In part one of this blog series, we talked about the need to align the sales and marketing departments in the age of the empowered customer.

Along those lines, as prospects are converted to customers, organizations will try to retain each customer for the long term and sell additional goods or services. To accomplish this, it is vital to have a total customer view. This means records of the interactions between individual employees and the customer, and also a view of the customer’s preferences and other pertinent information that can help the organization build a stronger relationship.

While many data sources and systems contribute information to develop a total customer view, CRM is the nexus that ties it all together. It should be the place where anyone who interacts with customers can immediately see where the customer is in their journey, where they’ve been, and get an understanding of how to be successful helping them to the next phase of their journey.

To function in this capacity, the CRM solution needs to be an enterprise-grade platform that can seamlessly incorporate data from multiple systems into an inclusive, central view of the customer. That platform must be scalable and non-restrictive – truly able to grow with increased usage across the organization. It must manage the very large volume of customer data to empower customer-facing employees at every step as they aid the customer along his or her journey.

Creating a total customer view is vital to building extraordinary customer relationships. But it’s also important to take that view of the customer and provide intelligence and context to employees at the point of customer interaction.

There is simply so much information available about every individual prospect or customer that it can overwhelm employees if not properly filtered.

So, a modern CRM needs to provide a “consumer-like” user experience that allows employees to easily navigate the system. The CRM must understand the context of the customer interaction and the role of the employee. By providing role-based views and context-sensitive data, users of modern CRM can quickly identify individuals and determine where they are on their customer journey. From there, they can access the information to complete the tasks needed to successfully aid the customer along the journey.

In short, companies that build great relationships with their customers “live” in their CRM. They obtain a total view of their customer and use that to provide the right information to customers, at exactly the right time.

Organizations that view their CRM as a tool to track sales leads and record data about current customers are missing opportunities to get the most out of the system.

It seems a given that CRM needs to evolve to meet the need to of today’s digital economy and empowered customer, but many CRM offerings lack the critical components needed to succeed in today’s world of fast-paced change, highly-informed consumers, and a constantly expanding array of customer touch points.

One of the first issues is that many legacy CRM deployments were done as departmental silos, meaning the software and processes were limited to a single company department or portion of the customer lifecycle. This leads to disconnection between departments, difficulty presenting a consistent message to customers, and ultimately frustrated customers.

Our latest blog series will provide ways organizations can leverage modern CRM tools to better align the entire organization around the customer lifecycle.

Better Alignment Between Marketing and Sales

In most companies, sales and marketing are separate departments. Organizations typically rely on the marketing team (and marketing automation software) to develop, score and nurture leads, and then simply “throw them over the wall” to the sales team.  From there, it’s up to sales to turn a lead into a paying customer.

As service becomes more important, and as we increasingly move to a subscription economy – that wall between lead generation and sales processes needs to torn down.

One of the weaknesses in the marketing-to-sales handoff is the lack of visibility and context around the true nature of the lead. Even if it’s highly qualified, much more information and work is needed to better route and engage a marketing-qualified prospect. A modern CRM takes the handoff from the demand generation tool, and can add far more sophisticated routing rules to make sure that every new lead is sent to the correct person in sales, and also ensure that existing customers are not sent to the wrong agents, reducing “lead cannibalization.”

Advanced workflow capabilities inside modern CRM tools can ensure that not only are leads nurtured, but post-sale follow ups, renewal notifications and other revenue-generating actions all improve the quality of marketing directed to known customers. After all, studies show that the probability to selling to existing customers is 60-70% higher than selling to new prospects.

So, is your CRM aligned to meet the demands of the empowered customer? Can you bridge the gap between your sales and marketing teams?

Modern CRM tools offer organizations the ability to create a more cohesive, cross-departmental view of the customer journey. And these tools are flexible – and affordable – so the actions of every customer-facing employee can make informed decisions with access comprehensive information about the customer, This customer data must be orchestrated across all departments to deliver a consistent message throughout the entire customer journey.

When it comes to buying a new automobile, smart shoppers do more analysis than simply looking at the sticker on the windshield. While some cars may seem like a deal at the time of purchase, factors like maintenance and repair costs, resale value, insurance rates, and even fuel costs determine the true value of the vehicle.

Selecting a new CRM system requires at least the same level of analysis.

