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Stop, Reflect and Audit! The Foolproof CRM Solution

CRM, or customer relationship management, is a hot topic for the modern enterprise. Most project managers and executives see the inherent benefits CRM offers. And let’s be honest, what’s there not to like? Through the power of advanced technology, CRM can truly revolutionize the way an enterprise conducts business. From the way it collects information, to the way it processes that information and ultimately to the way that information feeds into an effective sales strategy, CRM is a powerful tool that can catapult any enterprise onto the digital scene. All this and we haven’t even scratched the service of CRM’s organizational benefits, or its ability to reduce costs and improve productivity.

Having said all that, the enterprise market is filled with CRM implementation failures. The internet is ripe with stories of companies that failed to implement CRM effectively. For many of these companies all that remains is a useless system that cost them so much time, effort and money. Why are there so many cases of failure? Why have companies failed to apply the same standards to CRM they apply to their other projects? In the digital age, time is money, and that money is more often than not tied to some underlying goal or project. Most companies today are project-driven. Each project requires careful planning if success is to be realized. So why have companies failed to apply the same planning to CRM? Why have they gone full steam ahead before testing the waters first? Before implementing any CRM solution, stop, reflect and plan before your proceed. In the case of CRM, the best way to plan is to select a prototype and test it before going live.

Testing the waters for CRM can be done any number of ways. One of those ways is through the design audit. After selecting your CRM vendor of choice, whether Microsoft, Infinity, Oracle or Sage, determine what you hope to get out of your CRM. Think about your current IT infrastructure and how it feeds into your overall sales, marketing, management and customer service activities. What does your company need that your current system cannot provide? The answer to this important question will lead you to the audit phase. Whether you choose an express or on-site audit, you want to use your vendor to your advantage and investigate your underlying needs.

With an express design audit, you get the technical requirements needed to get your CRM up and running. Most vendors provide a data import strategy, training plans, security guidelines, timelines and recommended steps. But if you truly want a foolproof CRM implementation, a full on-site design audit and prototype is just what you’re looking for. The on-site design audit usually takes a few days of on-site support and an additional week off-site. Your vendor will take care of all your CRM needs, including the development of a customized prototype. This CRM prototype includes: a customized database, hardware compatibility check, back office integration, data import mapping that preserves your existing data, detailed workflow and measurable reporting for all your processes (sales, marketing, customer service, etc) and a complete implementation plan that will have you up in running in no time.

The design audit provides the thoroughness and peace of mind you need to ensure that your initial investment doesn’t bankrupt you in the future. It means that you can move forward with your CRM system immediately and not worry about wearing hats that don’t fit. Sometimes the best decision a project manager or executive can make is to hire the experts. CRM implementation is not a simple undertaking. Your organization may have the technical capability, sales capacity and organizational structure to implement CRM, but combining all that into one, easy-to-use solution is not as straightforward as it may seem.

A design audit and prototype ensures that your business needs, goals and overall direction fit into the solution you are investing time and money into. By letting the pros assess your existing system, IT infrastructure and data requirements, you avoid biting off more than you can chew.

The first decade of the 21st century can be described as a CRM blunder. Most companies just haven’t gotten it right. But with the right vendor and organizational determination, your design audit can shed insights that can make your CRM aspirations a reality.

CRM begins with a plan. Set it in motion through a design audit. You’ll be glad you did.

 

The Most Unique CRM Strategy: Focus On You

Strengthen Your Weakness and Build on Your Success: The Case for CRM

If you’re a manager or executive thinking about optimizing organizational performance, sales and company growth, remember that you need a strategy, not a tactic, to implement these solutions. You need a long-term strategy to improve your company’s performance and overall potential. You need all the available tools that can help you achieve these goals at your immediate disposal. And you need to start now.

The problem with too many managers today is they come up with stand-alone tactics to solve complex challenges. While it may seem like the right move at the time, most tactics don’t address other needs or offer long-term solutions. If you’re a decision-maker looking to implement a complete strategy to meet your organization’s goals, CRM is just that strategy. When done correctly, this might be most successful solution you ever decided to get behind.

CRM, or customer relationship management, is a strategy for optimizing organizational performance. By enabling you to collect more information about your market, conduct customized analytics about your customers and manage all past, existing and future relationships with your stakeholders, CRM can put your company on the map. Unfortunately, there have been many implementation pitfalls throughout the years and stories of managers not getting anything out of their CRM efforts. This is because they treated CRM as a tactic and didn’t consider that, just like any strategy, CRM must be done right in order to be effective.

