5 Ways Effective CRM Solutions Ensure Higher Revenues

The world of business has changed significantly over the last twenty years. The information and technology era has exploded and the way companies market to and engage with customers is a completely different ballgame today. This is both good and bad -
Good – because there are so many avenues available to connect with customers (email, social media, mobile apps, plus good old fashioned traditional media and advertising).
Bad – because yours is not the only business doing it and finding a way to cut through the clutter is a challenge. 

At the end of the day, everyone has the same goal – to acquire customers and make sales.

How does CRM technology help increase revenue for your business? 
First and foremost, be clear on what you want from your CRM implementation. CRM software is a very useful tool, however, if not done properly, it will fail in helping your business and will be a waste of money.
Before implementing a CRM software, consider your goals and objectives. What do you want to achieve from CRM? Do you want more sales, better customer engagement, streamlining the overall business process, product feedback or insight into trends?

Ensuring optimal UX
There is an array of CRM products out there, from more simplistic systems to more robust ones. Take your time and shop around. Choosing the right one for your business is the first very important step.

1. Streamlining the sales process
No doubt that more sales mean more revenue. Improving the sales process and making it more efficient will result in closing more deals. 
This is one of the main functions of a CRM software – to better manage the end-to-end sales process.

So, if your business employs a sales team, you should not be without sales force automation software. This is like having a thoroughbred racehorse without a jockey – you have a horse packed with amazing potential, but, without someone professional to keep it on track and steer it to the finish line, it will be slower, more distracted and therefore take longer to cross that line.

So keep the process on track. Sales force automation efficiently manages the sales process from the point of initial contact with a prospect all the way through to closing the deal, its key benefits include:
  • 360 degree view of the customer
  • Contact and diary management
  • Account management
  • Lead generation
  • Clear sales pipeline visibility to manage opportunities
  • Highlights blockages in the pipeline
  • Fast and efficient quotes and orders
  • Improved sales forecasting
  • Reporting and analytics
2. Identify profitable and unprofitable customers
Have you heard of the term ‘customer lifetime value’? This is essentially referring to the overall value a customer brings to your business over a prolonged period.

There are highly profitable customers, i.e. those that buy from you on a regular basis and/or buy high-margin products resulting in higher profits for your business.

Then, there are unprofitable customers, i.e. those that buy infrequently or consistently and only buy low-margin products. High maintenance customers also fall into this category – the ones who come back regularly to complain about products or services or requiring further assistance, resulting in more time spent on this customer and a higher cost to the company to keep these customers.

CRM assists in differentiating between these two types of customers. Ideally you want to nurture relationships with customers who offer a higher lifetime value for your business as this will result in more profits; and weed out the unprofitable customers who are actually causing you to spend more money to keep them.

3. Marketing costs versus actual revenue gains
A lot of time, effort and money can get pumped into marketing, but are you able to measure a return on your investment?

Have your marketing campaigns resulted in:  
  • Attracting more profitable customers
  • Encouraging more sales for high-margin products
  • Better customer retention
Can you crunch the numbers - are you able to compare the actual costs that went into a marketing campaign with the actual revenue generated from that campaign to determine whether the campaign was successful or unsuccessful?

CRM helps you be more strategic in your marketing through efficient budget and expenditure tracking along with mail blaster delivery reports for analyzing successful/ unsuccessful delivery of marketing material.

4. Customer retention for higher profitability
All too often businesses focus primarily on new customer acquisition and forget to pay attention to their current customers. They are also oblivious to the fact that the cost of acquiring new customers is significantly higher than the cost of retaining current customers.

While landing new customers is always imperative to the success of a business, it is equally important to nurture relationships with current customers - this makes for much easier income generation.

Current customers are already invested to one degree or another in your company. After all, they have bought your product or service in the past, and if they were happy with the service they will be happy to buy from you again – unless of course they have forgotten about your company.

Tap this market to increase your revenue. Keep in touch with your current customers. Remind them that you are still out there. Reward them for being regular customers. Show them some love, and they are bound to return.

CRM increases customer retention through the following tools:
  • Building a customer database
  • A record of the customers’ sales history, frequency of buying and buying habits
  • Loyalty programmes
  • Improved customer service (feedback and complaints/ compliments mechanisms)
  • Direct communication (email, social media, text messages)
5. Product development and innovation
At the heart of your business are its products or services. Without a product that meets the customer's need, your business will suffer and is likely to fail.

CRM is very helpful in keeping track of trends and noticing which products sell well and which don’t. This enables you to improve existing products, drop ‘dead’ products and design new products that meet the customers’ needs mean more sales.

