they are actualised by meaningful inter-departmental and lines of business (LOBs) collaborations and the information technology (IT) cluster of the organisation. Further, such collaboration must be steered by people and braced by process modifications.

Amendments to organisational culture include making changes to existing processes, structures, and metrics on the company side; and adjusting skills, learning, training, incentives, and compensation on the people side.

Why the emphasis on collaboration?
Collaboratively enhancing customer experience
CRM is an inherently cross-functional subject impacting the key proficiencies of an organisation’s customer interactions, which is primarily why its success is dictated by high levels of effective organisational collaboration and change management. It gives businesses a face lift and at the same time holds the capacity to transform every facet of a business organisation.

Also, compared to other organisational strategies and programs, CRM projects involve a greater degree of complexity. These projects specifically require every single department to work both in isolation as well as unity, so that a stalwart CRM approach can be formulated, monitored, fine-tuned and maintained.

Where organisations often go wrong…
Several business enterprises erroneously believe that deploying a CRM solution automatically translates to becoming customer-centric. As a consequence, the essential elements of processes and personnel are either overlooked or under-financed. The power of a CRM system is solely reliant upon the efficiencies of organisational processes and collaborative decorum of end users. If these two aspects are not balanced and enhanced on internal levels, then the solution will be reflective of organisational disharmony and inefficiencies.
Only a handful of businesses possess the wisdom of giving weightage to motivation of all the LOBs and personnel (including IT) in having a futuristic vision that extends beyond the CRM roll out. 

It is crucial that all enterprises applying CRM solutions adopt a panoptic perspective, and closely scrutinise how structures and resources (both financial and non-financial) can be cross-functionally aligned to underpin the CRM solution and happenings.

Regardless of whether a CRM solution is applied to a particular department or the entire organisation, certain practices can bring value to the organisation by enhancing the instrumentality of organisational collaboration in speeding up CRM success. Here’s a look -

1. Create a flawless Customer Experience
It is very important that all areas/ departments that are directly and indirectly associated with and impact customer experiences are carefully aligned not only with the objectives of the whole CRM programme, but also with the action plan that is devised to ameliorate customer experiences.

This calls for a more enlightened view of the fact that customer relationship management is more than just being kind and efficient with customers - it is about understanding that sales and customer service teams should have parallel views about the various aspects of serving customers in the most fruitful manner. 

2. Inculcate a customer-centric culture throughout the organisation
Complete awareness about the various customer segments, along with the aspirations, intentions and expectations of each customer segment is something that organisations must have in totality. This is because in correspondence to the objectives of each customer category, there is a parallel touch point for each of the company’s departments. The need for organisational collaboration must be clarified throughout the organisation, along with providing an in-depth understanding of how such collaborative initiatives will necessitate changes in regular operations and also call for new leadership, management and organisational processes.

The first step is the identification of all customer-facing roles and processes. Following which, true customer-centricity needs to be effectuated by aligning all those processes, roles, functions and employees with the identified customer objectives. Then, appropriate metrics should be assigned across departments to ascertain the highest level of cross departmental co-operation. After customer-centricity and cross departmental collaboration is imbibed throughout the enterprise, it must be ascertained that the supporting organisational collaboration is simultaneously applied.

3. Mandate creation of customer touch points among work force
Very often, it so happens that the workforce within organisations become extremely involved with their internal tasks and projects due to which they seldom have any substantial contact with customers. As a result of this, their understanding about customer experience remains cloudy. Taking initiatives like role play among employees to pose as customers, or conveying customer engagement metrics, or even making it mandatory for all the workforce to necessarily have at least some kind of primary or secondary customer touch point; have all proved beneficial in creating awareness among a workforce towards the realities of being on the customer side, and also about the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation from a customer's perspective. Such initiatives naturally enable employees to completely understand and empathise with their customers.

