What is Cloud CRM?

The current popularity of cloud computing has brought today's businesses a versatile line-up of new options for handling their customer relationship functions. Known as cloud CRM, this online software harnesses the power of the Web to deliver greater convenience and improved functionality to the customer relationship management process for the modern enterprise. Cloud CRM offers businesses a solid set of features that deliver many of the same key benefits as on-premise CRM software but with a technological boost.

What exactly is it that differentiates the next-generation online CRM solution known as Software as a Service (SaaS) from its traditional, computer-based counterpart? Let's start by looking at the major characteristics of cloud CRM.

What's so Different about Cloud-Based CRM?

Cloud CRM's primary characteristic — and primary point of differentiation from traditional CRM software — is its location. Whereas local CRM solutions physically reside on a computer or client server, cloud CRM, like all other SaaS technology, lives in cyberspace — that ethereal online universe that's become known as "the cloud." You may also hear cloud solutions referred to as Web-based, or hosted, solutions.

Whichever name may be most popular for this software at any given time, cloud-based CRM is delivered and controlled via the Internet rather than through a local area network (LAN). This makes it convenient to access and use from virtually any location — adding unprecedented mobility and flexibility to the customer relationship management equation.

Advantages of Cloud CRM over On-Premise

CRM Cloud CRM offers a variety of advantages over its on-premise cousin:

  • No need to install or upgrade software, which is accessible right online
  • Ability to give software a test run through free trials, comparing brand features
  • Cost based on number of users — an advantage for smaller businesses
  • Easily scalable solution based on company size and needs
  • No need for IT administration or support, which is handled online
  • Simple social media integration
  • Portability above and beyond local CRM solutions
  • Pay as you go, rather than buying your software license up front
  • Easy-to-customize to individual company needs

Disadvantages of Cloud CRM in Comparison to On-Premise CRM

In the interests of providing a balanced perspective and allowing individual business owners to make the wisest choice for their own operations, the following potential disadvantages of cloud CRM may also prove helpful:

  • Complexity of some cloud CRM platforms
  • Overabundance of features for many smaller companies' needs
  • Potential online data security issues
  • Possible data loss on termination of service
  • Need for a well thought out exit strategy
  • The Future of Online CRM Looks Bright for the Forward-Looking Entrepreneur

Though many business owners may find on-premise CRM to be sufficient for their needs, the savviest entrepreneurs with a vision for implementing the most up-to-the-minute CRM programs and processes will find the time and effort required to get up to speed on this new technology to be more than worth their while. Using such popular CRM solutions as Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle CRM on Demand, SAP 360 Customer, RightNow, and IBM or SugarCRM can help prepare today's companies for a bold new future of customer collaboration and client satisfaction.

As social CRM continues its highly profitable intersect with mobile CRM, making a wider range of Internet-enabled mobile devices commonplace, a new wave of flexible CRM management systems will rise, and the companies that are already riding the online CRM wave are the ones that will be poised to reap the greatest rewards.

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Date posted: 2014-12-22 | Comments(0)

Glossary of Terms

The terms you will need to know to understand CRM.

Client Management Software

Client management software is more commonly referred to as CRM software or customer relationship management software.  See our definition of 'CRM Software' below.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing involves storing data online allowing it to be accessed by a number of servers. The shift towards cloud computing has lead to the development and prosperity of Cloud CRM.

Cloud CRM

Also known as Online CRM or Web CRM, a Cloud CRM system is one which is accessed via the internet and all hardware and software are housed off-site.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

CRM systems are a convenient way of managing customer information and communications. They provide an organised record along with many other features.

CRM Application

CRM application is another term that may be used to describe CRM software. See our definition of 'CRM Software' below.

CRM Marketing

CRM marketing is the implementation of a CRM system to assist your marketing strategy.

CRM Programs

CRM programs is another term that may be used to describe CRM software. See our definition of 'CRM Software' below.

CRM Software

CRM software is one of the many terms used to describe the programs or applications through which CRM systems are run. There is a huge range of CRM software available - including mobile, on-site and cloud programs - so you will be able to find one that meets your needs!