Today, a majority of enterprise software is delivered as SaaS (software-as-a-service) and sold via some form of a subscription model, meaning users pay an annual fee to access the software (like leasing a vehicle). However, when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives, the “sticker price” subscription fees can be misleading. Many vendors charge one price to get customers locked in behind the wheel, but customers soon find they are forced to pay more to fully realize the value of the CRM software.

These additional fees can include costs associated with accessing the CRM via a mobile device, making customizations to the platform, and integrating with other technology partners and systems inside and outside the organization.  If you’re not fully aware of these upcharges, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

An Example of Spiraling CRM Costs

We took a look at the largest CRM SaaS vendor in North America –

Salesforce customers often pay significantly more than the quoted monthly subscription fee due to hidden fees and other limitations that can increase the total cost of ownership.

Salesforce pricing includes upcharges for system usage, which is often hard to calculate and budget. Upcharges include API calls, which equate to connections to other data sources. Storage-based fees can balloon when large files like PDFs or PPT slide decks are kept within the system. In addition, complete mobile access for some versions can cost as much as $50 additional per user, per month.

Also, building custom mobile applications on the Salesforce platform can cost up to an additional $300 per application per month. Base subscription fees also do not include access and consumption fees for Salesforce’s offering.

These upcharges can more than double total system costs. Let’s look more closely at the upcharge for API calls. When connecting to external data sources, such as accounting or social media streams, Salesforce sets a limit on the number of times users can send and receive information between systems. Each time a user checks the accounting records of a customer, or augments the prospect information with Dun & Bradsteet data, for example, the system underneath executes an application programming interface (API) call. If Salesforce users go over the maximum allowed number of calls, they are forced to either add more user licenses, or upgrade ALL users to its most expensive Performance edition.

What About SugarCRM?

Sugar is offered under a subscription model similar to Salesforce, but with some important differences. SugarCRM’s PurePrice pricing model means the subscription fee is inclusive of maintenance, and includes mobile access, a Microsoft Outlook Plug-in, reporting, customization and integration capabilities.

SugarCRM aims to limit the “hidden fees” that some CRM providers do not include in their base license costs. SugarCRM is the only CRM solution that offers functionality for marketing, sales and support for one low price. Organizations can customize and build on the Sugar platform without hidden fees or forced upgrades to more costly editions. Additionally, users can make any number of integrations without additional charges or fees.

Finally, Sugar can be deployed either as an on-demand or SaaS deployment, or on the user’s own servers. In addition, Sugar can also be deployed on a number of public clouds, including Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace and IBM GTS cloud. Sugar partners also deploy customer instances in their private clouds. In contrast with other CRM vendors who offer a choice in deployment, Sugar is priced the same, regardless of deployment option.

This short analysis provides some basic insight into the costs of buying and maintaining a CRM system. Several pricing and deployment models exist—and it is important to understand which model best addresses the pressing business issues. Before making any decision, be sure to plot out the value to be generated from the deployment, including, but not limited to, the hard dollar costs.

By understanding up-front what additional costs or fees may be incurred, organizations can make an educated, and more cost-effective choice when choosing a CRM provider.

A popular argument for deploying SaaS software is that it “just works.” It is simple for users to get started and use everyday without burdening the IT department. This argument has merit. The cloud has put the power in the hands of the user and minimized the need for IT to troubleshoot software issues. Instead, users can simply open up a browser and be productive.

However, that doesn’t mean technical concerns have been eliminated, they are simply hidden below the surface. SaaS customers need to understand the technical details of service they are using, especially when it comes to mission critical business applications like a CRM.

There are three major areas that can affect your business – maintenance, software upgrades and outages:

  • When is routine maintenance scheduled and how long will the system be down during that period?
  • How frequently are software upgrades made?
  • How will the upgrades affect how the application looks, and relatedly, how much of learning curve will there be to understand product updates?

Think about the consumer services like Facebook and Twitter that you are used to using everyday. There is an adjustment period when even a minor tweak to the service changes “the look and feel.”

Now, imagine coming into work on a Monday morning – and the tools you use to do your job are suddenly barely recognizable due to a major product upgrade? How would that affect your productivity for the short term? Or, imagine as a manager of dozens of sales reps, you get the message that you need to immediately begin training on a new CRM because the old system is “going away.” What if this happens near the end of the quarter?

