Saturday, December 29, 2007

ACT Information And Its Customer Relationship Management - Systems

You’ve heard other companies talk about their ACT CRM—or customer relationship management—systems and how their companies have been streamlined by the efficiency and easy-to-use features offered by ACT software. Where do you turn to find more ACT information? The most ACT information is available on act.com. This is the main page run by the company that makes ACT, Sage, and is therefore the most likely to provide you with plenty of ACT information.

Sage’s ACT information includes detailed descriptions about the different kinds of ACT products and solutions to common customer relationship management problems. Did you know that you can install ACT software into one self-employed person’s home office computer to make an ACT information database or that you can install it into hundreds of computers in one corporation network, even access the ACT information database from Palm handhelds and other PDAs, making a virtually endless ACT information database network?

Look at Sage’s Web site for more ACT information. What exactly can an ACT information database do for you? It can not only organizes the names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers of all of your clients and business partners, but it also allows you to keep a record of conversations with, observations of, and meetings with your contacts for a complete ACT information database. Organize your ACT information database with keywords, categories, and subcategories to make searching for clientele who match certain goals of a marketing campaign a matter of a few seconds’ worth of work.

Run entire marketing campaigns through your ACT information database in mere minutes. Use your ACT information database’s features to print out mailing labels and a list of fax machine numbers of your clientele who might be interested in your new service—clientele you were able to find in seconds thanks to your ACT information database. Automatically send e-mails to those clients and even use your ACT information database’s marketing templates, graphics, and plans to create dynamic material to sell your goods.

Sage’s ACT information Web site also claims that their software helps you and your employees keep track of project deadlines, meetings, and other scheduling events with the ACT information database’s calendar feature. See your daily, weekly, and monthly project goals and client follows-ups as well as your work week schedule with your ACT information database—even send automatic e-mails to customers who need responses by a certain date.

Sage says you can use your ACT information database to forecast sales trends at the click of a button. Using all of your ACT information to put together sales reports will save you time and money otherwise spent to mine that information through manual means. Your ACT information database can be compatible with programs such as Microsoft Word, Outlook, Outlook Express, MapPoint, and Excel; Win Fax; Adobe Acrobat Reader; Eudora; and Lotus Notes. Need any further ACT information? Speak with Sage directly or ask an IT service company in your area.

Frank J Vanderlugt owns and operates http://www.act-software-now.com

Act Software

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Improving Your Customer Relationship Management With Blogging Technology

Before I address the following questions: What is a blog? and What can a blog do for your business?, let me pose a few "What if . . ." questions to you.

Keeping in mind that before your prospects and customers buy from you, they need to know you, like you, and trust you. In other words, they need to know, whether overtly or covertly, that they have a trusting and ongoing relationship with you. What better way to accomplish for them to get to know you, trust you, and like you than with a blog?

Now, here are my "What if . . ." questions:

* What if less than two minutes after creating and publishing your blog, it were to be promoted to thousands of prospects without any extra effort or cost on your part?

* What if your blog gave you immediate access to hundreds of international prospects?

* What if you had immediate access to hundreds of prospects in your city, state, or country who had interests and hobbies similar to yours?

* What if every time someone clicks on a hyperlinked keyword in your Profile that describes your hobbies, occupation, industry, favorite books, movies, music, or artist, your blog pops up?

* What if every time you left a comment on someone elses blog, you could leave a hyperlink to your website, blog, or email? (a mini no-cost commercial!)

* What if whenever someone enters your name or business name (completely or partially) into a major search engine, your website or blog pops up in their search results?

* What if every time you post content on your blog, it would bypass the spam filters and instantaneously appear on your subscribers desktop without any extra effort or cost on your part? (- an excellent opportunity to get your sales, special messages, or time-sensitive announcements into their hands, or actually in front of their eyes!)

* What if your satisfied customers had the opportunity to place their self-generated testimonies on your blog? (Although some will take the initiative to do so, others might need encouragement. That's all right. Just make an incentive opportunity of it! Offer some incentive for their efforts.)

By now you should be beginning to see the powerful marketing potential a blog offers you. These are just some of the powerful customer relationship management features a blog offers you.

But wait! There's yet more!

* What if you were to combine these powerful features with other online and offline efforts such as a blogathon, teleseminar, webinar, online articles, and others?

* What if doing so would enhance your customer relationship management?

* What if doing so would decrease returns and refunds?

