Archive

Posts Tagged ‘customer relationship management software’

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.

 

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.

What Is Customer Relationship Management?

January 31st, 2013

A large amount of any company’s efforts and budget go toward finding and retaining customers. What if database and programming technology combined with innovation could automate much of this work, reduce costs, and improve customer relations, all while improving overall efficiency and value to the customer? It can, in fact! Effective customer relationship management is vital to any business, and CRM software makes the entire process much more successful.

But what is customer relationship management? Below is a brief description of the customer relationship management model, how it works, what might keep it from working to its greatest potential, and some related trends that it has recently created in the marketplace.

What is it?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing the interactions of a company with its customers, clients, and prospective sales contacts. It manages sales activity, customer support, technical support, and marketing by automating and synchronizing similar processes throughout a business. The goals of CRM are attracting and keeping customers, bringing former customers back into the fold, and streamlining activities to reduce the costs of marketing and customer service. The model is also used to simplify and organize internal company relationships.

Benefits of CRM

Although a CRM model is intended to save a business money, its primary goal is to improve efficiency and relationships with clients. The benefits of adopting a CRM model include the following:

  • Quality and efficiency
  • Lower overall costs
  • Higher productivity

A well-thought-out model will create a seamless interface and help a company realize its full potential, but businesses often experience some challenges getting into a streamlined CRM process. These initial hurdles are completely normal, and are overcome with some time and practice. Challenges can include a lack of training for employees, a lack of commitment or continuity from senior executives, and an overly complex or unwieldy interface. Certain areas of the model may be more difficult to manage and therefore can be ignored or underused by employees, which leads to fragmentation and inefficiency. If the interface is difficult to navigate, it presents obstacles for both employees and customers. Hiring talented technical staff to create an interface that is usable and can grow and flex with an increasingly complicated business model and data set, as well as securing a commitment from employees at all levels, are at the heart of a successful CRM model and a sustainable implementation.

Types of CRM

  • CRM automation uses a contact management system to track every stage of the sales process, requiring fewer representatives to initiate and maintain contact with potential and existing customers.
  • Marketing processes track and measure multichannel campaigns, including social media and direct email or mail, to generate leads. A model called prospect relationship management (PRM) tracks customer behavior and brings them to the first sale, cutting out active sales campaigns entirely.
  • Software for customer support, such as call center programs, also helps to reduce the work force required to manage existing customers. It is designed not only to assist clients with problems but also to identify and reward loyal customers.
  • CRM models have also been designed and implemented for the special requirements of small businesses, social media channels, and not-for-profit organizations.

Similar Trends

  • Cloud computing and “software as a service” (SaaS) allow customers to subscribe to a cloud and access software for a reasonable subscription fee.
  • Vendor relationship management (VRM) is a counterpart of CRM that allows customers to access vendors without forming long-term relationships with them.
  • Extended relationship management (XRM) is in part the practice of applying CRM disciplines and technologies to all levels of the enterprise and all associated constituents. This involves not only the associated customers, but other levels of partnership such as the government and the media.

CRM is changing the intricate relationships among companies, customers, vendors, and other business partners. Technology has made it possible to track consumer behavior precisely and make successful sales happen with virtually no exhaustive effort on the part of the company, allowing them to focus efforts on nurturing new and existing relationships, and placing efforts into other areas of company growth.