In conclusion
A business is a multi-faceted beast with cross-functioning departments that need to all be on the same page and talking the same language, from sales to marketing to procurement to customer service. In addition, competitors and external factors also exert pressure on a business and having a finger on the pulse is crucial. A well-placed CRM software can greatly enhance inter-departmental coordination in all these areas and sets up your business for success.

Implementing New Age CRM for Ensuring a Contemporary Banking Experience

Today’s informed banking customers are rapidly shifting their preferences from one-on-one to virtual banking, and from inherited to personally managed relationships. The ‘always connected’ modern customers expect their banking services to be omnipresent – no matter where they go, accessibility should just be a click or ‘touch’ away. This dynamic customer environment makes it imperative for banks to understand that relying solely on customer inertia is a long gone method of retaining customer loyalty.

In a massively competitive environment with sky rocketing customer demands, a comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, tailor-made specifically for contemporary banks and their contemporary customers, is truly the survival mantra.

Significance of CRM software in the banking domain
On a close scrutiny of existing structures of new age banks, it is revealed that critical challenges with respect to CRM solutions go beyond just systematic storage of customer data. With the advent of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing, storage related issues are well taken care of. One of the biggest challenges in the banking sector (which is witnessing ‘digitization’ on a huge scale), is how to identify the thin line between subtle, regular and aggressive marketing strategies.

Traditionally, banks have enjoyed a fairly stable customer base – not many customers shifted their accounts too quickly (especially savings) to another bank. But in recent times, as competition intensifies and customers have a wider range of options, they prefer transferring even their credit card dues to a different company. This trend brings to light one obvious conclusion – getting across the right message to customers at the right time and through the right channel is of utmost importance.

A comprehensive Customer Relationship Management solution is a highly productive tool for building efficacious onboarding strategies, which are well aligned with the sales and marketing plans of banks. Through the assimilation of assignment rules, customized alerts, escalations etc. bank managers can bring about the right balance between the functionalities of front end and field workforce – thereby ensuring optimal performance at all levels. Additionally, prolific activity management and availability of customer information in real time, leads to effective onboarding processes with a largely reduced likelihood of customer churn.

Though every bank’s business models may differ, the core objectives remain identical – attracting new customers, successfully retaining the old ones and improving and enhancing the loyalty of the existing customers. A banking CRM solution helps achieve exactly this – by establishing and nurturing a system that manages, observes and leverages diverse, sporadic customer information in an effective manner. This is turn facilitates informed decision making, paving the way to unprecedented success.

As modern times usher in heightened global competition and rampant social networking, banks become increasingly sensitive to efficiently acquiring new customers. Streamlining the different banking processes and ensuring optimized customer experience from the roots is an imperative to gain a strong foothold in a landscape dotted with competitors. This is where CRM solutions help banks.

For banks, CRM solutions specifically help achieve the following:
  • Creation of a consolidated view of the diverse customer base along with their specific needs, wants and preferences
  •  Efficiently identifying cross selling opportunities from multifarious systems and repositories, thereby streamlining cross selling efforts
  • Assisting workforce in minimizing non-core activities and reduction of elaborate coordination efforts
  • Achieving higher targets
  • A unified view of different processes spanning across all systems
  • Convergence of several independent campaigns across the different range of offerings, along with higher visibility across varied channels
  • Lowering wastages and process expenses, while at the same time ensuring adherence to audit standards and other necessary compliances
  • Providing actionable intelligence to coordinate and collaborate regarding different customer complaints, and helping take the requisite action to resolve the same, thereby making sure that quick and relevant solutions are provided
  • Offering crucial insights – both offline as well as in real time – into the numerous banking processes along with dashboards and reports for dedicated and focused actions
Role of CRM solutions in ameliorating basic banking model processes – A closer look into the fundamental phases:
  • Prospecting : CRM software helps in the management of gigantic databases by enabling effective data segregation. Also, cumbersome tasks of lead classification, fixing appointments, and streamlining prospective clients’ background information are largely simplified. Sales and marketing personnel are therefore able to focus dedicatedly on their principal functions. Additionally, secure sharing options and real time information enable business development teams to carry out their primary functions better and always have updated follow up schedules. Further, CRM solutions also assist in data filtering – for example highlighting redundant, incomplete or inaccurate details, ultimately leading to enhanced data quality.
  • Approval : The approval phase involves huge amounts of various document hard copies, and managing the same poses challenges. Banking officials find it difficult to safely preserve these scattered documents. To add to the chaos, many scanned copies also do several online rounds. At this particular stage, data organization becomes a very important factor in expediting processing of the accounts. CRM solutions are beneficial at this point, by offering a simple user interface that guides users about preservation, transfer, documentation, clearance, dispatch and attestations. The software also offers a detailed breakdown of the various procedures, due to which freshers and experienced workforce both are empowered to manage complex documentation effectively as well as safely.
  • Finalization : Documentation becomes most crucial when the account processing enters the finalization phase. A comprehensive, automated CRM system helps document processing and requisite subsequent actions (example: scrutiny, physical verification etc.) to occur within the given time framework. Before the introduction of CRM solutions, all the work at this stage would be done by bank employees manually, which was extremely time consuming, tedious and prone to maximum errors. However, with the advent of advanced CRM software, banking workforce find their work free of complexities; and banking customers find their investments, loans, and other financial products being activated merely days after application. Banking delivery models are undergoing radical transformations with closing down of excessive branches, sales personnel having less ‘face time interactions’ with customers, and banking customers becoming more digitally / mobile inclined. Expectations of leadership in banks will soar higher, as workforce will be expected to achieve more with less. Sales executives will need to keep up with more aggressive and time-bound sales targets. As a result, loan officers, business / personal bankers, and relationship managers will all have to grapple with the intensifying challenges in the banking arena. Building deeper and more meaningful relationships with customers and other stakeholders will become the need of the hour. 
Summing up
One of the most common mistakes banks make is assuming that customer behaviour in the past can be a guiding light to predict current and future behavior and / or enhance sales. It is vital for banks to know that a lot more value can be generated for both customers as well as the bank, if it is understood that current aspirations of customers will drive their future behavior as well. Hence, rather than running through huge warehouses of data to seek answers, banks should capitalize on ongoing dialogs and contacts with their customers in order to derive reliable, clear and actionable insights into their future needs and preferences. This priceless information when captured and managed in CRM systems, will enable banks to craft flawless solutions at the right time for every individual customer.

