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Tired of Salesforce as your CRM?

March 8th, 2013

A reliable and easy-to-use customer relationship management program is critical to the success of any organization, and many companies implemented Salesforce as their CRM initially because they were told that it was the best program available at the time. Many companies are now discovering how complicated, costly, and user-unfriendly the Salesforce program can be, and are beginning to seek out alternative solutions.

One of the most important aspects of a CRM program is its ease of use. Some smaller companies have found that navigating through the Salesforce interface is confusing and can be frustrating at times. They have also found that it often takes many clicks of the mouse to complete a simple task. If menus are difficult to navigate and a system contains many features that don’t apply to most companies, it can become too overwhelming for a company to use effectively.

Another complaint that many users have had about the Salesforce program is the lack of support for the users. Salesforce users have reported lack of help when dealing with program issues as well as forced upgrades to a more expensive version of the CRM platform. Salesforce offers customers access to online training, but offers little in the way of one-on-one  technical support by phone. Users have also had to work through various outages and Salesforce doesn’t offer their customers a guarantee. Productive Computing offers full support for our customers. Each user has access to live support online as well as a technical contact that is assigned to you, gets to know your needs, can offer suggestions, and help you resolve any issues you have with the interface quickly and easily. They are available by phone when you need someone to talk you through an issue.

Productive Computing CRM software allows users to define tasks, roles, and projects. Users can assign tasks to groups or individuals and track time for each project in a way that can be used for client invoicing or internal reporting. Menus are easy to navigate and provide users with all the information they need. Salesforce software lacks these rules for time-based workflow. An employee has to manually click a button for a sales lead, event, or task in order to move it to the next stage. It’s easy for a potential client to be overlooked because an employee forgot to click a button. This can lead to frustrated customers and a decreased return in sales.

Storing your data is one of the most important aspects of a good CRM program. The Salesforce software encourages users to store all the data associated with the CRM on their platform, but their storage limit is rather low and they charge large storage fees to customers who don’t upgrade to a higher version of the program. Salesforce charges a storage fee for each user, regardless of the number of users from your company. Productive Computing offers users the option to run their CRM program and store the associated data on their own server, purchase their cloud-based data storage subscription service, or host the data on our servers. This gives you the options you need to store your data. PCI’s data storage fee includes 5 users for a personal subscription and ten users for a business subscription.

One of the best features of our CRM software is that we don’t require you to make changes to run the software. Our technicians specialize in creating customized CRM solutions to fit your workflow and specific processes. We understand that standardized, out-of-the-box software is not the best option for every company, and our solutions are usually developed in less than half of the cost and time of other methods like SQL, Oracle, Visual Basic, and others. If you and your employees find yourselves wasting time locating the information you need or bypassing features that you never use, a customized program can provide a better solution for your company. Choose a software that can change and grow as your business grows, streamlining your processes as you develop and rework them, and help you find ways to increase your productivity and return at every step.

5 Signs You Need a CRM Solution

February 23rd, 2013

Streamlining business operations through automation is a smart move for businesses of all sizes. Business automation has been proven to produce a number of benefits for all different types of businesses:

– More efficient use of employee time
– Better customer service, satisfaction, and retention
– The need for fewer employees, or the ability to manage more clients/customers
– More office space because automation eliminates the need for paper record keeping
– Eliminates time spent on double data entry
– Eliminates duplicate invoices and payments, as well as late invoice payments
– Decreased marketing costs
– Increased revenues

Business automation is done through a software management system, and CRM software—customer relationship management software—is specifically designed to achieve the above goals by streamlining internal and external communications among a business’s employees and between employees and their customers/clients.

There are a lot of customer relationship management software systems available, and there are also a lot of different types of businesses and business models out there, ranging from sales-force based corporations to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. All types of businesses can benefit from adopting a CRM approach to business, because all businesses rely on customers/clients in order to produce revenues.

With hundreds of different types of CRM software and thousands of different types of businesses out there, how do you match your unique business to the right CRM software package?

The answer: you don’t.

CRM software developers like Productive Computing specialize in creating custom software automation systems—based on the CRM business model of using technology to streamline and improve customer relationships and communications—that are tailored to your business’s individual needs and challenges. And one of the best things about custom-designed software is that it can continue to be modified as your business changes, to best suit its current needs.