The absolute best CRM strategy is one that builds on your company’s best features and strengthens its weaknesses. While every CRM strategy should have certain aspects in common, it should be unique to your enterprise. Let’s face it: most decision-makers know where their strengths lie and what areas they have to improve upon. A CRM strategy therefore cannot be developed in isolation. Rather, it must be developed according to your specific needs. Therefore, every CRM implementation strategy should be unique. No two individuals are exactly alike and no two businesses are exactly the same. So why should we expect all CRM strategies to be exactly the same?

Perhaps part of the confusion comes with defining CRM. Most people think of it as a software package like Microsoft Office. You simply plug in and play. But that’s not the case. Not by a long shot. The software is simply the vehicle by which you implement your CRM strategy. The underlying software driving CRM enables you to take your management vision and make it a reality. Nobody denies its importance, but the moment you think of CRM as stand-alone software that can be downloaded or discarded is the moment you risk becoming part of the crowd that completely missed the boat on CRM.

CRM is an ongoing process that helps you identify the value of your existing customers and gives you the tools to attract new ones. The underlying objective of CRM is to better manage your relations with the people who make your business possible: your customers. Therefore, your goal should be to develop a lifetime relationship with each of your customers. With CRM, there is a plan for making this a reality. Through the power of advanced technology, you can put this plan to action, but not before understanding what CRM really means.

Do you want to create a CRM strategy that’s unique to your needs? Begin by identifying your best customers and your worst. Assign value to your customers. Find ways of becoming more relevant to each one. Strategize around finding new and innovative ways of reaching out to them. When you do so, your customer becomes customer-facing. Finally, measure your performance. How strong is your relationship with each customer? What can you do to improve your relations? Use what you learned to redefine your company’s focus. This will enable you to remain competitive in a market with short attention spans. Ultimately, find ways to stay relevant. This will ensure your company not only thrives, but survives.

A CRM strategy must begin by decoupling the CRM vision from the technology that underlies it. Doing so will help you get the most out of your CRM. Once you do this, the technology is there for the reaping.

The First Step to Successful CRM

In order for any successful strategy to be implemented, planning is required. Everything from the smallest procedure to the most complex task requires planning, evaluation and re-planning. Naturally, the more ambitious the task, the more planning that is required. Most organizations have found a great deal of success in the project plan. The 21st century digital economy is filled with project plans. In fact, the enterprise environment today is very much project-driven and success or failure is usually attributable to the outcomes of a project. So why would the implementation of CRM, or customer relationship management, be any different?

CRM is a hot button topic for many organizations. Most companies see the inherent benefits of CRM. And why shouldn’t they? CRM represents the next wave of enterprise management, business strategy and customer service. More than just a software solution, CRM can truly transform an organization, the way it conducts business and the amount of knowledge it can ascertain about its market. Unfortunately, there are many cases of implementation pitfalls—of companies failing to plan appropriately for CRM. What’s often left is a frustrated manager, confused staff and wasted resources. In order for any project to succeed, careful planning is needed every step of the way. In the case of CRM, a project plan might be the second step in the march toward implementation. What is needed first is a CRM pilot project that tests the waters before jumping in feet first.

In fact, if you work for a large enterprise, implementing CRM is best done one step at a time. This often involves piloting the solution before going live. Successful CRM implementation usually involves four components: design, development, implementation and evaluation. But before truly embarking upon this strategy with a committed vendor, start small. Identify a pilot project and set your company’s goals. Piloting CRM can generate enthusiasm, answer any questions staff may have and ensure your organization understands the value this system can bring.

There are many ways to go about this. Some vendors offer a 30 day pilot project or a design audit, which provide affordable test runs before investing large sums of time, effort and money into your CRM. At minimum, a 30 day pilot will let you know whether your company is ready for CRM and, if not, what you need to do to put yourself on the right footing. This might mean infrastructure upgrades. It might also mean a clearer roadmap of what your company wishes to accomplish with CRM. Or it might mean better training for existing staff. Whatever the case, a pilot ensures that you don’t enter into a CRM agreement without being fully prepared.

You can also pilot CRM within single department or establish a CRM steering committee that can define the criteria for implementation and promote organizational buy-in. Organizations can establish external steering committees made up of business partners who understand the technology. This may seem like a lot of work, but companies that have committed to CRM should be willing to go a bit further to ensure no implementation pitfalls down the road.

CRM provides a competitive edge to any enterprise looking to understand its market and improve its sales. The problem is that as many as two-thirds of all CRM projects fail. A pilot project may be just what your company needs to ensure it has the IT capabilities and internal commitment needed to successfully launch CRM and avoid becoming just another statistic.

Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluation: Your First CRM Demo

CRM, or customer service management, represents the next true shift in organizational management. Combining the power of technology with advanced marketing, CRM is the interface your company has been missing to unlock unlimited revenue growth and business opportunity. Today, businesses have the opportunity to leverage powerful technology to collect and organize more information about their customers, develop custom business analytics and employ a variety of marketing tools and sales strategies to not only attract consumers, but keep them long after the sale. How does CRM do it? How can your company implement CRM? Keep reading to find out.

A successful CRM implementation path requires just four steps. These four steps, which are demonstrated below, will show you not only how to implement CRM, but why CRM is more about organizational culture and business management than simply a software solution. Once you decide on a CRM strategy and have chosen the vendor that best meets your needs, it’s time to implement.

Design

Remember why you decided to implement CRM in the first place: at minimum, you want to use the power of technology to automate key aspects of your business, whether sales, data collection, analytics or outbound communication. At its highest, CRM can become the lifeblood of your company and transform how you interact with your market, collect information and use that information to drive sales. In order to design an effective strategy, you must first decide on a project team or, at minimum, a project manager. Even if you hire a vendor to implement your CRM, there should be a representative from your company leading the implementation effort on your behalf.

Next, you must define the project and its purpose. Who will benefit from CRM? How will you know when implementation has been successful? What are your short-term and long-term goals? Once you answer these questions, you are ready to implement a project plan. In this sense, treat your CRM implementation like any other project with a timeline and budget. This will ensure that the goals of implementation are clear throughout the process.

Develop

Next, it is critical that you prepare the environment in which CRM will be implemented. Do you have the internal capacity to integrate CRM? What are the infrastructure requirements and network configurations? What level of customization do you need? Once your team has identified the IT requirements and determined the system configuration, you should conduct a model review—that is, a full walkthrough and evaluation of the system. Flag any issues you think might adversely affect the implementation and address those issues with your team/vendor.

Implement

Once you have designed and developed your system, it’s time to train the main users of the CRM software and test the system. Does the system match your vision? Why or why not? How can it be enhanced? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can finalize the system configuration, conduct a final data migration, install the system in the appropriate workstations and go live with it.

Evaluate

You should be evaluating your system every step of the way. However, evaluation doesn’t end after implementation. Review your progress and measure the results of the implementation. Additionally, you must continue to support the implementation by answering staff questions, reviewing the project plan and preparing for likely adjustments you’ll need to make to optimize your system.

With all these processes in place, you’re on your way to enhancing your company’s productivity, communications, business intelligence and, ultimately, sales. Let’s be clear: you were wise enough to implement CRM in the first place. Don’t stop half way. Review the four-step process and ensure your company gets it right, no matter how many times it takes. After all, you owe it to yourself and your company to make CRM work.

Fill the Revenue Gap: The CRM Project Plan

CRM, or customer relationship management, is more than just software. It’s a business strategy, workflow process, and organizational pathway that gives your company all the tools it needs to succeed. CRM is the next wave of successful business management—a paradigm shift that combines what we already know about business with the power of technology, thereby enabling your business to communicate more effectively and develop the market intelligence it needs to not only attract customers, but keep them.

CRM enables all this and more. By reducing critical information shortfalls about the tastes, preferences and buying habits of your clients, your company can avoid the revenue gap facing most companies today. The revenue gap is the difference in revenue your company could make if your sales team had access to optimal information about your customers. The greatest competitive advantage a business can have is knowledge about its customers—their preferences, buying habits and, ultimately, what they expect to get out of their transactions. While most companies understand this, they have not taken the necessary steps to implement a system that can optimize their collection of valuable customer information. Without this vital information, businesses lack the market intelligence necessary to compete in a global economy that is bombarding consumers with more choices than they know what to do with. This is where CRM can truly transform your business.

With a sound CRM system in place, your company can enhance its productivity, efficiency and communications, all while retaining more valuable information about your market. This naturally improves your company’s decision-making process, reduces the sales cycle and, above all, enhances customer satisfaction. Let’s face it: running a successful business is all about the customer. By enhancing the customer experience, whether through faster services or products that better meet their needs, you ensure that your customer keeps coming back.

While all of this may seem like a complex undertaking, all it takes is seven steps. That’s right. Your company is a mere seven steps away from unlocking all of the benefits that CRM has to offer. With this project plan in hand, you can implement a sound CRM strategy that can leapfrog you over your competitors and start filling that revenue gap almost right away.