The IT department is responsible for maintenance and upgrades for software they deploy, and are usually responsible to plan for changes. But regular employees, and entire companies can be negatively impacted by changes both expected and unexpected.

When you rely on software applications to run critical parts of your business, any downtime is costly. The inability to access data, reach and respond to customers, or close deals equates to lost revenue or other hard costs. Research firm Gartner estimates that an hour of downtime for a critical system costs a company $42,000 on average.

And, if you are leaning toward the argument, “an outage is so rare, it won’t happen to me.” SaaS services delivered via the cloud are susceptible to outages. Just last month, an Amazon Web Services data center went down, taking access to Netflix, Reddit and Nest with it.

Now, think about what happens if your sales automation or customer support system goes down. You can probably tolerate a few minutes of downtime, but if it last hours or even a full day, it will dramatically affect the bottom line.

If you unexpectedly, or even with some warning, lose access to your systems – rebuilding that same system with another software product takes time and lots of energy. Costs include:

  •      Purchase of replacement software
  •      Staff or consultants to replicate customizations in the new system
  •      Staff learning curve and training costs
  •      Potential legal costs for re-acquiring data

All of these costs are significant. They can hinder operations at the largest of organizations, and could be catastrophic for smaller businesses. Thus, it is of utmost importance to ensure you have access to your data and system in light of any type of disaster or unforeseen “outage” of your SaaS applications.

By choosing a SaaS vendor with multiple deployment options, open software so the data can “live on”, and a solid business continuity plan – you can deploy cloud and SaaS apps with the highest level of confidence.

In a world that’s increasingly regulated, a well-designed and tightly-integrated CRM is imperative to an organization’s compliance efforts. In the United States, regulated industries with strict mandates like financial services, healthcare, and insurance are often finding that “out of the box” cloud-based CRM systems don’t comply with regulatory requirements.

For example, financial services companies simply cannot tolerate unplanned or provider-planned downtime. Healthcare organizations must adhere to strict HIPAA compliance requirements regarding patient data.

On top of regulatory compliance, outside the United States, many countries have significantly more strict rules around the gathering and storage of customer data. After the Edward Snowden revelations, cloud-based SaaS CRM apps can also bring about regulatory compliance challenges. Some countries now prohibit hosting data on U.S. servers, or require that data is stored within national boundaries. In many cases, the most desirable solution for multinational corporations or companies in highly regulated industries is to deploy servers on-premise. It’s the best way to maintain security and control, and to ensure regulatory compliance. 

If companies in these regions and industries fail to comply with these mandates the penalties can be burdensome, or even disastrous. Being out of compliance in some regions or industries is an issue of breaking the law, and strict financial penalties for noncompliance can be crippling. The stakes are high. In 2014, USA and European banks paid nearly $65 million in fines for an array of violations.

Many SaaS and cloud providers will skirt the issue of data location and ownership with complex data key encryption. The customer data is actually stored in a data center in another country, but cannot be accessed without an encryption key stored locally. While encrypting data is an important security measure, it does not achieve compliance. Simply put, if the data is not in the region or country where the customers reside – compliance and control issues can still arise.

So, if your business is in a closely regulated industry, you need to know whether the CRM system you are considering supports these legal requirements. Additionally, if your business operates globally, or in countries with strict data laws, it is important to ask the right questions before choosing a CRM provider. So what are those questions? We’ve compiled a list. Be sure to get answers to these questions – in writing:

  •      Can you decide where data is stored?
  •      How can you be sure your data is being stored in your region? In your country?
  •      Does the vendor offer on-premise deployment or are they cloud only?
  •      How often can you export your data?
  •      Can data be exported in multiple formats?
  •      Can ALL of the system data be retrieved at any time? Or can you export only the database?
  •      What about unstructured data such as activity streams, call records and other system metadata?
  •      Is the data always “yours” and not owned by the vendor?
  •      How does the vendor guarantee access to your data in the event of or business discontinuity?

If the potential vendor cannot answer these questions (and more important “put it in writing” as part of their SLA) you may want to re-think your choice.

At SugarCRM we have customers in more than 120 countries. We realize companies around the world are subject to many different laws and regulations. Legal requirements in one country or industry may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. Hence, we offer a multi-tenant cloud service, a private instance in the cloud, and also allow customers to deploy on-premise on their own servers. This gives customers a level of control they can’t achieve in a proprietary SaaS-only model where their data is locked up in one vendor’s data silo. A flexible deployment approach allows our customers to more easily comply with international data security and privacy laws.