Similar to contemporary customers toying with user-friendly technologies to experience easy and convenient banking; sales and support workforce in banks are leveraging CRM technologies to make their work more collaborative, stress free and profitable. Irrespective of the nature of the banking activity, CRM solutions assist bankers in being better prepared to go into detailed and productive account related discussions with a highly diverse clientele. It also creates everlasting impressions on customer minds that their banks are familiar with their preferences, goals and need for various services and products. CRM software can make even the most routine customer interactions have lasting effects and pave the way to massively profitable long-term relationships. This is exactly why all bankers should most definitely use CRM to their best advantage.

Financial CRM solutions elevate customer satisfaction levels and boost revenues by systemizing processes supported by powerful technology platforms. Every step along the way, these tech platforms also support the various departments in executing an effective and smooth business model that is in perfect alignment with primary as well as secondary objectives of the bank. The ultimate result is a transformation from a product and service oriented bank - to a truly customer-centric organization.



Using CRM for Restaurants to Increase Customer Retention

It’s a busy night in your restaurant -all the tables are booked and more customers are lined up while waiters are occupied serving meals and clearing tables. The kitchen is firing on all cylinders. Managers are working the floor making sure things are running smoothly. At the end of the night, the coffers have been nicely filled, waitrons have earned great tips and happy satisfied customers have strolled out the door. It was a good night for business.

But, how do you keep the momentum going and have more profitable nights like this with a constant stream of customers? How do you ensure those satisfied customers eat at your restaurant regularly?

Using CRM for Restaurants to Increase Customer Retention
Clear understanding of customer expectations
Let’s face it, the restaurant industry is tough. There is some debate on the statistics, but, it is estimated that between 60 – 80% of new restaurants fail within the first year. Around 70% of those that make it past the first year are likely to close their doors within the next three to five years. These are scary statistics for restaurant owners. For those that do last, life is still not easy - competition is around every corner. Customers are spoilt for choice. How do you get a leg up to help you stand out above the crowd that are all clambering to get their feet through the door?

Relationship building is key, it can make the difference between a one-time customer and those that return on a regular basis. These days there are plenty of CRM solutions out there that cater specifically to the restaurant industry and have changed the game significantly in this highly competitive arena.

5 ways a restaurant's CRM initiative can turnaround customer churn:
1. Build a customer database 
The first thing a CRM system does is gather information and help the restaurant owner get to know their customer.

1. Customer contact details
2. Frequency of visits
3. Preferences on meals
4. Average spend per visit


When linked to the restaurant’s point of sale software, it can provide valuable reports and analysis on:

1. Most popular menu items
2. Items that are not selling
3. Busiest days/ nights and help identify the reasons why
4. If it is a nationally franchised or chain of restaurants, it can provide the franchisor with information on which regions are performing better than others.

This becomes the basis for communication with the customer, helps track customer trends and feeds into marketing plans.

