Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The origin of Online CRM

Online CRM is the fastest growing area of CRM applications. It promises to render on-site CRM services obsolete in a few years to come. But it all began a few years ago when competition amongst small to medium sized businesses increased to an all time high. These businesses were competing against each other for a larger share of the pie and there was a need for improvised business practices, strategies and applications.

Software automation was the need of the hour but the lack of a single comprehensive platform that integrates all departments of software was apparent. Onsite CRM was a distant and far too expensive proposition for small companies to venture into.

CRM vendors were the first to notice this and they immediately went back to the drawing board and created a much more cost effective version of the CRM tool. This was called hosted CRM, onsite CRM, online CRM and software as a service or Saas.

The Pros

  • CRM tools are hosted by a third party web host, typically the software vendor. These services are then delivered over the internet.

  • Cost effectiveness: The cost of entry and installation is reduced by a huge margin as there is no infrastructure needed. All that is required is a high speed internet connection and you are all set.

  • Data sharing and collaboration: You can share and collaborate data across the entire organization at multiple levels.

  • Scalability and flexibility: Unlike an on-site CRM, online CRM is far more scalable and flexible. You can customize it and add unlimited number of users to it.

  • Features: Online CRM for small businesses has some of the best features that are required for small and medium sized businesses to succeed.

The cons

It isn’t really easy to choose the best CRM vendor. There are hundreds of such vendors and you have to ensure that you make the right choice.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CRM on demand: Software as a Service

Suddenly, the whole small to medium sized business market seems to be infatuated with ‘On demand CRM’ also known as ‘Software-as-a-Service’ (SaaS). Why this sudden surge in the number of companies opting for on demand CRM over traditional on-site models?

With the advancement in technology and the internet making huge inroads into the lives of people, customers have become more product savvy. They only expect the best from any business and even a small amount of complacency on the part of any business can lead to the loss of a customer. Hence, small businesses relied on software automation and data analysis to improve customer loyalty.

However, they had to rely on a patchwork of applications as CRM was only available for large scale enterprises. So CRM vendors started working on a far cheaper and flexible version of CRM that is best suited for SMBs. The result is on demand CRM.

On demand CRM has been carefully marketed as the perfect integration point for SMBs. The favorable cost factors, the convenience in setting it up and the hardware-free maintenance are some of the reasons why SaaS has really taken over.

But, as a SMB, you should be slightly more careful while choosing any CRM on demand. I will explain the reasons behind this.

Most CRM on demand software comes with a three to four year contract attached to it. This means, that you are stuck with it for that period. So you better be careful about what you choose.
Not all on demand CRM software is flexible enough to be integrated with existing software applications. If it cannot be done, then it will end up costing more in the long run.

If you are new to the concept of on demand CRM, then seek advice from a CRM consultant who can give you the right advice and help you choose the best hosted CRM.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In depth analysis of a CRM solution

The ideal CRM solution is the one that leverages your existing technology, can be upgraded with ease and keeps your Cost of ownership within acceptable limits. At the same time, it should minimize risks and drive profits.
Does your CRM solution do all this? No? Then maybe you need to reconsider your business plan.

The 360 degree view

I cannot emphasize on the importance of getting a 360 degree view of the customer. This 360 degree view should be available across all departments in the organization. Believe me; this is not as easy as it sounds.
The 360 degree view should show you complete information about all past customer interactions in a graphical interface. You can start off with the most important departments that need customer data and then add other departments subsequently. The CRM should have multi department and multi channel capabilities.

Room for Improvement

The needs and demands of the customer are constantly changing and the smart business will change and adapt with it. Your CRM should offer you a platform to automate critical customer tasks and also analyze these processes for their effectiveness. If they fail to deliver, you should always be able to modify them with ease. Once again a cross departmental system is needed to maximize its effectiveness.

Your employees

When you are constantly thinking in terms of your customers, spare a thought for your employees. It is these guys who run your business. They need a CRM system that they can easily adapt to. A certain level of personalization must be allowed within the system so that they can get it to work the way they want to. Automation of tasks that are performed commonly is a great addition. In addition to the above, employees should have access to effective support material .

Apart from the above mentioned traits, your IT requirements are something that you need to consider.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CRM: Are you making the right choice?

It is imperative that you make the right choices as far as CRM is concerned. Venture out into the market and you will be greeted by hundreds of vendors offering CRM solutions for your company. But how do you make the right choice? How do you know whether a CRM solution is the right one for you? What do you need to look for in a CRM solution? Is it scalability? Is it flexibility or maybe its functionality?

The first step

Most companies make the mistake of selecting a CRM product and then tailor their needs around the product. However, to maximize the effectiveness of the CRM and to ensure maximum returns, the opposite should happen. You should be able to completely customize the CRM around the needs of your company. Start off by deciding whether you need an on premise CRM solution, a hosted one or a combination of the two.

