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Is your CRM strategy and vision aligned with the modern customer? Does your CRM system support the full customer life cycle? Is your organization reaping the benefits of having a modern, forward thinking CRM? Regardless of the answer, there is always room for improvement when it comes to delighting your customers and improving the productivity of all of your customer-facing employees.

On November 5, Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett and myself will be sitting down to discuss what modern organizations need to match their CRM initiatives with today’s more engaged, informed, and connected customer. We will outline some of the core tenets of a “modern CRM” initiative, and cite several successful examples of modern CRM in action.

Join us Wednesday, November 5 and learn:

  • The six critical building blocks of modern CRM
  • How organizations are shifting from systems of transactions into systems of engagement to support the entire customer lifecycle
  • Tips on how any organization can begin modernizing their CRM initiative in the age of the customer

This promises to be an engaging and informative session for any business that is looking at the customer experience in the new the age of the customer. Join Kate and me on Wednesday and we will be happy to address any CRM and customer related questions you might have.

Registration is limited, so click HERE to register today. We hope you can join us!

SugarCRM and its global partners gathered in Munich for the first annual Global Partner Summit. The successful two-day summit gave SugarCRM systems integrators, value-added resellers, and key technology partners a chance to share success stories, learn about the latest Sugar-powered technology and compare notes on how to help companies create extraordinary customer relationships.

Over the course of the two-day event, a few themes emerged. One, as evidenced by CEO Larry Augustin, is that CRM is still a “large, under-penetrated market.” While CRM is a mature technology, there are a number of factors that continue to drive opportunity and innovation in this sector. And CRM has never been hotter in the social era! The ever-expanding mid-market segment and their increased understanding of the need for CRM is also helping to fuel the market. Additionally, the replacement market for older products is opening up large opportunity for SugarCRM and its partners as well.

In addition to the overall opportunity, a few high-level technology and business trends are working in the SugarCRM partner network’s favor. On the larrygpstechnology side, the prevailing item is the fact that organizations are beginning to evolve their take on what “the cloud” truly means and how it can facilitate their customer-facing initiatives. First and foremost, companies of all types are getting smarter about cloud and are looking for more flexible solutions that help them leverage cloud tools—but without the harsh limitations of older SaaS offerings.

On the business front, opportunity abounds for SugarCRM and its partners as all kinds of businesses look to alter their CRM strategy in “the age of the customer.” Previous perspectives on CRM were both internally focused on the company and applications focused on management. Modern CRM tools, deployed by CRM expert partners, can help organizations better understand their customers throughout the customer journey, and also delight internal users with far more useful tools than the CRM offerings of yesterday could ever provide. That’s a massive win-win.

Of course, it was not all work in Munich (and how could it be during Oktoberfest?) – as it is well known that SugarCRM has some of the most fun loving, energetic partners on the planet. Evening events, such as a traditional Bavarian feast at the Hacker-Pschorr brewery in the heart of Munich (which turned more into a modern disco by night’s end) helped bring every partner even closer. TMI…let’s move on!

When dancingwe consider the millions of potential users of Sugar – and the fact that these users will span the world and every conceivable industry – SugarCRM’s global partner network is an integral link in the success chain. Our partners are local experts with the CRM knowledge needed to help companies maximize their ROI and drive transformative change across their organizations. Our partners ensure that every deployment is a winner.

A huge thank you to every partner in attendance, as so much of our continued success is due to their efforts. And for those who missed what partners called SugarCRM’s “best Partner Summit ever” –we’ll save you a spot next year! We look forward bringing the entire partner ecosystem back together again for SugarCon 2015 next April in San Francisco, and are excited to build on the success for next year’s Global Partner Summit!

Note: The following is a guest post from Thomas Shields, Vice President, Marketing Program Delivery, BancVue.

An Empathic Challenge To Your Customer Journey!

All of us want to delight our customers, engage their interest and drive true customer loyalty. However, many of us are fighting an uphill battle and significant challenges stand in our way. The problem becomes particularly pronounced as we focus on growth.

The root cause lies in our perspective. There is a flaw in the way we conceptualize our customer and the value we bring them. shieldsWe almost always start by defining their journey by OUR milestones — simply because that is what we know. “We worked so hard on delivering the most brilliant, innovative product ever known to the industry. It truly defines perfection… why wouldn’t they want to hear about it right now?” Right?

The key to an effortless and truly graceful customer journey lies in our orientation, our ability to truly walk in our customers’ shoes and see our company, and our offerings, through their eyes. Let’s call it Empathic B2B. That perspective is totally unnatural for us because we are human and, in that way, are inherently biased by our own perspective.