How do you know if your business is ready for CRM software and business automation?

There are a number of signs that a business will benefit from adopting the CRM software model as their business management system, but one surefire clue is when your current use of technology is hurting your company more than it’s helping it.

For example, mobile devices can really enhance a business’s internal organization and its communications with clients/customers, but these mobile devices can start to cost a company valuable money in the form of time when they create the need for double data entry because they don’t automatically communicate with the rest of the company’s operating systems.

The answer isn’t to switch your entire office over to Mac OS so your iPads automatically update shared computer applications back at the office. A more practical and feasible answer is to install software that uses a customizable automation system like FileMaker Pro to streamline all operating systems and applications into one system that’s customized specifically to your business and operations.

If your business is experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms, your operations will benefit from adopting a CRM business software solution.

Your employees are spending time on double data entry, or you are wasting time trying to find information located in multiple applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook, iCal, or QuickBooks.

Using a custom designed CRM software solution means that all computer and device applications, regardless of the operating system they’re running on, filter into a single user-friendly interface with streamlined communication that’s easy for both technology-savvy and technology-challenged employees to use.

Your current software management system is difficult to use, confusing to new employees, and/or has multiple features that you never use, possibly because you don’t understand how to use them.

A system that isn’t user-friendly is costing your business money in the form of wasted time. A system with features you don’t use, regardless of whether you understand how to use them or not, isn’t right for your business because it’s not tailored to its unique needs.

Your current CRM software solution isn’t meeting your company’s needs.

If your current management software isn’t streamlining your business the way you hoped it would, you need a customized solution. A CRM software developer can often modify and customize your existing system so your company doesn’t have to start over with a whole new management system.

Your current automation system, CRM or otherwise, can’t be modified to fit changes within your company, or the software is outdated and no longer supported by the developer.

One-size-fits-all business management software solutions aren’t really solutions at all. A custom-designed software and database system always works for your company because it can be modified when it’s no longer getting the job done to its fullest potential.

Your business isn’t operating on an automated system.

Automating your business management system, company operations, and customer/client communications saves time, helps employees function at a higher capacity, and improves client/customer relations, satisfaction, and retention, all of which lead to increased sales and higher revenues.

What to Look for in CRM Software

February 19th, 2013

CRM software is customer relationship management software. The CRM business model is widely used and guides a company’s relationships with its current and potential clients or customers. CRM is a business organization and automation platform that uses technology to streamline four major aspects of business:

Sales
Customer service
Marketing
Technical support

These four parts of the business model are used to recruit new clients, manage and maintain current clients, win back lost clients, and increase revenues by decreasing the costs of marketing. A business must place a lot of emphasis on customer service in order to adopt this model.

Advantages of the CRM Business Model

CRM helps businesses use technology to streamline and organize business operations. Some benefits of using CRM software include:

Increased revenues
Decreased costs
Increased efficiency of employees
Increased efficiency of operations
Better internal and external company communications
Better customer service and client retention

CRM software uses sales force automation to streamline the sales process. Sales reps spend less time on each phase of the sales process, allowing them to take on more clients or for the company to use fewer sales reps to manage the same amount of clients.

Finding the Right CRM Software

There are hundreds of different types of CRM software, each tailored to the different types of businesses that rely on sales force and customer relations. How can you tell which one is right for your business?

Custom-designed CRM software programs are tailored to your individual business’s organizational and management needs. When you use a custom program to automate your business, you don’t have to worry about choosing the right type of CRM platform for your organization.

Here are some of the CRM software tools and management features you may want to integrate into your business’s own customized software.

FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro is a universal, customizable automation system that syncs your business’s current software management system with computer operating systems, desktop applications, and mobile devices, keeping all your workers on the same page and eliminating double data entry.

Outlook automation. By automating data exchange between Microsoft Outlook and FileMaker Pro, you can sync desktop applications such as Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Mail, Notes, and Journal with the FileMaker database and mobile devices. All computers and devices on the system can automatically share information and all users view applications in the same windows.

Apple automation. If your office uses Mac OS you can similarly sync data exchange between FileMaker Pro and common desktop applications such as iCal, Address Book, and IMAP mail. If your employees use both Microsoft and Apple operating systems, you can eliminate double entries and get your entire office on the same FileMaker system through automation.

