Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crm Faq: Crm And Your Business

* What exactly is CRM?

CRM means Customer Relationship Management. This is a method used by businesses or enterprises to organize and manage customer relationships. It has methods, software, software and web-based capabilities. It is about being aware of customer needs and responding to them efficiently.

* What is eCRM?

eCRM is basically a customer service, self-service web application, sales force automation tools, or the analysis of a customer?s buying behavior on the internet.

* How does customer relationship management benefit a business?

There are many benefits that CRM can provide for a business. CRM can and will help a business if you use it properly. By doing so, your business can really profit and keep your customers loyal. Here are some benefits that CRM can give you:

- Collect customer details, order history, and other vital data.

- Suggest ideas for selling products more effectively.

- Develop more efficient communication channels.

- Identify customer preferences.

* Is it better to have an in-house CRM program or to outsource it?

It depends; both outsourced and in-house CRM have their own pros and cons. It is up to you to choose what will suit your needs. If you are a beginner in CRM, it is probably better to outsource it at first.

* What kinds of CRM Help Desk software are available?

There is a lot of available CRM software in the market today. You can download it through the Internet or you can obtain a program through your local software store or computer shop. However, it is recommended that you first download the free version of a CRM software from the internet and try out which type suits your needs best.

* What tips can you offer for finding good CRM software?

You have to consider some factors in order to find good CRM software that you can use easily and effectively. Here are some of the things you should consider:

- Ease of use

- Ease of maintenance

- Essential tools and features

* What types of automated answering systems are available?

Automated answering systems in a call center are important to improve customer service. There are different types of automated answering systems used in a call center. Here are two of them:

- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

- Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

Chad Ivins is editor of CRM-i, the online guide to Customer Relationship Management. He also writes CRM FAQ's for PrettyGreatAnswers.com.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Crm End-state

Most strategic planning methodologies are built upon a triad of convergent processes that are a variation of a) evaluation and review, b) definition of goals/objectives and c) mapping route(s) to goals. This methodology has enjoyed certain success, but as applications evolve and can incorporate the softer side of automation and processing, strategic planning should also include another triumvirate of activities, d) visualization of the end-state, e) study of current situation and identify gaps to end state and f) identify actions that will close the gap.

Strategic Planning Overview for CRM Projects

Strategic plans typically look five or more years into the future and differ from tactical plans, which look two to four years into the future.

The early triad of activities for strategic planning, mentioned above, were appropriate for fixed solutions, and for expensive development projects that had limitations due to technologies and/or funding. With the advent of online CRM, it is possible and prudent to include triumvirate strategies to expedite deployment of new functionality available with on-demand CRM/ERP solutions.
There are a number of possible ways to identify barriers to success, and also some best practices that help to address these barriers. The following pages provide a good general reference for on-demand CRM deployments from a vendor's perspective.

Incorporate End-State Strategies for Successful CRM

1.Clearly define the objective, or end-state.
Identify major disconnects in technology, embrace and manage changes wholeheartedly.

2.Assessment and analysis.
Pursue change and improvement, challenge old policy/procedures that can be changed or eliminated as part of process automation and improvement. Identify technical and procedural redundancies and clearly identify gaps.

Plan to identify and capture information that supports use of end-state metrics.

3.Honestly evaluate the feasibility of the end-state objective
Identify questions that help clarify the end-state vision. Establish roles and responsibilities for evaluation input. Consider the barriers to change and closing the gaps.

Eliminate traditional rituals in planning that strangle opportunities to leap forward. Truly address impediments to customer service and increased revenue. Ensure Strategy and Tactics are in line with desired end-state.

5.Closing Gaps

Identify Benefits: What to be expected from implementing a CRM solution?
Plan Actions: What will be done?

Identify/Delegate Responsibilities : Who will be the corporate sponsor and who will be in charge of the project?

Scheduling: When will the project start? When will it be completed?

Resourcing: Identify what is needed: people, money, information, other resources?

Establish Metrics & Set Rewards: How will progress be measured and reported?

Contingency Planning: What will be done if results fall short?

Strategic Planning Pitfalls

There are several activities that come into play when deploying new processes/solutions. They typically fall into the categories of strategy and tactics. In general, strategic plans can fail for several reasons: inappropriate strategy, conflicting tactics and poor implementation. The strategy is the high level plan and the tactics are basically the actions that happen to support and deploy elements of the strategic plan. Do good work on the triad and triumvirate planning components and have good contingencies in place to work around problems.

- Strategic Difficulties

- Failure to define the desired end states correctly

- Analysis irrelevant to the desired end state(s)

- Lack of creativity in identifying possible strategies

- Poor gap analysis

Conflicting Tactical Activities

In preparing and delivering components of the strategic plan, it is important to ensure tactics used do not undermine strategy. It often happens innocuously, often in an effort to maintain the status quo, or from a lack of information, but these tactics can gain purchase, and pull the strategic plan apart.

- Actions taken/not taken because of perceived threats to established processes
- Missed opportunities or compromises because of resistance/misunderstanding
- Too many ad-hoc activities/actions by too many people from within the organization
- Actions taken/not taken no longer support the strategic plan

End State Disappointments

Difficulties delivering because of lack of resources/abilities due to over estimation of resources and or time and/or loss of senior management support.