Great companies know how to walk in their customers’ shoes and they build themselves around that. It sounds so obvious when you hear it – but do a quick gap analysis on how well you execute the theory.

  • Do you have a customer journey document that accurately captures the customer’s perspective?
  • Does the customer perspective lead and guide all your B2B efforts?
  • Are your customer onboarding processes written in words your customer would use, not your internal jargon?
  • Does your customer have the same milestones as you do in your sales documentation?

If you start to really peel back the layers you realize that we as leaders are sending conflicting messages to our troops. The primary message is “think on behalf of the customer,” but yet we fail to truly reinforce that at any point within the cultural and operational infrastructure we build. Too often, everything we build and say is “about them through our eyes” instead of being “about them through their eyes.”

So, how do you make this shift within your organization? Here are some tips:

  1. Go through an exercise and document your client journey from their perspective.
  2. Really challenge yourself to think like the client and forget your internal bias toward yourself.
  3. Include clients early and often. Choose some of your best clients (not necessarily those that love you the most) and talk to them. Validate that you have accurately captured their perspective and look for that sigh of relief or exclamation of excitement from them telling you that you “got it”.
  4. Don’t flatter yourself into thinking that you already know best because of your past experiences.
  5. Enlist internal champions to help you celebrate the transformation as a company priority and to make it a sustainable reality.

Once you’ve taken the above into consideration, start with your CRM system. No system should more clearly reinforce your customer’s journey than your CRM software. Use it to improve those metrics that define and reinforce the customer perspective for your team. Use it to reduce your customer’s efforts BancVue Logoon their journey, not yours. At our company, we used SugarCRM to achieve this. We implemented Sugar as a true enterprise application, spanning Customer Service, Finance, Legal, Marketing Operations, Sales, Technical Operations and Training.

We found the platform especially ideal thanks to its flexibility. We could seamlessly assimilate our customer’s unique journey into the rhythm of our business. It’s a shift in thinking that leads to improved internal processes and external relationships. And, it has shown results at BancVue.

BancVue has tripled in size since 2006, and Sugar paces the growth with new uses, customizations and integrations. We’re experiencing another period of explosive growth right now, and I know we couldn’t be successful managing that without Sugar.

Want to learn more about how we delighted our customers at BancVue? Read our case study and watch the video here: http://www.sugarcrm.com/casestudy/case-study-bancvue

About the Author

Thomas Shields is a heavy lifter. As VP of Marketing Program Delivery for BancVue, he lifts revenue and results for community banks and credit unions across the nation by managing the deployment of internal applications and the development of BancVue’s enterprise process architecture.

appsorangsThe title may be a bit confusing if you thought the words “customer” and “consumer” are the same, but I urge you to think again. There is a huge distinction in these two groups of people, especially as it applies to CRM. When we go to market as a CRM vendor, we essentially play both the “B2B” role of winning over decision-makers (“customers”), while also needing to win the war over user adoption (the true “consumers” of CRM). And oftentimes, the needs and goals of these two groups may seem different, if not diametrically opposed.

We have seen the types of issues than can befall firms that favor the “customer” over the consumer. In the smartphone world, Blackberry listened to the corporate IT “customer” while Apple favored the “consumer” and brought the iPhone to market – and we’ve seen how Apple’s fortunes have fared since 2007. Closer to home, we saw companies like Siebel Systems favor a complex, enterprise IT and CXO selling focus at the expense of the user experience. While some of the Siebel technology exists under Oracle, Siebel’s glory days are a distant memory in 2014.

At SugarCRM, we try to solve the “customer’s” issues (management-level decision makers) by meeting the “consumer’s” needs (the everyday end user) in new and innovative ways. By giving the front line, customer-facing employee tools they can actually use to do their job more effectively, a lot of benefits rise to the top. For example, with seamless and intuitive mobile tools, sales reps get a tool that gives them critical data when in front of clients. And, simple mobile tools ensure reps can add data when it is most fresh in their minds – not hours later. Therefore, data quality increases, as does revenue predictability – something management cares most about.

This is just one example of how designing for the consumer, and not simply the customer – makes sense. The symbiotic nature of “bottom’s up” design benefits everyone. When customer-facing employees actually want to use the system, management gains insight, predictability, while customer satisfaction and retention can increase (which means greater profit margins). I have seen sales teams that value the individual take this idea and run with it, to great success.

So, for those looking to begin or expand on a CRM initiative – it is important to ask yourself: Is the system I am evaluating designed for the decision-maker, or the everyday user? If it is the former, the long term benefits may not be as strong as you’d expect. But, if you choose a partner that designs with the consumer in mind, you are more than likely on the right track for higher adoption and more profound return on your CRM investment.