Custom iPhone and iPad applications. Allow your business’s mobile devices to communicate with your desktop computers and the FileMaker system. If your sales reps use mobile devices to make appointments, record client contacts and account data, and manage email, devices can be setup to sync with the main system automatically and save extra time spent updating multiple systems.

QuickBooks automation. Most small businesses manage their finances through QuickBooks. By streamlining QuickBooks with Filemaker you can automatically enter invoices, receipts, contacts, and sales transactions into the main office system and eliminate double entry of data. Electronically recording invoices, sales transactions, and accounts payable and receivable eliminates the need for paper record storage.

Utility plug-ins. These customizations allow your office’s different electronic transactions to automatically record and update information within the main system. You can automate features like credit card processing, Constant Contact management, electronic signatures, fingerprint security, PDF documents, printers, and files.

These software development features can enhance your experience with building and using your custom CRM software.

Feasibility study. This should be performed before your software is created. A feasibility study helps your software developer understand your business’s needs when it comes to your business processes, IT infrastructure, and current software process and compatibility.

Frameworks. Frameworks are templates used to give your custom software solution a basic framework instead of building the program from scratch. Frameworks allow your software solution to be developed faster and save your business money on customized automation software.

Technical support. A developer that offers ongoing technical support about the use of your software will help you get the most out of your investment. Look for email, phone, and chat options, with additional literature accessible from your developer online.

 

Using FileMaker Pro to Run a Business is the Software Industry’s Best Kept Secret

February 16th, 2013

FileMaker Pro is an affordable software program that provides a streamlined platform through which businesses can manage and organize various types of information and communications. FileMaker Pro software is based on the customer relationship management (CRM) business model, which simply means that it is a type of business automation and synchronization rooted in sales.

FileMaker Pro is superior to other types of CRM software (programs used for streamlining business management) because its user-friendly interface is easy to adapt to and work with. The program itself is meant to be customized according to each business’s unique needs. It provides a framework for CRM system management, but comes with the ability to easily modify the platform for individual businesses.

The FileMaker Pro platform can be modified in several ways:

Removing non-applicable features. Other CRM software solutions come with a number of features that the developers assume a majority of businesses will need and use. Often, this leaves a business with needless and/or confusing extras that only seem to get in the way. But FileMaker Pro is customizable; any unwanted features can be removed.

Install useful plug-ins. A QuickBooks plug-in for FileMaker seamlessly integrates QuickBooks into the system, rather than keeping the application separate from the system. This gives appropriate users instant access and makes recordkeeping automatic.

Create plug-ins for unique features. This is where FileMaker Pro can really benefit innovative businesses. Software developers can create custom FileMaker plug-ins that meet a business’s unique needs. For example, the ability to gather electronic signatures is something more businesses are interested in as paperwork becomes a thing of the past. E-signature plug-ins provide the necessary programming and integrate signatures directly into the management database.

Custom apps for mobile devices. iPads and iPhones can run FileMaker software too. Custom-built apps are suited to the business’s needs, and to the practical needs of using a mobile device. Custom solutions can be created and implemented in a number of hours through the user-friendly interface.

Another major advantage provided by the flexibility of FileMaker Pro is the ability to communicate and interact effectively with other systems. Streamlining business communication and information keeps everyone who uses the system on the same page, regardless of how they get there. Whether employees access the system through Windows, Mac, iPad, or iPhone, they all view and interact with the system in the same way.

Why is FileMaker Such a Well-Kept Secret?

Even with a force as big as Apple behind FileMaker software development (FileMaker Inc. is a daughter company of Apple Inc.), it is still widely under-recognized.

Hundreds of CRM software developers stand a lot to lose if FileMaker begins to dominate the market the way some of Apple’s other products have. Some of these bigger developers put just as much money into marketing against FileMaker as they do into developing their own products.

Like many Apple products, the public may mistakenly assume that FileMaker Pro is designed for the elite. On the contrary, FileMaker is extremely affordable when it comes to professional business software. The cost of maintenance for CRM solutions is one of their chief criticisms, but FileMaker continues to save businesses money through the ability to be customized and modified by everyday users.