2. Menu engineering
At the heart of a successful restaurant is its food, the options available on the menu too should match customers' tastes and preferences and its quality should be superior.That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

However, even if food is good quality, every restaurant has meals that sell phenomenally well and those that don’t. The restaurateur needs to be clued up on this in order to be more profitable. A Cloud CRM Software which is linked to the point of sale software and any other system will generate sales information on the menu products in four ways:

1. Popular and highly profitable items
2. Profitable but unpopular items
3. Popular but unprofitable items
4. Unpopular and unprofitable items

The first and last points are a no-brainer. Popular and highly profitable items should remain on the menu – don’t fix what’s not broke. Unpopular and unprofitable items need to be scrapped from the menu. The challenge is in finding creative ways to improve the two in the middle. For popular but unprofitable items, this could mean substituting one or two ingredients with a cheaper alternative without compromising quality and taste. For profitable but unpopular items, more aggressive marketing may increase sales or tweaking the recipe could make it more appealing.

This type of information can also lead to product innovation. Assessing the type of meals that are popular can lead to designing new menu products.

3. Strategic marketing campaigns

So, you now have a CRM system in place and you’ve gathered information about the customer and scrutinized the menu. What’s next? Marketing is the next logical step. Armed with the insights your CRM solution provides, you can start developing strategic promotional campaigns. In addition, CRM enables you to segment and target specific groups of customers such as seniors, adults, students and kids.

You can identify quiet days/ nights and run a special to help attract customers. With the help of your CRM software you can communicate directly with the customer via email or text message.

Don’t only offer discounts, but look at adding value to the customer. For example, offer a free dessert one night of the week or run an in-store competition. Send a coupon or voucher via text message that the customer can redeem on their next visit. Promote a theme evening with small giveaways and freebies. Competitions and theme evenings create a vibe and are a lot of fun. This makes your restaurant not only a place to eat at, but a place to enjoy an experience! Why do kids love going out to eat? Because it’s more than just a Happy Meal, it’s a fun adventure.

4. Loyalty programs

Following on from point 3, loyalty programs use the data that has been collected and take marketing one step further. What does CRM stand for – customer relationship management. Loyalty and reward programs are what CRM is made for.

Loyalty programs can track the frequency of a customer’s visits using big data, their meal preferences, what time of the week or month they tend to visit, their average spend per visit as well as their total spend since being a member of the loyalty program. These provide the optimum platform to interact and engage with the customer. Special individual offers can be targeted for customers on the loyalty programme. Reward loyal customers with a free gift, send a birthday wish and offer a discount. Keep in regular touch with customers via email or text message. This makes the customer feel special and they love that they get something out of the deal!

5. Customer retention

What is the ultimate goal? To make the customer’s experience with your restaurant a unique one that keeps them coming back! In addition to all the advantages a CRM solution gives you mentioned above, it will also provide a couple of other useful functions to promote a positive relationship with the customer.

1. Customer feedback and suggestions: Rather than just a one-sided conversation, i.e. the restaurant communicating with the customer, this is a tool for the customer to speak to the restaurant.
2. Customer complaints: Don’t lose a customer over a badly handled complaint, most people are quick to spread the word about bad service to at least 10 or more other people.

Be quick to respond while they are still in the restaurant, and use the Cloud CRM Software to follow up in a few days or to send a voucher/coupon, for example, which invites them back. Dealing promptly and efficiently with a dissatisfied customer usually calms them down and will make the difference in losing that customer forever or having them give your establishment another chance. When they do come back though – make sure the problem does not occur again!

So, up your artillery in the battle of the restaurants and invest in a future-proof CRM software to ensure enhanced customer experience. The long-term benefits will be well worth the investment and ensure better word-of-mouth advocacy.



How Insurance Companies can Create a Compelling Brand Experience Using CRM

Back in the day, things were way simpler - choices were easier to make because things were in black and white. However, today we are surrounded by greys. There was a time when filing insurance was a matter of pride, where customers were sure that their insurance companies would be there for them in case they faced an untoward situation. This scenario has changed and while old timer insurance companies are blaming newer ones for eating into their share, the fact is that when an insurance firm loses a customer, they themselves are to blame. Fancy insurance advertisements, depicting a retired man unabashedly allowing his wife to continue her shopping sprees because he has that much confidence when it comes to his insurance provider are more depictive of 'reel life' than 'real life'. Customers have unfortunately lost interest in their insurance companies because these organizations have stopped focusing on their customers and listening to their needs. Insurance companies, rather than foster relationships with their customers, tend to simply focus on contacting their clients when there is an overdue bill to be paid. So, why is it that clients are slowly leaving their insurance providers and moving on? Where are insurance companies going wrong? The results from a few surveys and useful pointers may help in getting these answers.