Functionalities on offer

What functionalities does the CRM offer? Does your business require real time interactive analytics? Then the CRM must provide precise insights about historical trends that have affected customer behavior in the past and might affect it in the future. Your complete decision making ability rests on this functionality. Without it, your organization’s predictive analytics will be hindered.

The Vendor

Before you jump off and buy a CRM application based on its cost effectiveness, spare a thought for the vendor. The vendor must have the necessary technical expertise and skill to help you achieve your desired business goals. There must be constant support available 24x7 to clients. Always remember that the very success of your organization depends on the choice you make. So make an informed and right decision.

The features that we mentioned are the most basic ones that you need to look for. There are many more such hidden features that can give you a new insight into customer relationships. Are you aware of them?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Rise of the CRM Juggernaut

When CRM arrived it was looked upon with contempt. Not many companies were open to the idea of creating an enormous customer database and then utilizing it to enhance customer relationships.

Only the biggest and technically advanced companies were willing to experiment with CRM applications.

But in the last few years, CRM has become a tremendous force which is now propelling business into an altogether new direction. Terms like ROI (Return on Investment) and timely quality deliverables have been redefined.

Today, CRM is heading into an all new zone and more and more companies are now turning to CRM to rise in this extremely competitive environment.

Meeting Objectives

However, a recent report says that only about ¼ of all CRM applications meet their deliverables. This means that simply having a CRM system in place doesn’t really make your position any safer.

The CRM system has to be tailored to suit your company and more importantly you need to work towards understanding how you can use the CRM to improve your business.

The main aim of a CRM application is to create a customer centric work force that will attain greater profits. It is NOT an automated system that will work on its own and create profits for you.

Choose wisely

If you are a new company entering the market looking for a CRM application, then keep a few things in mind.
• Make sure that you choose only a CRM system that meets the needs of your business.
• Apart from this, you need to choose from a hosted or on site CRM. This will bring in your budget into the picture.
• What is the scalability of the CRM application? Does it allow room for growth?

Keeping these factors in mind will help you make a wise decision.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Analyzing Changing trends in CRM

Its time to look at the freshest CRM trends again. CRM once started off as the set of tools that would garner the relationship with the customer thereby improving the quality of the business. But now it has gone much beyond that.

Today CRM tools can very well make or break your business. There have been several changes that have come into CRM ever since it originated a few years ago.

One of the latest changing trends is that companies are now looking beyond cost containment and looking to forge stronger relationships with customers.

This is crucial to the success of the business as recently there was a scenario where the customer was lost in the midst of business to business competition.

The Mid Market

Also most CRM companies are now courting the mid market which is made up of the elusive customers who wait until a product has proven itself in the market. Since these customers have relatively small budgets it is not very easy to win them over. As a result of this, we are already witnessing a boost in the number of companies opting for CRM services.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Enhancing the long run ROI with excellent CRM strategies and techniques:
Return of Investment (ROI), measures the effectiveness of a company when using capital to earn more profit in the monetary sense of the term than what it had invested initially in the business.

CRM return of investment (ROI) path way for improving the effectiveness of a company is achieved not by economizing on customer support techniques but by promoting loyalty of the existing customers and finding innovative ways to retain customers would prove beneficial for substantially increasing the revenue in the long run. The modern era of business performance evolves around the development of lucrative customer relationships.

Today customer support services play a vital role in the operating structure of a business organization. With the chant that customer rules, very few customer relation managers (CRM) take note of the amount of funds being spent on customer maintenance strategies by calling them, sending out emails, server charges, downloading their personal information etc. CRM ROI strategies and techniques are essential to manage and control investment costs down and drive higher returns.

As far back as 2003 PricewaterhouseCoopers “Trendsetters Barometer” survey stated that, 81% of the fastest growing U.S. companies had initiated CRM programs over the last three years, and many plan to expand their CRM capabilities in 2004. These firms had achieved 46% faster revenue growth than their competitors over the past five years (fueled by an expected 60% revenue growth rate through 2003). Given such findings, it’s no surprise that Boston-based AMR Research estimated the CRM market growth rate to $10.8 billion in 2004, a $1 billion leap from 2003.

How to achieve CRM ROI effectively:

  • STRATEGIC PLANNING : Achieving CRM ROI begins with sound strategic planning.

  • Focus in Reducing Costs, Boost your Revenue : To maximize the ROI and realize the potential of a customer base, one must first understand the value and needs of individual customers, using that insight to treat each customer uniquely, with utmost care.

  • Efficient collection and analysis of customer information : Collecting and analyzing of customer preferences, companies can also determine new techniques for addressing each customer’s unmet needs and enhance the value of each customer relationship, there by increasing the ROI in the long run.

In order for the firm to earn a substantial ROI every year, where the capital gains exceeds the capital losses, one should have a flexible technology which promotes changes to its structure facilitating the inter connectivity of customers and the business development. Efficient management of customers is very crucial for the development of the business. Hence management committee, along with efficient CRM strategies, needs to have a bird’s eye view of the business if the ROI of the firm has to have a tremendous growth rate in the long run.