Another big reason FileMaker Pro hasn’t seen more widespread use is that that the software is simply misunderstood. Although it uses templates and has a user-friendly interface, the task of understanding, installing, modifying, and implementing a new database is a daunting task to most businesses.

Indeed, getting a software program like FileMaker up and running, customizing it to meet specific business needs, and training the sales force and other departments to use it is a task. But it is an investment. This upfront effort pays off exponentially when businesses begin to use it and streamline all of their tasks and information, ultimately saving a lot of time and money consistently in the long run.

Because FileMaker Pro is meant to be customized to each business’s needs, we use the program as a template for developing completely customized business management systems that streamline sales, accounting, recruiting, management, and customer relationships into one system that tracks and records all information, in addition to providing universal access on any device from any location with secure Internet access.

It’s hard to say precisely why; sometimes, it’s simply the best things that are kept under the radar!

The Benefits of Using FileMaker as Your CRM Software

February 14th, 2013

If your business runs on a customer relationship management system—one that focuses on the customer and creating specified marketing and sales strategies for each customer—you have a wide range of software suites and solutions to choose from. The most popular and recommended by companies throughout the world is FileMaker Pro.

FileMaker Pro is a relational database program that integrates a powerful database engine with a slick, easy-to-use graphic user interface. What makes FileMaker Pro such a necessary part of your CRM strategy? And how can your business benefit from using FileMaker? Read on to find out.

1. FileMaker Pro is user friendly.

One of the biggest challenges to adopting new software comes in the transition: you and your team have done things a certain way for a long time, so introducing a new element is bound to throw some kinks in the system, right? Luckily, FileMaker Pro is a completely user-friendly application that is easy to use regardless of your computer prowess. You don’t have to develop databases for a living to use FileMaker, and teaching your team won’t require many precious hours of training. All it takes is a few minutes to become a pro thanks to the clean, easy-to-understand user interface.

2. It’s easy to start, regardless of how big or small your business is.

A relational database is a necessity for just about any modern business, big or small, and allows you to store, organize, change, and recall information. For a CRM system, a relational database is what you’d use to record customer data, including what they purchase and when they tend to purchase, that you can analyze to determine marketing strategies.

FileMaker Pro’s usability gives smaller businesses a powerful tool at a fraction of the monetary investment. You no longer need expensive database software nor do you have to hire a developer to run it.

3. It’s robust.

Sometimes, software is only so easy to use because it is watered down and not nearly as complete as more expensive applications, but FileMaker Pro has the same robust capacities as dedicated database software, and maybe more.

For DIY developers, FileMaker Pro is a dream. You can create a FileMaker database by importing a Bento library or through an Excel spreadsheet. At the same time, those who aren’t so much of the do-it-yourself mentality can choose from several layout themes and 30 starter databases. Starter databases cover a wide range of applications, including asset managements, invoicing, and family medical records.

FileMaker Pro can also create dynamic summary reports, which list your records and offer subtotals based on the sort order. You can, for instance, create a report that lists sales sorted by client with the totals for each client.

You can connect FileMaker Pro 10 directly to your internal email server without installing a plug-in. This allows you to send reports, invoices, letters, and other information from the database through email directly from FileMaker.

FileMaker Pro also has several features that allow for personalization for each member in your organization. For example, FileMaker keeps track of your searches and allows you to view recent finds and save frequent finds without having to reenter criteria constantly. These searches are user-specific, so you can find exactly what you need, quickly and easily.

4. It offers extensive control over how your data is presented and analyzed.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of FileMaker Pro helps you realize just how much control you have over the program, primarily in the scripts you can write to perform all sorts of actions with data. Scripts can be simple—send a report to a printer—or highly complex. Scripts center on general programming logic that allows you to check for errors, loop and branch, provide your own input, and offer adept control with all the database’s functions.

In the past, triggering scripts required the click of the button, which isn’t much of a problem, but for oft repeated functions, you can trigger scripts automatically based on various basic actions, like changing the layout or modifying a field.

5. It improves communication.

Thanks to FileMaker cloud hosting services, all the company information and customer data is available to all members of your team, keeping everyone on the same level. Cloud storage and FileMaker mobile apps allow your employees to access data from anywhere.