What do customers want?
In the movie ‘What Women Want’, the lead actor Mel Gibson suddenly acquired divine powers that enabled him to know exactly what women wanted, many men sighed and wished they had a super power like that. When companies suddenly start losing customers out of the blue, they start wishing they had a tool that would tell them what customers really wanted. However, there is no need for divine intervention here, multi-channel marketing surveys with marketing automation tools like CRM for insurance can help find out what customers expect from brands.

Statistics speak
Every four out of five customers stated that their overall experience was the most important factor that helped them decide whether they wished to purchase an item or not. Also, nearly every three in four customers stated that price was not the most important factor and that they were willing to pay more for a product or service, if they were assured that it would mean superior quality or experience. On the other hand, only one in four customers stated that they were happy and had a unique experience with their brand. What is disturbingly visible in these findings is the huge gap between customer expectations and reality. Overall, it was concluded that strong customer advocacy and enhanced customer service were the two most important factors dictating customer preferences.

It’s not all about profit margins
Most marketers feel that by highlighting their low prices, customers will leave everything behind and opt for their scheme. This is the reason why many advertisements tend to solely focus on the price factor, with special offers for people willing to switch services. Instead of targeting first time customers, these advertisements are all about poaching customers from rival insurance companies. What these people do not understand is that often, they themselves fall prey to this unethical regime, losing patrons along the way. This is proven by the fact that 'switching rates' have doubled in the last six years.

It’s pitiable to see the staggering amount of money that insurance firms are splurging on flashy advertisement campaigns with discouraging results - the insurance sector spent a whopping USD 4.15 billion in 2009, more than double the amount compared to ten years ago. However, these efforts were mostly in vain, as it was seen that one in ten customers looking for auto insurance did not opt for the lowest priced plan offered to them. Despite perhaps snagging a few customers with the help of flashy advertisements, overpaid ads are doing little in helping retain customers. Retaining customers should always be given more priority than gaining newer ones because customer loyalty is something that cannot be bought nor got through flashy advertising.

CRM software for optimizing customer experience with insurance companies
CRM in Insurance
The moral of the story is that customer experience dictates how long a customer will stick with a brand. Great customer experience stems from two things – attention to interaction and prompt responses to customer complaints. So, rather than focusing all possible time and resources on advertisements that promise the moon, insurance companies need to strike a chord with their clients. This can be done using the following pointers:
  •  No more focus on pricing: What is return on investment for brands is return on experience for customers. Drop the whole idea of focusing on rates and offers for people willing to switch to your brand. Instead, offer a unique customer experience with one-to-one interactions. Get clients involved and lend a ear to their suggestions and opinions; even if you do not implement them, if a client feels they have been heard, it will be considered a worthwhile experience.
  •  Make your customers advertisers: A unique brand experience means a happy and satisfied customer. Companies that have managed to win over their clients have already won the war. Satisfied customers often tend to talk about their experiences with family members and colleagues and involuntarily, a company manages to gain a worthy word of mouth advertiser. One can also profit from this further by creating a chain of quality referrals from loyal patrons, which will help in gaining new and retaining existing ones. Third party business partners can also help in furthering such attempts, as they can be made a part of special appreciation programs during seminars and meets with prospective clients.
  • Don’t forget your employees: Another important fact is that people selling insurance must believe in it. So, agents, service representatives and sales reps must all be happy, satisfied and should feel confident about the insurance they are selling because this ensures better lead conversion ratios. Effective and engaging communication between customers and service reps forms the basis of a long lasting positive business relationship.
  • Use multiple channels: In this day and age of technology, why leave out any portal that may translate into a business opportunity? Using multiple channels to reach customers is fruitful. Selling directly through call centres, websites and various mobile devices translates into good sales. However, one shouldn’t get stuck in the net cast; cross channel selling is complicated and so constant feedback and interactions need to be maintained, this allows clients to enjoy their brand experience through their preferred channel.  One of the foremost factors that come under the umbrella of ‘superior customer experience’ is customer satisfaction. This is especially the case for responses to complaints - accurate resolutions and quick turnaround time for service requests ensures lower churn. 
The rat race for acquiring new customers is a never ending one. On the other hand, with a proper CRM strategy incorporating efficient customer service solutions, social CRM and sales automation, along with a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction, lead conversions will be maximized. An effective CRM solution for insurance and a strong will to revamp existing strategies by looking at the entire insurance sector from a different and refreshing perspective, will encourage improved customer perceptions about your brand and cost-effectively encourage customer advocacy across channels.