CRM Solutions

CRM solutions are ways to help manage the relationship you have with your customers. CRM software is a common solution to all your customer relationship management problems!

CRM System

A CRM system in an organised interface that allows you to keep track of client information, communications, revenue and a range of other information depending on your needs. 

CRM Tools

CRM tools are various things companies utilise to help them manage their relationships with customers. CRM software is an extremely effective CRM tool!

Customer Relations

Customer relations is simply interactions with customers!

Email Marketing

The promotion of products or services via email. When used properly, email marketing is one of the most effective forms of online advertising.

Large Business

In Australia, a large business is a business with greater than 200 employees.

Lead Management

Managing leads effectively and optimizing lead flow across sales and marketing are critical to sales success. With Lead Management, companies can track prospect inquiries and route qualified leads to the right people so sales reps get instant access to the latest prospects and leads are never dropped or lost.

Medium Business

In Australia, a medium business is a business with 20-199 employees.

Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM is CRM software that is compatible with mobile phones or other devices, allowing easy, portable access to a CRM system.

Online CRM

Online CRM is more commonly referred to as Cloud CRM. See our definition of 'Cloud CRM' above.

On-site CRM

On-site CRM is run on your own server and hardware and software are stored on-site.

Sales CRM

Sales CRM is utilising CRM software to track and/or increase sales.

Small Business

In Australia, a small business is one with fewer than 20 employees.

Social CRM

Social CRM is the use of a CRM system to help you build a social relationship with customers, often by involving social media.

Web-based CRM

Web-based CRM is more commonly referred to as Cloud CRM. See our definition of 'Cloud CRM' above.

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Date posted: 2014-12-15 | Comments(0)


What can a CRM system deliver to your business?

When a business is small it’s relatively easy to keep on top of it, know all your customers and measure the performance of your marketing and sales activities. As the business grows larger this becomes harder, particularly if you open other offices.

A CRM system can provide your business the basic tools to manage customer interactions as the business grows. In a similar way, an Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) system can help manage the internal interactions as a company grows.

Common CRM Benefits

CRM software consolidates all customer information and processes into one, holistic view of each customer. This enables customer-facing employees in sales, marketing and customer service to make quick, informed decisions on everything from cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to target marketing strategies and effective problem resolution.

Studies show that on average, companies using CRM software grow their businesses at a rate 2-3 times faster than those that do not.

CRM software enables businesses to:

  1. Win more deals by collaborating throughout the sales cycle
  2. Centralise customer information for all employees
  3. Better service customers
  4. Build profitable relationships with customers through more effective target marketing
  5. Increase customer loyalty and drive repeat business
  6. Automate customer-facing business processes and streamline repetitive tasks
  7. Gain visibility into staff and business performance to make timely decisions

A CRM system offers a comprehensive feature set, providing capabilities that span sales, marketing, call centre, and service operations, as well as advanced forecasting, reporting, analysis, and performance management.

Additionally, CRM solutions provide sophisticated role-based security, and the ability to seamlessly integrate with other business systems, including ecommerce applications and ERP packages.

What are benefits of CRM to Sales?

In a recent CSO Insight report the Top 3 benefits measured by companies who had installed a CRM were:

  • Improved Communications with management (56%)
  • Improved Forecast Accuracy (45%)
  • Reduced Administration burden (37%)

These are pretty significant results as they can increase ‘selling time’. The diagram below shows all the results.

A CRM system works for Sales at two levels, first for management and then at the sales representative level.

Firstly, a CRM answers these typical questions from a sales manager:

  1. For businesses I am interested in, when was the last significant status change?
  2. What does my lead and opportunity pipeline look like?
  3. Are there any accounts that have been deactivated?
  4. How many leads were disqualified recently?
  5. Have we lost any opporutnities?
  6. How many orders are in the pipeline? Have any orders been cancelled?
  7. How many quotes are we working on? Have any been cancelled?

At an individual sales representative level the key sales functionality are managing contacts, organising sales appointments and managing sales opportunities.