If last year’s Sony hack reminded everyone that not securing your own data can be embarrassing, the recent Ashley Madison fiasco proved that failing to secure your customers’ data can be a whole lot worse.

The frequent headlines about cyber security breaches and hacking, along with concerns about data snooping by governments around the world, have caused many to inquire just how secure the data inside their CRM solution might be. They are right to ask. With so much customer data at stake, there is a lot to think about with CRM security.

Let’s look at what can go wrong:

Earlier this year, the FCC fined AT&T $25 million for data security and privacy violations that exposed about 280,000 U.S. customers’ names and full or partial Social Security numbers. The breaches occurred when employees at call centers used by AT&T in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines accessed sensitive customer data without adequate authorization. According to the FCC, the employees took payment from third parties who were looking to use customer names and Social Security numbers to unlock stolen cell phones for sale on secondary markets.

More than 68,000 accounts were accessed without authorization, and more than 290,000 unlock requests were submitted by third parties through an AT&T online portal. The FCC also discovered that roughly 40 company employees in the Philippines and Colombia had accessed about 211,000 customer accounts for the same illicit purposes.

The $25 million fine is just the beginning of trouble. Even more painful and costly are the remediation and communication efforts with affected customers, and lost business that results when breaches are disclosed.

Hosting customer data in someone else’s cloud raises justifiable concerns about security. Customers need to know what levels of security the host is providing and need to address some critical questions:

  • What protection mechanisms are in place to prevent someone from hacking into the host?
  • Is there 24/7 monitoring to make sure that employees are not accessing data that should be off limits to them?

Deploying SugarCRM via the SaaS model (Sugar On-Demand) means multiple layers of protection and security. The Sugar application is hosted in Tier 1 data center facilities around the world. These data centers are protected by powerful physical security mechanisms such as 24/7 secured access with motion sensors, video surveillance, and security breach alarms. SugarCRM security and infrastructure components include: firewalls, robust encryption and sophisticated user authentication layers.

SugarCRM understands that data is a critical component of the daily business operations of its customers and that it is essential to ensure the privacy and protection of data regardless of where it resides. SugarCRM takes a holistic, layered and systematic approach to safeguarding that data and is constantly evaluating, evolving and improving the privacy and security measures it has in place. SugarCRM also offers customers the option to deploy Sugar on-premise, as well as in hosted and hybrid configurations, flexing to meet the broadest range of security and regulatory requirements.

For more information about our security related policies, please click here.

In case you haven’t heard, the old school thinking that customers are a commodity that can be managed is long passed its expiration date.

Nowadays, customers have the power. The rise of mobile and social networking means they are always connected and can find (and distribute) information in seconds.

As we discussed in a recent podcast, customer engagement is the new normal. To keep up in this new world, the most successful businesses focus on customer engagement by providing consistent, personalized experiences that reach customers just as they need them.  

In layman’s terms, customer engagement means you have the eyes and ears of the customer. And, the customer is interested in interacting with you. Whether it be a proactive email reminding a customer about a renewal, or a text message promoting a special offer, customer engagement takes many forms.

One of the biggest obstacles to the customer engagement process is departmental silos.  Too often, different departments engage with the customer with different tools. The marketing department might use marketing automation, the sales team a CRM, and customer support…well, a customer support tool. While these tools are critical, the result is that the data created and used in these systems simply stays in these systems. Other departments either never get access to this data, or get it in a format or at a time that does not help them when dealing directly with a customer. A recent case study about Sugar customer Bancvue by analyst firm Nucleus Research takes a closer look at the benefits of moving from multiple data sources to the Sugar increased productivity, visibility, and customer data accuracy.

A solid CRM platform functions as the engine that harnesses customer data and drives and orchestrates customer engagement. Through its advanced workflows and ability to break down departmental silos, Sugar enables every employee in the organization to engage with the customer. By orchestrating conversations between employees and customers across the company, every employee understands where a customer is in their engagement with the company. From there, the individual can engage in a consistent, valuable and personalized way to provide an extraordinary experience for the customer.

With Sugar, organizations tie together the sales, marketing and post-sales support interactions to help break down silos of information and process, to better engage with the customer.