* What if doing so would increase sales?

Think about it! I realize that successful marketing and sales are still high-touch entities; however, I also realize that when you combine your high-tech efforts with your high-touch efforts, you're bound to be successful!!!

Now to answer the original questions, What is a blog? and What can a blog do for your business?:

A blog, short of web log, is an interactive web-based journal that encourages participation from viewers. It looks like and does everything a website does and more! A blog serves as an excellent supplement to your website and other marketing efforts. Entries, called posts, are published by date on the page according to your predetermined quantity and are archived in the margin according to your predetermined frequency.

A blog offers your business countless marketing options. Specifically, a blog:

* gives viewers, prospects, customers, and subscribers who might have had difficulty in the past immediate access to you.

* helps to reduce your time spend distributing emails and other messages.

* improves your content delivery rates by 100%.

* improves your search engine rankings.

* publishes constantly fresh content.

* bypasses spam filters completely.

* improves your online visibility.

* enhances your web presence.

* generates more visitors.

and more . . .

So, if you don't already have a blog, I only have one question for you: What are you waiting for?!?

Don't let this cutting-edge technology, this powerful marketing tool, pass you by. Online companies are popping up all over the internet offering you free blogs. My recommendation is that you grab one, or two or more! Most, if not all, are extremely easy to create, but may be time-consuming, according to your already hectic schedule, to maintain.

If that's the case in your situation, you might want to call in outside help. Consider the high school computer techie next door, or the college-age computer-major son or daughter of a friend who could always use a few extra bucks.

I leave you with this wish: May you always be successful in looking for and using new and creative ways to maximize your earning potential.

Remember: When you maximize your potential, we all win! When you dont, we all lose.

Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, Management Consultant and Trainer, conducts lectures, seminars, and workshops, and writes articles on: ... helping you maximize your potential for individuals, schools, small businesses, and non-profit organizations, Reach him at http://www.MasterBlogBuilder.com/

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Is Your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System Doomed To Fail?

“Right, People. Let’s blast out that mail campaign we’ve been planning for so long.”

It’s time to put your trusty CRM software to work; to let it earn its keep. You run a search of people and companies you want to target.

You soon realize something’s wrong when your list is far smaller than anticipated. A quick check reveals many profiles/categories have not been filled in, impacting your search results. Further inspection shows numerous records are incorrect; others are riddled with typos. And that’s just for starters.

With a sinking feeling, you realize that last push isn’t going to happen in a hurry.

Time for some Damage Control or Preventative Maintenance.

Fortunately one of the most common reasons cited for the high failure rate of CRM systems - poor data quality - is also one of the easiest to avoid.

Your CRM software is only as good as the information it contains. As the old programmers motto goes ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

So how can you avoid incomplete, incorrect, irrelevant or out-of-date and generally unfit-for-use data from permeating your CRM software?

You need to gather your key CRM users together and thrash out a DATA CAPTURE PROCEDURE document, defining the rules of use.

Spell out:

• Who has what rights to the system; who can Create, Insert, Modify or Delete records, assuming your software supports all these functions? Forward this information to your system administrator to action.

• Decide on a procedure to check for any duplicates before creating a record. Depending on what ‘de-duping’ or ‘data scrubbing’ features your system has, this might require some simple searches before starting a new record.

• Do you allow abbreviations or acronyms? For example: IBM, or I.B.M, or International Business Machines Inc. or Incorporated and so on. A policy on ensuring consistency of input will help to avoid duplications in future.

• Are records going to be created in Upper and Lower case and when are CAPS acceptable?

• By when do you expect records, notes and so on to be created or updated? Same day, on return to the office?

• Check to see whether your Postal Services have specific requirements. Ensure your data meets these criteria.

• Is the primary address of clients to be created as a postal or a physical address?

• Make sure everyone checks spellings if they are unsure and do not trust spellchecker! When in doubt, ask the client – they’ll respect that. Is it Clark with an ‘e’; Shawn, Sean or Shaun? One certain way to get your mail binned is to spell someone’s name incorrectly.

• Also confirm the kind of corporation e.g. LLC, Inc, PTY Ltd. and so on.

• Make rules for creating new profiles or User Definable Fields (UDF) (or whatever your specific CRM software calls them.) Place a lot of emphasis on this. Every time a new UDF is needed, it should first be approved. Otherwise duplicates will permeate your database e.g. Lead Source: Yellow Pages, YP, yelo pages.

