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Archive for the ‘Customer Relationship Management’ Category

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.

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.

Why Settle for CRM Software for the Masses

February 12th, 2013

Your business is unique, and the CRM software used to manage it should be unique as well. A one-size-fits-all solution does not streamline most companies to their fullest potential. This leaves a business struggling to meet the format of their CRM system rather than enjoying the benefits of a platform that rises to meet their needs.

Why Generic CRM Doesn’t Work

Non-customized CRM software platforms can seem effective in theory, but in application they never reach their full potential. That’s because they are usually implemented though either software or a web-based hosting service that offers one platform to all businesses, regardless of the type of business they operate. General-needs software is not adequate for all types of businesses.

In theory, all businesses are selling something, usually a product or service, but not always. And a business that sells used cars, for example, wins and attracts clients differently than a business selling vacation packages, and their interactions with their clients are different too. The used car dealership may experience most of their customer interactions in person at the dealership, while the vacations business may conduct all of their business over the phone and online, without ever coming face to face with a customer. A used car dealership is usually working to make a one-time sale (although they still want to create customer loyalty so the buyer will return or refer their friends and family for the next car), while the vacations provider is looking for repeat vacationers and client retention.

Nonprofit organizations function like for-profit businesses in many ways, but their “sales” are unique. Not called sales at all, these organizations are effectively selling not a product or a service but a need. Nonprofit business models are fundraising based and they aim to attract clients and customers of all types. Most nonprofits rely on revenues from a variety of different places: grant-awarding foundations, individual/private donors, fundraising campaigns, and selling a product and/or service. Each revenue-earning sector of the nonprofit may be run like a different business, but the same staff may be running and managing each sector.

Most businesses operate more like the nonprofit (in a variety of unique ways) than on the cut-and-dry sales model. A successful business, regardless of industry, markets, wins clients, makes sales, and retains clients in multiple ways rather than through the platform of a confining business model. And a CRM system should help a business better manage its employees, customer relationships, and use of technology, not dictate the ways they perform these functions.

How is custom CRM different?

Custom CRM is unique like your business. When you run your business using customized CRM software, your business is operating on a platform that’s different from every other information management system out there. The platform may begin with a framework like FileMaker Pro, but it is customized to suit the business’s individual needs along the way. It doesn’t contain functions your business never uses and it can be changed and modified when it’s no longer meeting the business’s needs to its fullest potential.

A successful business is constantly growing and changing. A successful business revamps its sales and marketing techniques when revenues are down, whether it’s because of the loss of a big client or a change in the economy. A successful business also changes when profits are up, by identifying what worked and using that forward momentum to increase profits more. A business that can’t change because of an inflexible management platform won’t be able to live up to its fullest potential.

It makes sense to adopt an information management system that’s custom built to your individual needs from day one, tailored to your changing business when needed—and that comes with the technical support and expertise necessary to make those changes.

Benefits of Customer Relationship Management for Your Business

February 2nd, 2013

The changing face of the global economy has forced numerous businesses to change their strategies to keep their heads above water, and one of the predominantly successful business strategies involves customer relationship management.

As you can imagine from the name, customer relationship management handles everything that deals with the customer: knowledge, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. While most companies start with the selling item—the product or service—and acquire customers from there, customer relationship management starts with the customer and customizes the workflow and marketing to the needs of each individual customer. Starting with the customer often means collecting large amounts of data on each client and analyzing that data to better accommodate your customer’s needs and expectations.

Customer relationship management is much more than a strategy; it is a state of mind, an ideology— if implemented properly, it could help your brand achieve all of its personal and financial goals. How does a CRM strategy benefit your business?

Improved Customer Service

The system starts with maintaining a database of customer profiles that includes basic information along with purchasing habits—what the customer buys, how frequently, whether items were regular price or on sale, for example.

The database gives each employee abundant information to assist and cater to each customer’s specific needs. Customer service representatives can quickly and easily adapt their approaches. With the proper organization and experience, you may even be able to anticipate and predict a customer’s needs and provide support before the customer even asks for it.

Reduced Costs

When you implement an effective, customized CRM program in your business strategy, the chain-reaction efficiency saves you money in several ways: a shorter sales cycle, more streamlined lead acquiring process, higher sales closure rate, and expedited campaign execution. All of this leads to money (and time) saved.

From a customer service perspective, CRM software saves significant time and money. As an example, a customer service call at a call center takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour (roughly) of time, along with resources, meaning money spent. When a customer can find all the personalized help they need with your CRM software, they get their problem solved quickly and easily, and you can put those employees into more profitable positions.

More Customers through Tailored Marketing

Analysis of demographics allows you to break down the customers you have into three main levels:

  • Brand customers: Customers who have purchased from you only once but can potentially become regular clients. Discounts and special promotions can help bring them into that loyal customer fold.
  • Lapsed customers: The customers who have purchased from you several times before but haven’t recently. This is where knowing your customers and keeping a database come in handy. You can get lapsed customers buying again by making similar offers that got them initially buying your goods or services.
  • Loyal customers: These guys don’t need any convincing or coaxing. They’ve bought from you in the past and continue to do so now. They purchase at regular price. For your loyal customers, it’s all about the overall customer experience and providing them with certain special services, like direct lines to customer service personnel or making them affiliates to your business. Let them know about new products and services through exclusive email newsletters. You can also implement loyalty programs to further retain loyal customers.

Simplified Marketing and Sales

Through customer relationship management systems, you can create more effective communication channels. Websites and applications for handheld devices streamline business deals for sales representatives and the company as a whole.

CRM gives customers several options to choose exactly how they would like to be approached or contacted. You can identify individuals that have the greatest potential for future sales instead of administering mass market approaches. You save money by not using up resources on individuals who you know won’t become regular customers.

Better In-House Communication and Coordination

Under the CRM system, marketing, sales, and customer service share the same platform. Your team isn’t separated by functionality or access to data. Everyone is on even footing, allowing departments to function cohesively and communicate without any barriers. They have everything they need to work as a single, productive unit.