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(Editor’s Note: The following post originally appeared on IBM’s Built With Watson Blog).

In our world of high expectations and ever expanding data on individuals and brands, mastering this data and transforming it into valuable insights to inspire our human connections has become essential for brands.

Take a minute and think about this: How do your customers perceive your brand? Is your brand “shy” online and only speaks when spoken to? Or is your brand overly enthusiastic and always waving its hands in your customers’ inboxes and social feeds? Is your brand a captivating conversationalist that encourages interaction or one that’s a little socially awkward or a little too forced? Are you the tiresome talker that is always extolling your own virtues or one that expresses genuine interest in your customers and what they actually care about? Does your brand need a little coaching in the “delighting customers” department?

Real-time insights can drive meaningful conversations

Although we all seek to be that fascinating brand as we engage with customers, such mastery requires the ability to identify and collect all available and relevant intelligence and distill it down into meaningful insights that can define meaningful conversations.

Meaningful insights that are actually actionable can be attained by a variety of methods. Many data-savvy brands employ big data and predictive analytics to help identify the next-best action based on customer segments and transactional patterns, which only represents about 20% of known information about customers for most brands. Some leading brands take it a step further and use machine learning along with Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology like IBM Watson’s APIs to collect, connect and make sense of the other 80% of the unstructured data such as tweets, Facebook posts, emails, call center audio recordings and other observable customer behaviors, likes and preferences and combine it with their transactional customer data. This approach provides visibility into richer, more comprehensive behavior patterns by customer segment that offers the potential to make your exchanges more interesting, personalized, and if you are really good, even memorable.

Moving from data to insights with AI

If you are truly looking to break away from the herd and into the lead, your CRM and automated marketing platform will need to include AI and cognitive APIs. With AI, the dream can move beyond customer segments and reach down to the individual level by providing the power and speed to make sense of the enormous amount of data out there and surface true insights allowing for individual action, at scale. As the hot new brand coach, AI can lead the way to enhance the human-to-human connection for your brand by understanding the experiences your customers want.

To make your brand truly delight and engage customers, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Stop putting energy into old email marketing practices that don’t deliver and focus only on including the high-value information that is worthy of your customer’s time and attention. If frequent messaging or notifications are important to your core value proposition, only do so based upon explicit customer preference.
  • Be very selective in the type of metrics you choose to run your business. Diligently focus on the ones that are truly your key performance indicators versus trying to distill insight from low value information.
  • Invest in a CRM system with embedded AI that tells you something you don’t already know about your customers by combining behavioral data from both your backend systems and available external and publicly available data sources.
  • Get an automated marketing platform that is synchronized with your CRM system and employs AI so that it allows you to better plan interaction flows, communicate consistently across channels and recommend next best action.

To learn more about how you can truly supercharge your brand’s marketing and customer engagement efforts, download the IBM and SugarCRM white paper: “Becoming a Brilliant Brand Conversationalist.”

Customer journey mapping is an important exercise that helps companies understand their customer’s perspective so they can meet needs and expectations. It also drives companies to reach all the business goals for individual customers – such as long-term engagement, buying additional products or services, or becoming a reference. The customer journey map itself is a visual diagram of the way your customers engage with you throughout the buying cycle. From the time they learn your company’s name or find you on Google, all the way to the time they purchase their first product/service from you, and even beyond that.

In 2017, leading organizations will extend the value of customer journey mapping initiatives by doing two things:

1) Operationalize them

Customer journey mapping is a common exercise, but the real challenge is turning the customer journey map from a theoretical framework or tracking mechanism into a practical tool that proactively guides customers throughout their journeys. Many companies have tried to capture every aspect of their business with customer journey mapping, and as a result, created beautiful documents that did little more than sit on the shelf. Operationalized customer journey maps are used, not just by marketing to shape the entire customer experience, but also by every customer facing individual in every customer interaction. That means baking customer journey maps into the CRM tool used by sales and service. By doing this, those customer-facing individuals know exactly where their customer is in the journey; and are also given prescriptive guidance that tells them what they should do next. And, the resulting CRM data can them be mapped back to customer journey analytics and reporting.

At SugarCRM, we now have a Customer Journey plug-in that shows an individual customer’s progress through the journey, and an advanced customer decision workflow panel, which quickly describes every task or action that a customer-facing professional like a seller must complete in order to help a customer advance to the next decision stage. This helps operationalize the customer journey and bake it into the day-to-day work process of a sales or service person.

2) Add cognitive capabilities throughout the customer journey

Engagement throughout the customer journey, and across all parts of the organization delivering that journey – marketing, sales and service – can benefit from cognitive technologies. As one example, SugarCRM is working with IBM Watson and other technologies to add cognitive insight and enrichment for CRM users. You’ll hear more about this shortly.