4 Ways Social CRM can Impact the Performance of Customer Services Teams

Single interface for managing cases
Customer services can make or break organizations by ensuring an unbeatable competitive advantage and low churn rates. Implementing an effective social CRM provides organizations with control over customer services from customers' preferred social media channels and improves their perceptions of your brand!

Four key areas related to Social Media where companies use CRM solutions to control and monitor customer experience across media channels:
  • Monitoring social media trends
  • Minimizing adverse effects of social media feedback
  • Maintaining confidentiality of customer service responses
  • Ensuring your products and services are progressively getting better

Monitoring Social Media Trends
Effects that customer service departments and upper management can derive from social media can vary from valuable to scary! Social CRM provides a handle on what role social media plays on the customer service experience and the image of a company. The CRM solution has the ability to capture conversations and profiles from most social media streams on an ad hoc basis. This data can then be analyzed for keywords as indicators that reflect over all customer sentiment - positive, negative, neutral, etc. This provides valuable information related to popularity monitoring for products, services and competitors, it is particularly useful for the upper management's proactive decision-making. Having this time stamped information from social media sources provides corollaries to new product releases, company media announcements, stock market presence, company's image and general popularity. 

On the scary side, there is a danger of leading customers on to believing that a social media posting constitutes a bona fide complaint or service request submission to the company. Because most social media is conducted through a third party medium, customers need to be made aware of the correct direct channels of communications for formal submission of cases to a company. All social media responses to Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messenger and even emails should indicate specific phone numbers and internal email addresses to provide clients the proper path to get their problems addressed by company staff directly. 

The last thing a company needs is to create an environment where negativity can be amplified in a public arena. Social media should not be the official means whereby issues are dealt with by the company staff. All final communication on behalf of clients should remain private not public. Though, with social CRM it is easy to monitor conversations in real-time across networks using specific keywords to search for user-generated content. The most relevant cases can be assigned in order of priority to specialists to resolve or bookmark. Most effective CRM solutions enable users to respond via the same social media or through a secure email/ SMS with an automatically created activity which is attached to related record. All official issues are then dealt with formally and professionally between employees and their prospective/ existing customers.

Minimizing the adverse effects of social media feedback
Utilizing social CRM to monitor social networks is definitely useful for staying on the ball and avoiding customer churn. As social media trends are identified and analyzed, the CRM solution can send automated responses for generic conversations captured by the system using auto-populated templates to ensure customers remain in-the-loop. Responding to queries and complaints from within the CRM software ensures the following:
  • Effective activity management: track each telephonic and email conversation with details of related records for captured social posts.
  • Automated responses by email/ SMS: to reduce turnaround time, automated responses can be sent by email or SMS with details populated from the captured conversation's records.
  • Quick access to multiple networks' profile information: when providing the optimal solution to leads or customers, CRM users can access their profile information posted across networks through a single interface to deduce specific likes and dislikes.
  • Alerts: managers can receive alerts for captured conversations that match a specific criteria like 'has open opportunity' or 'lead amount >$999'.
  • Approvals: before executives respond to social conversations related to cases, the solution can be automatically sent through a quick approval process which ensures communications are consistent and match regulatory/ compliance norms.
  • Escalations: responses to social commentary need to be quick and effective, unattended complaints via social networks should get immediate attention, if not, escalated to reporting managers to take decisive action and avoid embarrassment for the company through negative feedback on a social forum.
Social CRM is an effective tool for CSRs to ensure a consistent customer experience and enable the top management to remain alert.

Maintaining confidentiality of customer service responses
An implemented CRM solution can monitor ad-hoc posts from all social media platforms. This information can be made available for perusal of the company staff on all levels for quick analysis of the latest customer needs and competitors. Alternately, conversations captured can be assigned to specific logged-in users with read/ write permission on the basis of their location, product, sentiment, type of case, priority, SLA, etc. A workflow can be incorporated in the CRM solution for assigning different levels in the hierarchy with their individual visibility and edit rights. All in all, organizations need to ensure responses to social conversations match company strategies and rules before being made visible to customers and their peers.

Ensuring your products and services are progressively getting better
Social media presence is important for showing consumers that a company cares enough to create a presence in their preferred social media channels. Automated functions available with social CRM can search for keywords in social media derived data to look for common trends in the conversations. In this manner, the CRM software provides an accurate pulse on public sentiment regarding new product releases, company media announcements and customers' perceptions about their company in general. The CRM is an invaluable tool for collating and determining consumers' opinions as they post their commentary in the form of tweets, blogs and posts. Posting links that refer to a company's published content on a popular network ensures a higher volume of viewers and their corresponding comments. For example, Does the new logo look better than the old one? The most vital findings from analyzing and breaking down social conversations can be used to update products and services to match expectations and increase lead referrals.