• Ensure that email addresses are put in correctly. Basic but common mistake!

• Set up procedures, if not supported by your software, of how to create records from inbound emails.

• If applicable, are you going to use Mandatory/Forced fields?

You might as well address the issue of Backups while you are about it.

• Who is the responsible person for backing up your databases/s? Who covers for them when they are absent or unavailable?

• How frequently are backups to be done? Diarise!

• How are backups done e.g. by the Grandfather, Father, Son method.

• Ensure backups are made on good quality CD’s or whatever format you are using. It’s no good doing a backup, then finding on attempting a Restore that it doesn’t work! It is also a good idea to copy backups onto more than one data format.

• Where are the backups to be stored?

• Are the backups secure? This is important for both security and practical reasons.

Once your Data Capture Procedure Document is finished, get everyone to sign it off as READ!

As standard practice, ensure that document is handed to all new employees at your company.

Refer back to this document for possible revision every three months or so.

Try this: select a couple of records - both good and bad - every week, to put on the overhead at staff meetings. Make sure you don’t unduly embarrass anybody but watch this become the light-relief highlight of your meetings! People learn best when having fun!

What if your database is in one unholy mess?

Has the rot set in so deeply that your database needs a complete overhaul? Turn this seemingly insurmountable task into an opportunity to you. This is an excellent excuse to re-establish contact with your clients and let them know you care. You can always put lapses down to data crashes but tell them you have fixed the problem!

Importantly, help your staff understand what you need from the data to facilitate more accurate marketing and reporting and hence the success of your business and their careers.

By creating a sense of pride and ownership in the company database, you are nurturing the essential process of buy-in, necessary for the success of your CRM initiative. Don’t compromise this critical tool by allowing your CRM software to be infected by inferior data.

About The Author

Perry Norgarb has specialized in Small Business CRM solutions for the last 15 years.

Contact him or find out more about CRM, Contact Management and other Sales Tracking software tips and solutions for small businesses at: http://www.smallbizcrm.com/

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The Inbound Call Center and Customer Relationship Management

Call centers are created by organizations to receive inbound calls for varied day-to-day business reasons. Since companies invest tremendous amounts of money into customer- care relationships, they carefully monitor customer perceptions of their efforts to serve them. There’s a growing awareness in the business community that customers are unhappy dealing with computerized message delivery systems. Callers tend to perceive interactive voice response systems (IVR), voicemail, and even a standalone answering machine as too formal and not user friendly. Call centers and answering services that feature live phone operators are viewed much more positively by callers, and give companies a more personal, caring and relaxed image.

Inbound calls to any organization generally fall into one or more categories; calls are placed to obtain information, report a problem or error, or ask for assistance. This is different than outbound calls placed by a sales agent with the purpose of selling a product. This practice is known as telemarketing, which entails a different set of methods and requirements for successful operation. Inbound call centers can be expensive to run, but they are invaluable to today’s businesses.

Companies increasingly outsource their call center needs to large call center companies located in India, The Philippines and some parts of Latin America where there is a large population of professionals who are fluent English speakers. Overseas outsourcing isn’t always necessary. There are many call centers located throughout the United States that large and small companies utilize for inbound customer service and sales calls.

The definition of routine business is constantly expanding to include transactions that used to be handled on site, in person. Call centers offer more to inbound callers than simple message taking, order taking and the like. Call centers are quickly growing to meet the needs of retailers, taking orders for fast-food giants and local restaurants. The agents are taking orders for flowers, gourmet food items, direct-to-video DVDs and just about any other product that’s sold on the open market. Some large call center companies are broadening their range of offerings by increasingly dealing in complicated solutions aimed at low-cost service enhancements. Bundled with automatic services, live inbound call centers thrive all over the globe.

Ira Spere is a writer for EFLS . com where you will discover a wealth of resources on inbound call centers and other related information.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

The Reality About Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

While Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology has promised much, the reality for many has been disappointing. Industry analysts estimate 50-60% of implementations fail, or produce marginal return on investment. Our exposure to small and medium enterprises (SME) suggests that this rate may well be significantly higher. The irony is that the problem lies less with the technology itself (though that may receive much of the blame), but in much more easily addressed flaws in the way that organizations approach and implement CRM projects.

CRM technology should help organizations generate more leads, convert a higher

proportion of them, and retain customers longer through enhanced service, and more profitably through the more effective promotion of additional products and services.