- Inaccurate forecasting of financial requirements
- Failure to manage expectations and coordinate tactical
- Ineffective change management strategies

Use Professional CRM Services ? Before and After Deployment

There are many components to delivering a CRM solution that is often the most appropriate, and best, business solution to improve cash flow and position for future markets. Taking the time to consult with your CRM solution provider is critical to a successful deployment because you want them to understand and be participants in delivering the desired end-state.

Have a set of measurable improvements in mind that can be used as both deliverables and to determine the success of the deployment in business terms, not just technical.

Post Deployment Metrics

Some possible metrics that can be used to track the success of a CRM deployment might include the following:

- Track qualified leads generated at the same/lower cost
- Track ability/ease of converting prospects to customers
- Track the customer share growth
- Track customer loyalty and retention rates
- Track cost of selling/servicing customers
- Track employee efficiency/improvements/feedback, etc.

SalesboomTM is a world leader in delivery of on-demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. Salesboom has over 28,000 subscribers from the SMB sector, with 3,400 customers in over 154 countries around the world. Salesboom.com web services solutions drive innovation, enable business realignment, and enriches customer relations across the enterprise.

Katie Campbell, consultant and writer. Has worked in IT sector in government, private and non-profit sectors with focus on technology and knowledge management. Tracking new technologies in CRM like http://www.salesboom.com

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Your CRM System Destined To Fail?

Its time to put your trusty CRM software to work; to let it earn its keep. You're about to blast an email out to several thousand potential customers. First you run a search of people and companies you want to target. You soon realize somethings wrong when your list is far smaller than anticipated. A quick check reveals many profiles have not been filled in or are missing email addresses. Further inspection shows numerous records are incorrect; others are riddled with typos. And thats just for starters. With a sinking feeling, you realize this email blast isnt going to happen anytime soon.

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 write a standard guideline document, defining the CRM system rules of use.

10 questions that should be addressed:

1. Identify who has what rights to the system; who can Create, Insert, Modify or Delete records? Forward this information to your system administrator to record.
2. 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.
3. Do you allow abbreviations or acronyms? For example: IBM, or I.B.M, or International Business Machines Inc. A policy on ensuring consistency of input will help to avoid duplications in future.
4. Are records going to be created in Upper and Lower case and when are CAPS acceptable?
5. By when do you expect records, notes and so on to be created or updated? Same day, on return to the office?
6. Is the primary address of clients to be created as a postal or a physical address?
7. Make sure everyone checks spellings if they are unsure. When in doubt, ask the client or Google it.
8. Make rules for creating new tabs or Custom Objects (as salesforce.com CRM calls them.) Every time a new Custom Object is needed, it should first be approved.
9. Ensure that email addresses are put in correctly. Basic but common mistake!
10. Set up procedures, if not supported by your crm software, of how to create records from inbound emails.

Once your document is finished, get everyone to sign off on it. As standard practice, ensure that document is handed to all new employees at your company.

How do I reinforce this as time goes on?
Try this: select a couple of records - both good and bad - every week, to put on the overhead at staff meetings. Make sure you dont 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.

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. Dont compromise this critical tool by allowing your CRM software to be infected by inferior data.

David Cowgill is a Senior Marketing Manager in San Francisco. His coverage area focuses on the technologies that facilitate managing CRM analytics and lead generation.

For further information contact:
David Cowgill
CRM Blog Founder

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How BPM Improves CRM

How BPM improves, CRM can be understood with the fact that it is difficult for a company to achieve the target of customer profitability in the absence of a business performance management or BPM system. Different CRM software provides different facilities. Some of the CRM packages help with the transactional customer data only. On the other hand, some other packages are capable of making very wide customer analysis. However, no matter how much advantage financial experts of the company may seek, they have to relate this information with the important factors that affect the overall performance of a company. They need to balance the customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and operational quality control.

Comparatively, not so interesting people in the filed of finance when talk about how BPM improves CRM, put forth an interesting analogy. They compare the situation of analyzing data from the CRM tool for leveraging BPM by a company with the person who has poor vision first time puts on spectacles. Confusions surrounding the customer profitability metrics are no more. Similarly, misrepresent perceptions, regarding the behavior of customer when we use very different data sources, have also become irrelevant.

Figuring Out Most Profitable Products; The views of many financial executives are changing regarding how BPM improves CRM. They now see customers in a very different way. Customers are now a consolidated and comprehensive lot rather than a fragmented one. This has resulted in better understanding and improved relations with the every single customer they serve. Moreover, now companies can easily find out what are the products that are generating most profits. This has helped the companies to set the future targets more realistically.

Linking Data With Strategies; Another point that proves how BPM improve CRM is that companies were unable to connect the data and their business strategies when using data from enterprise resource planning or ERP system and CRM system. On the contrary, linking the data with the strategies is easy while using BPM system. Moreover, the distribution of important data becomes more efficient by using the combination of CRM and BPM capabilities. It also helps in locating and concentrating the geographical areas where maximum profitability is expected. According to financial experts, it is not the tool that affects your company?s performance, but it is the way you move the information. What is the point in having so many systems if the information is not reaching to the right person at the right time?

Finally, we can say that BPM system, if used with a right approach, can help the company in taking maximum advantage from the CRM software asset.

Alexander Gordon is a writer for http://www.smallbusinessconsulting.com - The Small Business Consulting Community. Sign-up for the free success steps newsletter and get our booklet valued at $24.95 for free as a special bonus. The newsletter provides daily strategies on starting and significantly growing a business.

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