Gartner recently named SugarCRM as a Visionary for the second straight year in its Magic Quadrant for Sales Force mobile_combinedAutomation. Sugar’s innovative mobile user experience, and flexible deployment options were cited as reasons for the continued strong ranking.

Also, SugarCRM took home five awards as part of CRM Magazine’s annual Market Leader Awards thanks to the innovative nature of the software, as well as the way it empowers novel CRM deployments – such as Redglaze Group’s CRM Elite winning deployment.

All this recent recognition got me thinking: what does it truly mean to be a visionary when it comes to CRM? I think, in Sugar’s case, it comes down to three key differentiating points:

Innovative User Experience: Sugar has long been focused on user empowerment – making CRM a mission-critical tool for customer-facing employees, and not a simple data capture mechanism. Sugar’s ubiquitous, intuitive experience across all mobile and desktop touch points is a key differentiator.

Flexible Platform: Hands down, no other CRM provider offers such an open, extensible and scalable platform for CRM. The open nature of Sugar allows any user to customize and integrate with nearly any other data source or application.

Value: In a long-term CRM deployment, value comprises far more than just “what the system costs.” So again, when choosing a more open and extensible platform, the total cost over time is far less than a proprietary app or platform. The available talent around open, standards-based platforms is more abundant and less expensive, and the ease of extension given the lack of proprietary limitations generates greater lifetime value.

I believe that today, CRM is a market in transition. We are starting to see concepts like mobile, big data analytics and cross-departmental process automations shift from “nice to have” aspects of a CRM turn into “must haves.” In my opinion, only the most flexible, scalable, highly user-focused platforms, which provide the most value for the investment – will thrive in this new era of CRM.

Want to hear more about our visionary take on CRM? SugarCRM’s CMO Jennifer Stagnaro will be highlighting some great customer success stories aligned with our vision at Gartner’s Symposium IT Expo event in Orlando, Florida on October 7th.

 

 

As concepts like social media, mobile and big data add more and more information into the marketing mix, it is important for sales and marketing Summit Graphicprofessionals to embrace the concepts behind data-driven marketing. In today’s world, those taking advantage of the mountains of information available around our customers are the ones who will not only survive, but thrive and bat the competition.

To help marketers gain more insight around data-driven marketing, AgileOne is holding a FREE online conference all day on May 9th. As part of the event, SugarCRM co-founder and CTO Clint Oram will be speaking about how SugarCRM allows its users to delight today’s social customer.

The entire online conference is filled with great presenters and topics. Click here to register for free and join the conversation!

We here at SugarCRM are coming off an AMAZING week. In addition to gathering in San Francisco with our customer and partners at SugarCon, we sugarcrm-dashboardalso celebrated our tenth anniversary as a company. All throughout SugarCon, we talked about the Power of “i” and what it means in terms of empowering more individuals in the organizations we serve to be more effective every time they engage with a customer, and to simply perform their jobs better. A huge part of empowering companies to harness the power of “i” comes from the innovative user experience found in Sugar 7. We designed Sugar 7 with the individual in mind – aiming at offering a unique UI that gives users more actionable insight on every screen, as well as a more collaborative approach to CRM. In short, giving users what is most relevant to the tasks at hand – nothing more, nothing less.

Just before SugarCon, analysis firm Software Advice rated their Top 5 Favorite SFA Software User Interfaces, and I can say I am not surprised that Sugar 7 made the list. Here is what the author of the report told SugarCRM he was looking for when making their evaluations:

“When we were evaluating SFA user interfaces (UIs), we looked for designs that included intuitive, unobtrusive navigation systems; clear, aesthetically pleasing reports; and sensible layouts that make smart use of space to emphasize important information. Our favorites combine all these elements (and others) to make using the software both painless for the uninitiated and lightning-fast for SFA veterans,” says Jay Ivey, Managing Editor at Software Advice.

And while Ivey and Software Advice were not necessarily keen to our Power of “i” concept before writing the report, his description of why Sugar 7 made the cut speaks directly to the vision we hold around empowering individual users:

“We chose SugarCRM as one of our favorite interfaces for a lot of reasons, but we especially liked how easy it is for users to customize every aspect of their experience. With a wide range of drag-and-drop dashlets (which are basically widgets containing elements such as opportunity forecasts or contact information), it’s easy to make dashboards your own,” says Ivey. “Once you curate and arrange information to best suit your particular needs, you’ll find yourself wasting less time clicking through multiple screens to access what you’re looking for.”

The validation from Software Advice is not simply a nice kudos to a well designed product. Instead, it is a deeper validation of SugarCRM’s innovative vision in a marketplace that for many years has remained somewhat static. In my opinion, our refreshing approach to user enablement sets us apart, and it is great to see third parties agreeing as well.