A final note
It is my personal opinion that social media presence should always move the attention of the existing/ prospective customers for any company back to the official website and publications. In this manner, marketing awareness, accountability and timelines are directly linked to the company's performance. Social media should be use to reach out, increase exposure and generate new connections. Social media is the real-time “word-of-mouth” aspect of customer strategy and its effect can be directed and amplified through the facilitation of a robust financial CRM solution, giving both upper management and customer service an advantage in providing the best customer satisfaction.


Understanding the Basics of 'Scalability' for CRM Software

What is scalability?
Ensure uptime during peak hours

Scalability is a software design constraint that allows software developers to plan future changes to a software product to either upscale or downscale the scope of usage of the product. In the case of any Customer Relations Management system that is targeted to be a generic yet customizable application that is being sold to many different types of businesses, scalability is a big issue. Four criteria to consider when evaluating a CRM product for scalability:
1. Is your business a startup company seeking a Cloud CRM Software that will enhance your ability to deal with your customers and suppliers as you acquire them? Or, are you already a large business entity that has grown out of an obsolete system of Customer Relations Management and seeking a better CRM solution? Or are you somewhere in between?
2. Is your business rate of change based on business growth, products' expansion? Is it increasing or decreasing? Adding employees or downsizing?
3. What is the forecasted business 5, 10 and 15 year plan in relation to the initial outlay of resources allocated to Customer Relations Management?
4. What external factors to the business should be monitored in relation to business growth or business reduction?

Scalability must be designed into a product, the development tools used are important because each development environment is different in how it will allows changes to accommodate for greater future demand.

Why is scalability so important?
Imagine this, your organization's call center is receiving an unexpectedly high volume of calls and the agents are winning numerous cross-selling opportunities using the Cloud CRM software's holistic customer view to identify the best product matches. Suddenly, everybody's CRM interface freezes and they are logged-out - no access to real-time customer information! Conversations are disrupted, sales dropped unwillingly and customer perceptions dashed, the culprit - scalability! The IT team informs the management later that the CRM software could not scale the volume of concurrent logged-in users during peak hours!

Software development can become very tricky because of the need to change aspects of the software to accommodate changes in needs that did not exist at the time of the initial implementation of the software package. So, let’s take the example of the perfect program that has all of the functionality that is needed for your application (in this case Customer Service Management). 'Functionally' everything is good and your software does everything that you need it to do. Your business only needs 25 customer service representatives and they can all work from your main office on computers attached to your company network. What happens when your business all of a sudden has an increase in popularity over a short period of time? Say over a 2 year period the business expands and 2 new offices open in remote locations of the world and your customer service needs grow from 25 customer service representatives to 60 representatives. Now, the business has a situation where due to expansion,  your CRM software has to change from operating from a single server/20 workstation LAN, where all users are in the same location to providing the same access to required customer service and business operations data to multiple global locations and to 6 times the users! And, because your company is so successful, this is just the first expansion of business operations. Scalability determines how easy it will be to use the same CRM software that performs all of the functions that your company needs when providing to a much larger group of users and locations. Not all software development environments lend themselves to developing software that will be able to adapt flexibly and seamlessly to expanding needs of more users, more servers and more remote locations.

A typical business related scenario
Today's software is usually developed to run as applications that are accessible over a web link through a browser. This is much different than a stand alone program that runs off of the hard drive of the local computer. The latter has only one user and the application runs on one processor and all software functionality is performed locally between the user and the computer that they are working on. Any data is then transferred back to a centralized data storage device where it can be merged with the main data. The former being a web application that is accessed and operated through a browser URL is actually only displaying data via screens that are being served as a web page from a web server. The web server can be in a completely different location from where any given user is accessing the application because all the user needs is to have intranet access back to the main web server where the application is hosted.

Close to 100% uptime is necessary to run your business processes smoothly and encourage user adoption for your CRM software. "Downtime" is a dirty word for employees interacting with customers, using the CRM solution to build rapport and successfully win new customers or resolve complaints - being logged-out is a major roadblock, most will switch to using their planners. An optimal CRM solution will ensure consistent uptime around the clock, seamlessly upgrading users when required without affecting performance or customer loyalty.

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


The Art of Successful CRM Implementation

The manifold benefits of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software are understood, however, the success of any CRM solution lies is in its correct 'implementation'. Explained in this article are some basic and simple guidelines to a successful CRM implementation which can ensure that the intended CRM goals are achieved:

Clearly define requirements:
A very common mistake is that before gaining clarity on organisational objectives, and expected objectives and context of the CRM software, focus is shifted to the possible technology solutions. The right way to begin is to clearly understand and define organisational and program requirements, followed by defining the relevant objectives. Next, all the functions that the CRM solution needs to address should be identified. Core processes need to be understood too – for example, how does the organisation manage contact information when it is first received, how are appropriate data segregations made, how to analyse current data situations, how to mobilise support, etc. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of current data situations, every location that information is currently stored in must be itemised and analysed. Gaps, mistakes, and/or inefficiencies (if any), should be identified and weeded out. It is not wise to proceed directly to technology solutions until there is a very clear picture about current data situations and lost or missed opportunities.