CRM technology is a unifying technology supporting the operational needs of ‘front-office’ departments such as sales, marketing, and customer support, sharing a single database of information about customers, prospective customers, channel partners, suppliers, competitors etc. The CRM database works as a central repository of data typically integrated into other key systems such as finance. The system is designed to be accessed remotely to meet the needs of organizations spread across multiple locations, and staff who may not be office based. Typically this unifying CRM technology aims to benefit marketing, sales and service departments.

Successful CRM isn’t that difficult, but there’s more complexity involved, and more commitment required than many organizations had envisaged. With greater levels of planning, executive support, and awareness of the challenges surrounding user adoption, organizations can effectively drive CRM technology to deliver the promised vision. With so many struggling to get it right, the rewards for those that do will remain very high.

In summary, CRM technology should help organizations generate more leads, convert a higher proportion of them, and retain customers longer through enhanced service, and more profitably through the more effective promotion of additional products and services. Our “Vision and Reality” white paper sets out our views on why this has happened, and outlines strategies for minimizing the risks and maximizing the returns from CRM.

Read more about why the current approach to CRM - Customer Relationship Management is marginalizing returns on investment and why you should work with an independent CRM consultant at http://www.mareeba.co.uk/

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CRM 101: Customer Relationship Management for Beginners

Customer Relationship Management, abbreviated “CRM,” is the term for a business strategy that is designed to improve customer service. CRM is also designed to increase customer satisfaction and gain new customers, thus increasing a business’ revenue. CRM is a term that can be applied to software and an entire business strategy.

How Does CRM Work?

Essentially, CRM works by gathering information about customers and analyzing the information collected. An example of this would be supermarket discount cards (I.E. Kroger Plus Cards, ACME cards, Giant Eagle cards, etc...). When a consumer scans his or her card, and then his or her items, the items that customer bought are entered into a database. This gives businesses an accurate idea of which customers buy what. Businesses then analyze this information. After analyzing the data collected, businesses can adjust their marketing campaigns and increase sales. Customer Relationship Management brings the company closer to the customer. CRM closes a “relationship gap” that can be formed between the business and its customers.

CRM is also useful for customer service. Businesses can use automated CRM applications to analyze customer complaints, or compliments, and change the business processes accordingly. Interestingly enough, CRM products also run many automated call-centers for businesses (I.E. customer service systems). CRM applications and practices are used to make businesses more efficient and improve customer satisfaction.

What Can a Business Gain From Using CRM?

There are many goals that businesses have when implementing CRM techniques and applications. The business wants to improve customer service, which will subsequently improve customer satisfaction. The business also wants to maximize revenue by advertising the right products to the right people. In other words, businesses want to know what customers want. Once a business finds what a customer wants through a CRM method, the business can then provide the customer exactly what he or she desires. This will lead to returning customers, and the gaining of new customers. CRM processes also are designed to monitor all of the contact between customers and companies. Maintaining a positive relationship with one’s customers is an essential element in business. Well-rounded CRM works to ensure that this element exists.

CRM Applications

CRM applications are applications that run on the same principals as Microsoft Word and Excel. There are many values that can be filled in. Once these values are filled in, the data needs to be analyzed and interpreted. A major advance in CRM application technology is the invention of applications, which can collect data, and analyze it at the same time. This new technology will make CRM even more effective and efficient.

Conclusion

For any business, successful Customer Relationship Management navigation is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive business world. Customer expectations are always increasing, and business services must increase along with these expectations. CRM is the method through which businesses can connect with their customers and therefore serve them better. Businesses with successful CRM strategy and applications will notice a large increase in sales, customer satisfaction, and simply the overall success of the business.

For the latest news and information concerning CRM, visit http://www.crmblog.org/. This site is updated daily by Mr. Scott Hawksworth. To visit this article, go to http://www.crmblog.org/2005/03/crm_101_custome.html.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Will Customer Relationship Management Work For You?

When CRM systems first hit the market the success rate was actually very low at around 30%. However today the success rate is much higher thanks to a much better understanding of what is needed. Now the question is will customer relationship management work for you?

You can recognize a return on invest of your CRM system providing you understand what it is you actually need. Companies that understand what it is they need gain maximum benefits from their CRM system. Consider each of these elements to help determine what the best CRM software is for your company.