Once you choose your vendor, whether Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Netsuite or any other, implementation requires only seven steps. Work with your vendor each step of the way to ensure that the implementation is smooth and successful.

1. Automate your business processes

  • We know that manual tasks are time-consuming, cumbersome and are prone to human error. By automating your businesses processes, you’re well on your way to enhancing productivity, improving data quality and reducing costs. There are several examples of automation. Some examples include inputting data from online forms, flagging sales opportunities, call scripting for telemarketing and workflow. The types of processes your business already uses will ultimately be what you decide to automate.

2. Choose a location for your database

  • Depending on your vendor, you will likely have one of three locations for storing your data: on-premise, hosted or online.

3. Identify security guidelines

  • Who will access the CRM database? Will users be allowed to export data? Are there sensitive data that need to be hidden? Is an authentication code required to access the database? These are some of the questions you will have to answer before implementing your CRM system.

4. Integrate CRM with the rest of your system

  • CRM can be optimized only by linking it with other software packages currently in use, including e-mail systems, product databases, Sharepoint, ERP or other data sources.

5. Work with your vendor to ensure that your IT infrastructure can support CRM integration

  • Naturally, a business cannot enjoy the benefits of CRM if its underlying IT infrastructure is out of date or cannot support the CRM application. Ensure that the CRM system you choose can be supported internally.

6. Keep it simple

  • If you’re reading this, you likely haven’t integrated CRM or perhaps tried to at one point but didn’t succeed. In the beginning, keep the system simple and give access to only a small group of users before expanding use to the rest of the company.

7. Train your staff

  • A well trained staff can make all the difference in the world whether your CRM implementation succeeds or not. If you are willing to invest in CRM, you should be willing to go a step further to ensure that staff is capable of using the software optimally.

That’s it—a CRM project implementation plan in seven easy steps. If committed, you will find that the biggest hurdle was making the decision to invest in a software upgrade in the first place. The upside is that CRM is much more than just software. With the right support, staff participation and willingness to consolidate your business processes under one system, you can truly transform your business. Luckily, your vendor will be there every step of the way to ensure smooth transition and tackle any challenges you may encounter.

CRM Workflow: Define Your Industry’s Best Practices

In recent years the concept of best practice has permeated business discussions in every sector of the economy. This buzzword is important because it answers the following questions: what method has consistently shown superior results than those achieved through other means?What are the best methods my company can use to ensure success on a consistent basis? While the concept of best practice may be overly general and somewhat simplified, there is reason to believe that every industry has a set of guiding principles that can maximize success.

Regardless of which industry your company operates in, one thing is clear: in a global digital economy, technology is the leverage to success. Without technology—namely, advanced technology—your company will find itself unable to tread the floods of global competition. So what is the key to developing best practice? For starters, integrating a system that provides your company with the necessary business intelligence to access new markets, attract customers and retain them is absolutely essential. This is where the power of CRM comes into play.

CRM, or customer relationship management, represents a paradigm shift in how businesses operate, communicate and market their products and services. CRM is a full-scale management strategy that combines the power of IT with the creativity of marketing, thus enabling your company to manage the simplest relationships to the most complex, all through an attractive, easy-to-use interface.

Let’s be clear: today’s business environment is rapidly changing. In a global marketplace, new tastes and consumption trends abound daily. With so many options out there, consumers have very little incentive to remain loyal to your brand. At the same time, attracting a customer some of the time isn’t enough to keep your business thriving. In order to truly succeed, you must not only attract that customer, but retain them as well. This may seem like a great challenge, but with CRM, it has never made more sense. Below is a simple CRM workflow that can give your company the market intelligence it needs to not only attract customers, but keep them for life.

1. Collect customer information

  • Collecting information on your customers is vital, but this isn’t limited to their name, age, gender, or transaction data. Although this information is important, so too is asking the questions why or how. Why did a customer do business with you? How are they using your products and services? Asking these questions allows you to develop the business intelligence you’ll need to lock them in for life.

2. Analyze your customer’s information to predict future behaviour

  • We’ve already established that you need to retain your customers if you want to grow a profitable business. By analyzing your customer’s data, you can identify patterns, interests and habits, which can allow you to predict future behaviour or develop products and services that are relevant to them.

3. Apply the results of your analysis: market your product

  • With information about your customers and their preferences in hand, you can now test your hypothesis by marketing your products and services. After all, you want to grab your customers’ attention by tapping into their interests. Whether through television, newspapers, e-mail, internet or some other means, apply what you learned about your customers through a targeted marketing campaign.