Metrics:
It is crucial that the right people regularly look at customer related metrics – be it weekly, monthly, quarterly, or half yearly. More often, numbers are analysed better if it is for the organisation. The numbers should then be conveyed to the relevant decision makers through easily accessible CRM dashboards.

People management:
Apart from the technology side, it is crucial to give due attention to the people aspect.
  • Incentivize success: It is important to offer good incentives to the workforce, specific, appealing incentives to uphold the CRM strategy should be formulated. Organisational members who make significant contributions to improve key CRM metrics should be given due recognition and rewards.
  • Work culture: The organisation's cultural components should be well managed. 
  • Adequate training: Demonstrations, eLearning and trainimg should be imperative.
  • Spotlight key employees: Hands on attention should be given to the influential people in the organisation.
  • Accountability: Issues related to data ownership and management should be solved on time.
  • Improve performance: Adding constituent responsibilities to job descriptions and inclusion of key metrics in quarterly performance reviews is a good idea. 
Set realistic timelines for making changes:
When the decision to implement a CRM solution is taken, it is vital to resist any kind of internal and external pressures hinting towards hastiness. Organisations should set realistic timelines to absorb and accept changes in systems and processes, and to switch to more streamlined and organised solutions that CRM software introduce. While it is productive to bring about process changes and to switch tools, the same can also be a disruptive and expensive with some CRM vendors. Organisations must thoroughly assess their capability to adapt to the change, both in terms of financial impacts, and also the ability of the workforce to adjust to the updated goals. In the interim period that a workforce gets adjusted to new processes and tools, there may sometimes be a temporary productivity downturn. In such a scenario, complete understanding and support should be provided in every possible way. Extra help, if required, should be brought in for a short time until a complete adjustment. This will ascertain that uncomplicated and easy buy-ins are obtained from all the people involved.

Define clear data quality strategies:
Inaccurate, duplicate, missing, and redundant data will attenuate the quality of reports and the overall CRM solution. It also reduces workforce motivation to use the system to its full capability. It is therefore necessary to define clear cut strategies for data quality management and not put too many people in charge of the same. Complete clarity about methods and sources of data collection, and how the data should be managed and entered is mandatory. Uniformity in the way that CRM tools collect data is important too – for example, naming conventions for user interfaces should be easily understood across teams and territories. Opt for a solution that assists in regularly purging duplicates and ensuring clean data.

5 Benefits of CRM success

Leads
A well managed CRM solution assists in organising business leads and company contacts, it helps in lead management and reduces monotonous daily tasks, and also elevates conversion ratios. CRM also helps ensure that the business is always up-to-date about activities relating to existing as well as potential customers.

Emails
Effective CRM software can work across multiple email providers/ platforms, and enable users to send instant replies with auto-populated personalized messages. It also helps identify emails from specific IDs or domains and assign messages based on their subject line or body's content. Using a CRM solution, users are also empowered to organise and sync customer data with preferred email clients through dynamic and manual mailing lists.

Real-time Feeds
CRM applications can display real time information and updates about customers’ current activities and areas of interest. The software compiles data originating from multiple sources and presents it in popular formats to provide additional intelligence required for working more effectively.

Task Management
CRM solutions make task management much simpler. Especially where there is work and data overload, and a streamlined system is required to sort and categorise information, CRM systems are a boon. Users can create, update and delete appointment, log-a-call, ToDo and other related records whenever required.

Performance Management
One of the most important functions of a CRM solution for many organizations is performance analysis. To name a few advantages, CRM software helps in making comparisons between results and projections, shows the quantum of business being generated from established customers and expected from leads, and also exhibits number of customers gained or lost in a particular time period. With the recent introduction of social performance management, teams from across geograpies can work collaboratively to improve performance and increase repeat business.

Conclusion
A CRM solution is only as good as its effective implementation, utilization and management. Reviews and updations related to CRM enhancements and features are essential from time to time too. When implemented well, CRM solutions can go a long way in bringing numerous benefits to organisations – be it boosting sales and productivity, accuracy in forecasts, ease in management of customer data, customer activity tracking, etc. A company can successfully manage gigantic volumes and variety of customer information, and become extremely efficient and organised when an excellent CRM solution is implemented in the best way possible.