Carefully Consider The Vendor

Your CRM software can only be successful if it can meet your company needs. Earlier programs had very little selection but most new software recognizes the individual needs of company’s so they allow for a much broader range of options and the ability to configure to a company’s individual needs.

That said not all software is created equal. Some CRM software specializes in collecting data and then analyzing it, others specialize in data management, while still others are linked with Enterprise Management so it is integrated with sales, shipping, invoicing, marketing, customer service, and even research.

That’s why it is so important to know what you need and then find a vendor that can meet those needs. Ask the vendor plenty of questions and make sure they can give you direct answers.

What Are Your Goals

Once you know which vendor you want to deal with it’s time to decide which products meet the needs of your company. Most reputable company’s offer a wide selection of solutions that you can choose from. A good CRM system will do a lot more then just keep track of your customers. It will track all conversations, questions, solutions, it will identify your customer’s demands, and it will provide valuable information for marketing and of course the ability to analyze data whether for research or to determine next season’s products.

What Are Your Customer Relationship Goals?

What do you want to do? Encourage your existing customers to buy more? Turn potential customers into customers? Do you want to build loyal customers for the long term? You need to answer this question to choose the right software.

What Data Do You Want To Collect?

You can’t get the right CRM software package unless you know what it is you need and what process you are going to use when it comes to the managing of your customer relationships.

What Business Processes Do You Need?

In order to get employees to participate fully they need to be comfortable with the process. Who interacts with the customers? What type of training does your staff need? Who analyzes the data? When you identify what you need and what the process is you will be able to find the right CRM program.

To ensure that you chose the right CRM software you need to know what it is you need – it’s that simple. So will customer relationship management work for you? That depends on how sound your purchase is. There are plenty of excellent CRM software programs on the market – you just need to choose wisely.

Sayed, is the lead CRM Analyst. His company provides, Microsoft CRM.

Sayed can be reached at Tel : (905) 815- 1995 ext 22,

email: mailto:asyed@cqsolutions.com.

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CRM For Beginners - Customer Relationship Management Basics

In order to maintain a successful business, the business must understand and maintain a positive relationship with its customers. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the process of bringing the customer and the company closer together. There are many different areas in which Customer Relationship Management can be implemented. The goal of CRM is to help a company maintain current customers, as well as gain new customers.

Targeted Marketing

Targeted marketing is accomplished through collecting information about the customer. This information can be buying habits or simply demographics. The idea behind this is that a business analyzes what a customer buys and then markets specific products to that customer based on his or her buying habits. Businesses track buying habits using discount cards, and special store credit cards. Targeted marketing can also be implemented on the Internet. Amazon.com has product recommendations based on buying habits, and product ratings. Customers can also be sent e-mails that market targeted products. Marketing the right products to the right customers can significantly increase a business' sales with minimal associated costs.

Call Centers and Customer Service

Have you ever called a business to complain or ordered a product and encountered an automated call response (I.E. “please press 1 for questions, 2 for comments” etc.)? That’s CRM. Call centers that take calls and monitor customer/business interactions are often running on hosted CRM programs. CRM managers want to make call centers as efficient and customer-friendly as possible. A customer who can easily navigate through an automated system is more likely to do business with the same company in the future. In the case of a complaint, a customer whose problems are responded to immediately is more likely to forgive and forget a company’s transgressions. Customer service is the backbone of all CRM processes and strategies.

CRM Vendors

Not surprisingly, in order to successfully collect data, manage call centers, analyze data, and make changes, businesses need CRM software. There are many CRM vendors in the world. The most widely-recognized vendors are Siebel, Salesforce.com, and Microsoft. Each of these vendors has contributed to CRM in its own way.

CRM Applications

There are many different types of CRM applications. Some CRM applications are Web-based so they can be accessed via a browser. Other CRM applications have programs built in for integrating data entries and data management across several applications. CRM vendors also have specific strategies that are unique to every client. The goal of a CRM vendor is to not only upgrade a company with the latest CRM technology, but also to design the companies infrastructure in such a way that the customer/company relationship can flourish.

Conclusion

Knowing the customer is the key to a successful business. Customer Relationship Management is the process through which a business analyzes their customers and makes changes accordingly. CRM vendors provide applications and advice on the best CRM methods. Most observers believe that CRM practices will continue to flourish as new CRM strategies and technologies are developed. For any business, a successful CRM approach is a must-have.

Matt Hogansworth writes about CRM software and other CRM topics.

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