4. Broaden the conventional concept of incentives 
It is a known fact that compensation plans and incentives motivate personnel and drive desirable behaviour. Sometimes however, this in itself becomes a reason why departments or channels breed rivalry, or focuses become short-term, or hard work outweighs smart work. To avoid such situations, it is imperative that incentive/compensation schemes are regularly reviewed and arrayed with organisational objectives and metrics so that cross-functional collaboration is strengthened. At the same time, there must also be an alignment with external objectives, so that superiority in rendering the highest levels of customer value can be achieved. Performance reviews and goals should include inter-departmental objectives, which boils down to the fact that success should ideally be measured against multi-point accomplishments and not be dependent on just one particular department.

5. Evaluate, emphasize and encourage collaboration in the true sense 
When adapting to any kind of change, there is often a tendency among organisations to hurry towards restructuring and regrouping. This rushed approach is often wrong. Merely restructuring and regrouping work personnel into new or different teams does not in any way guarantee customer-centricity. It should be remembered that before making physical alternations to the company’s structures and systems, a collaborative culture should be nurtured by first improvising and altering the related technologies and tools. Leaders and senior executives must set an example by conveying how cross-departmental collaborative initiatives adopted by them, and others connected with the organisation have generated desirable business results.

Further, collaborative activities such as cross training, group events, seminars, cross-team activities etc. must be encouraged and applauded, as this will inspire workforce to think beyond just their own teams and departments. Fresh and innovative collaborative ideas should be acknowledged and rewarded. Leaders of CRM and top management in an organisation must also support social networking channels as they are a new facet of collaborating. Cascading from top to bottom, a motivating tone for collaboration in every form should be voiced.

6. Administer expectations, secure support
Effective communication of the benefits and objectives of a CRM solution to everyone in the organisation is an absolute must. Only when the goals are clear at all levels, the executives and other employees can understand how the CRM solution will aid in driving value and contributing to ROI. When explaining about the solution to employees, top management must also elaborate and justify the investments in the CRM solution with complete conviction.

The entire CRM solution and strategy should be clearly communicated – both internally with work force, and externally with clientele. Expectation management translates to assuring definite and attainable goals within reasonable time frames. End users as well as those likely to be affected in early stages should be engaged in meaningful interactions to invite their feedback and ideas regarding the CRM activities. Of utmost importance is conveying to the employees how they stand to gain from the CRM solution in their own work, and how important it is in creating positive and tangible influences on their roles. This ensures support from all relevant stakeholder groups.

7. Pinpoint and upgrade change management spheres regularly
CRM success is largely dependent upon change management and related training – starting right from the beginning. Though this includes employee training, it extends beyond just that. It includes the alignment of stakeholder objectives with those of the organisation, and also the organisation’s capability to evaluate internal, external, regional and international process readiness in supporting a new technology and workflow. Everything and everyone who will be impacted by the launch of the CRM system should be completely aligned with the larger objectives.

Another dimension of change management involves segregation between those personnel who will support the change and those who will oppose it. This segregation is further bifurcated into activeness or passiveness in support or opposition.

All changes concerned with organisational culture, structure, technology and process; in conjunction with how each of them will impact the company as the whole, are critical yardsticks in determining how viable the CRM solution is, and how well prepared the organisation is towards adopting it. 

It is obligatory to successfully manage all changes from the communications and knowledge transmission point of view, so that personnel across all verticals adeptly embrace the changes.

8. Oversee, scrutinise and elevate workforce satisfaction levels
Inter-relationships between customer loyalty and retention, and employee satisfaction levels have been validated. By improving workplaces and striving towards workforce motivation, productivity and satisfaction levels are improved, automatically lowering attrition. As a direct consequence, customer experiences are also positively influenced. Therefore, every organisation must make it an ingredient of their CRM program to continually scrutinise and augment satisfaction levels of their workforce.

An effective financial CRM solution is supported by impeccable organisational collaboration to reach its final destination. Careful analysis, administration and amendment of ongoing systems and structures along with ensuring alignment of organisational, employee and customer objectives with CRM goals will help attain success.