4. Measure your results and repeat the workflow process

  • Was your hypothesis correct? Did you meet your sales targets? Why or why not? Evaluate the effects of your marketing strategy and revisit each step of the workflow. Where necessary, re-visit your hypothesis and be prepared to ask your customers different questions if the results weren’t what you expected or hoped for.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, and it very well might be, but forming relationships with your customers and managing those relationships in an organized way is essential to long-term success. Luckily, there are many—and we mean many—savvy software programs out there that can make this process much more manageable. Whether you choose Microsoft, Salesforce, Netsuite, Oracle or any other vendor, the tools are out there to put this workflow into action.

A sound CRM workflow powered by advanced technology has the potential to revitalize your business and transform your company’s marketing strategy. Be part of the revolution. Integrate CRM into your business and educate your employees on its potential. It could very well be the smartest investment your company ever makes.

The next time you think about industry best practice, ask yourself if it includes utilizing advanced technology to create an organized workflow that helps you better understand your customers. If it doesn’t, perhaps we need a new buzzword.

CRM: The Greener Pastures are on This Side of the Ocean

Customer relationship management (or CRM) has been a staple of business for as long as people have been exchanging goods and services for money. The goal of selling your product and keeping the customer after the sale remains one of the most important tenants of a successful business. Although the goal of retention hasn’t changed over the years, the information technology and sophistication surrounding customer relationship management has evolved leaps and bounds over previous generations. Today, CRM requires its own strategy. By combining marketing efforts with technology, CRM enhances business intelligence and helps manage the simplest relationships to the most complex. But in order to truly optimize their CRM, businesses need to be aware of the implementation pitfalls.

Research conducted by Gartner shows that more than half of all CRM implementations fail and a survey by the National Retail Federation in the U.S. showed that only 30% of companies are getting the most out of their CRM. Most enterprises simply don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to fully operate and integrate their CRM services. Some businesses may be strong on the technology side and others may be equally as strong in marketing, but striking the balance between IT and marketing while involving a large database of names and getting employees to buy-in is a much more difficult task. Luckily, North America is a hot-bed of world class companies specializing in CRM management, implementation and support.

North American service giants like Oracle and Salesforce provide full scale automation of sales, marketing, customer services and remote support. At the same time, Salesforce and other cloud providers are revolutionizing the business environment through cloud provision and, more specifically, software as a service (SaaS). Through the cloud, businesses can have their CRM up and running at reduced costs; start-ups and small firms can implement CRM with very little up-front costs or infrastructure requirements. Simply plug-in and purchase a basic CRM subscription through one of North America’s emerging cloud providers—be it Salesforce, Rackspace Hosting or the rest of the emerging market that is opening the doors to cloud-based CRM and other IT services.

Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft are all headquartered in North America, with well established footprints in communities from coast-to-coast. North of the border, Canadian owned and operated Salesboom has emerged as a dominant global player, now offering its services to 159 countries. So why go elsewhere with your CRM needs when the best is right here at home? With the growth of cloud computing applications, your CRM needs are also available in a delocalized environment, on-demand and scalable to your needs. So as your business grows, so too does your CRM interface.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of outsourcing your IT internationally, but does this apply to CRM in the same way it applies to call centres? CRM software and applications host sensitive information about an enterprise’s contacts, the nature of their relationships and, ultimately, valuable business intelligence. Outsourcing your CRM functions to a part of the globe that may not share similar security standards leaves a company’s privileged client information exposed. This is a critical point, given the premium businesses place on security. Cyber insecurity poses a significant threat to organizations operating in every sector. This is why investing in a CRM vendor with world-class security infrastructure, like those offered by Canadian and U.S.-based vendors, is as important a decision as implementing CRM in the first place. By investing in a home-based solution, customer information enjoys physical security, unsurpassed network perimeters, data encryption and user-based authentication.

In addition to the heightened security standards of North American service providers, emerging technologies like cloud computing, digital platforms and mobile apps are all being driven by the North American market. As these emerging techs proliferate, they will interact with customer management software and provide businesses with limitless opportunities for staying ahead of the curve.

The choice of which vendor to allocate its CRM functions to, if at all, ultimately resides with the enterprise itself. Given the implementation challenges much of the enterprise market faces, doing-it-yourself is one headache companies should avoid if they are prudential about enhancing their business intelligence. Given these realities, enterprises operating in Canada and the U.S. can take comfort in knowing that they have a reliable CRM provider in Oracle. Those wishing to integrate emerging platforms and slash their operating costs have the option of the world’s largest cloud provider in Salesforce. As international businesses look to Canada and the U.S. for CRM solutions, the greener pastures are on this side of ocean.