Managing contacts is all about capturing the details about an individual and a company in one place. On an individual you will want to capture all the details on a person’s business card. You will also want to capture that person’s “role” rather than their title e.g. the role may be Chief Financial Officer (CFO) although the “title” can be different, such as GM Finance. Thereafter, you will want to log emails, phone calls etc.

At a company level you will want to capture all the individuals within that company under the account umbrella. You can add account plans, special products requests and account specific price lists.

A sales person will also want to manage appointments in the CRM. This will allow you to plan your sales effort and opportunities to ensure that you are contacting the right people and companies.

Sales opportunities are where leads are managed from suspects to prospects to opportunities to customer and then repeat customers. CRM is good at helping a business manage their future growth in this arena.

The major benefits for sales is time saving, making it more efficient, reducing rework and cross checks. As a management tool it also provides a better understanding of future sales and what resources are being applied to which opportunities.

One of the key motivators for businesses to invest in a CRM solution is to better manage sales, sales representatives, pipeline etc. This is usually due to the frustrations of trying to manage these things on spreadsheets.

Extended Sales Benefits

As companies grow, they can extend their reach and capability by adding a call centre or by adding a Web Store to their website. A CRM system underpins these initiatives.

A call centre can help to:

  1. Increase customer satisfaction
  2. Improve credibility with customers
  3. Increase revenue and productivity
  4. Manage the customer interaction life cycle

A Web Store can
  1. Drive revenue and extend market reach
  2. Increase customer convenience and satisfaction
  3. Reduce the cost of sales and support
  4. Build lasting customer loyalty
  5. Improve sales and service profitability

What are the benefits of CRM to Marketing?

CRM systems when used well can help marketing departments prove their worth. Some types of marketing such as advertising provide only vague returns as it’s hard to measure who bought your product from a newspaper advert. However, by using a CRM and sending out an email or a brochure you are able to measure who bought products – and so measure how much revenue was generated.

CRM softw...

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Date posted: 2014-12-15 | Comments(0)

Key Features of CRM Software

What should you be looking for in a CRM system?


·         Simplicity

·         Ease of Integration

·         Remote Access

·         Mobile Access

·         Multi-channel

·         Support Integrated

·         Analytics

·         Campaign Management

·         List Management

·         Flexibility

·         Customisability

·         Follow-up Tracking

·         Lead Management

·         Email Marketing


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Date posted: 2014-12-15 | Comments(0)

What is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Bill Gates States in his book 'Business @ the Speed of Thought', 'only a few businesses will succeed by having the lowest price, so most will need a strategy that includes customer service... customer service will become the primary value-added function in every business'. He, among the world's leading IT companies and consultancies acknowledge the power CRM provides commerce - it is fast becoming a key business differentiator.

Winning new business is becoming an increasingly expensive proposition; organisations have come to understand that differentiation on product alone is often not enough to win or retain market share. Therefore, organisations need to focus on customer relationships and service when seeking to improve their competitive position or trying to save costs.

The key issues are:

  • Sales - reliable and consistent communication
  • Customer Service - creating and retaining satisfied, loyal customers

Why focus on Customer Service?

Focusing on customer service has been proven to be an effective strategy for competitive differentiation. The main goal must be to increase customer satisfaction levels and thus create customer loyalty. Loyal customers buy more products and services, they accept premium prices and they help to promote the brand by praising the services they receive. All these factors increase revenue and profitability.

To truly satisfy customers, an organisation must understand its customers well and must be easy to do business with. To meet this requirement, two basics are required: -

Accurate and comprehensive customer records in a well-structured and maintained database

Easy access to information, products and services using in-bound message technology and refined customer self service facilities.

The Importance of the Customer Database

It is vital that customer records are unique for a customer and all interactions with a particular customer must become associated with the initial master record. If a customer buys repeatedly (and this is exactly what we want) we must not create a separate customer record but rather add to the existing information. This is far easier said than done, particularly if we wish to retain the relationships that a customer "entity" may possess - for example, associated companies, business associates, family etc. If a customer has difficulties with one product we are in a better position to assist if we know more about the circumstances. At the same time any risk or opportunity of the business can be better determined.

Critical success factors for the design of a customer information system include: -

  • Fast, reliable and secure identification of customers.
  • Comprehensive access to information like history and products & services used.
  • Easy maintenance, perhaps performed automatically as service is provided.

The success of CRM is completely dependent upon a good customer information system, database and access systems.

Communicating with Customers. Do you know ALL the options?

Customers typically have contact with an organisation on a number of occasions:

  1. Outbound Messages (eg. marketing and telesales calls initiated by the organisation) – facilitated by Call Centre Systems
  2. Sales (eg. contact management, lead tracking, sales forecasting, product and service documentation, configuration management, remote order entry) – facilitated by Sales Force Automation Systems
  3. Inbound Messages when post-sales assistance or information is required – facilitated by Help Desk / Service Call Centre Systems
  4. Customer Self Service (eg. on-line shopping, on-line banking, service requests, account status reviews, querying supplier price lists) – integrated front and back office systems enable E-Commerce using say the Internet as the medium.

It is important that consistent information is provided across all these communication channels. This requires that customer records, product and services descriptions are maintained in a single set of master records. Information gathered via out-sourcing (marketing, product support, etc) should only be imported selectively via specific filters.

Marketing (outbound messages)

Marketing encyclopaedias, campaigns, events, customer surveys and other feedback can be used very effectively to introduce changes to products and services. Simultaneously acceptance and interest can be measured as well as stimulated in targeted customer groups through a well-designed communication. Call centre technology is often used for this information gathering and exchange.

i. Marketing calls are initiated by an organisation to a pre-selected group of customers or prospective customers. The aim is to make a large number of calls with a controlled message or questionnaire within a short time. The campaign planning includes defining the purpose and analysis intended, target selection, script development, schedule and training of agents. All this must be supported by the call centre software application.


Depending upon the market a variety of sales methodologies typically apply. Some common sales utilities and their use for larger value customer interactions include:

i. The sales force must share reliable customer information (eg. name, phone, products in use and possibly some history or statistics). If sales staff are mobile workers and visiting customers, they need this information on their laptop PC, updated regularly through phone networking.

ii. Maintenance of sales related activity records.

iii. Analysis and reporting of sales opportunities including long term planning and forecasting.

iv. Product and service documentation and demonstration - customers often want a certain impression of what new products can do for them.

v. Configuration management - this is a very complex issue depending upon the product or service sold. A multitude of products and components, legislative restrictions, feature combinations, models and versions often requires expert advice before a product can be configured to customers' requirements

vi. Proposal preparation support - the mechanical work for preparing written proposals could be more accurate and easier if customer details, product and service description templates, pricing and forecasted delivery times were available on-line.

vii. Remote access to corporate business systems.

viii. Remote Order Entry - a more advanced feature used by a mobile sales force to allow a new contract/order to be entered directly.

Help Desks and Service Call Centres (inbound messages)

For a number of reasons customers with queries, suggestions and complaints have developed a liking for the telephone as the preferred method of contact. For many organisations the management of this unpredictable in-bound traffic is of vital importance to profitability. The application of CRM intelligence to this information stream – for example, to pre-empt many queries by pro-active customer messaging is a major task.

For a Call Centre/Help Desk to be an effective customer support facility it must be able to: -

i. Respond to incoming calls within a set time (less than 10 seconds in 90% of calls is seen as world class standard).

ii. Use advanced methods and technology to identify customers. Computerised Telephony Integration (CTI) can identify a calling line (customer) and transfer calls with call records to experts. Voice recognition may assist in verification of a caller. Interactive Voice Response Units can query PIN numbers etc. before a caller speaks to a human operator.

iii. If appropriate, advanced methods can help in identifying the customer's reason for the call and a solution to their problems such as on-line expert systems and scripted guidance for operators to ask the right questions.

iv. Have all customer records in full, readily available to the call-taking agent.

v. Create a track record as the phone support is in progress. This will help analysis and refinement of support processes and product offerings.

vi. A call centre, particularly through the appropriate training of its agents/operators, should aim to resolve 90% of is...

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Date posted: 2014-12-15 | Comments(0)