Here’s an example that illustrates both points, taken from the SugarCRM and IBM Watson “Cognitive Customer Engagement for Banking” solution. A banking customer receives personalized interactions from their bank through the use of marketing automation, behavioral scoring and nurturing. Prompted by those interactions, they log on to their bank account, where they engage in a dialog with Watson about potential retirement funds. After gathering information about age, risk tolerance and investment goals, Watson recommends a specific fund, and then engages a Financial Advisor. The advisor can then continue the dialog in a very personalized and targeted way, and is guided via their CRM with a set of recommendations to propose to the customer. The end result? A more satisfied customer, more revenue for the bank, and lower SG&A costs.

To learn more about this solution, click here.

To read more about other top marketing trends for 2017, check out IBM’s paper on “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2017”.

Digital transformation is a popular buzz phrase. But, what does it mean and how does it fit into your business?

There are many definitions floating around the Internet. This one from the analyst firm the Altimeter Group is good: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.” But I would extend it by saying it’s about engaging ALL customers — through both digital and human touchpoints.

Many organizations today are undertaking broad initiatives to transform how they engage with their customers. Whether this is classified as a digital transformation, a customer engagement transformation, a business transformation, or something else, a common theme is holistically incorporating capabilities such as social, mobile, data analytics, marketing automation and CRM into a complete solution for customer engagement along the entire customer journey.

The role of CRM in digital transformation

Digital transformation spans more than just CRM, but CRM should be a key component of digital transformation for the following reasons:

  • The CRM is a central hub for information about customers – a critical data source for human and digital touchpoints during customer engagement.
  • Almost all organizations still need human touchpoints such as sales reps, customer success managers, customer service agents, etc.  Even as organizations increasingly adopt intelligent digital capabilities like marketing automation and social media monitoring and outreach, at the point in the customer journey where that customer interacts with a human, it’s important that the human can navigate the CRM system to better connect with the customer. In this scenario it’s also critically important that the CRM system can tie into and both inform, and be informed by, the other digital systems and channels.

CRM requirements in the digital transformation era

To make your CRM a centerpiece of your digital transformation, it must easily integrate into other customer engagement tools so that the CRM user is presented with all the relevant information he or she needs to know about a customer, even if that information resides outside of the CRM (and much of it will). For example, can a call center rep see previous digital marketing interactions, social media comments, and even in-store / in branch activity, quickly and easily inside the CRM? From the CRM, can they then initiate other processes like a return process, check on the status of an order in the order management system, even add the contact to an existing marketing automation program? Can a sales rep be fully informed about all the prospect’s previous digital interactions? Are analytics quickly and easily measured in the CRM to provide “next best actions” or upsell recommendations, easily and quickly to the sales or contact center rep?

Why is Sugar the best CRM for Digital Transformation?

Here’s how Sugar is uniquely positioned to meet these needs:

Innovation Empowering the Individual

Tools used in digital transformation must be innovative. Unlike legacy CRM systems, Sugar is designed with the individual in mind, and offers the most innovative and intuitive user experience on the market – SugarUX™.  With SugarUX’s modern and immersive interface, every customer-facing employee can effectively engage with customers every time thanks to a consistent Sugar experience regardless of your access point or device. Embedded collaboration tools help break down departmental silos and increase engagement and service levels. And best of all, Sugar provides contextual intelligence from internal and external data sources—all within a single dashboard—to drive more actionable insights for every user.

A Customizable CRM platform

Sugar easily integrates with global enterprise applications and data sources. It is a highly customizable platform based on open technologies and using readily available skills (PHP, Javascript). Sugar offers full source code access with a full range of upgrade-safe integration points. And, Sugar offers single code base across all environments.

Note that in most cases, system integrators and customers who build customizations on top of Sugar, own the intellectual property. Therefore they are free to leverage their investment and harvest their customization as a remarketable asset, adding value for their customers and differentiating themselves.

Greatest business value

Sugar offers simple, predictable pricing with no hidden fees or forced upgrades. Unlike other CRMs, Sugar is less expensive to customize and integrate; includes sales, service and other core CRM capabilities in one price; and has lower long-term TCO: lower data and API costs due to flexible cloud options. Other CRMs charge additionally for additional API calls , and hence digital transformation initiatives with multiple CRM integration points end up incurring high CRM costs. Sugar does not charge for additional API calls.

Example of Sugar in Digital Transformation

Rodobens is one of the 100 largest conglomerates in Brazil, and operates seven business units, including automotive sales, leasing and rental, farm machinery sales, insurance, and banking. Rodobens undertook a complete digital and customer transformation, including Analytics, Marketing Automation, and CRM initiatives. To do so, Robodens turned to trusted solutions providers in IBM, for its business management model , analytics, and marketing automation offerings, and SugarCRM for a Customer Relationship Management solution that could handle the diversity of the various business units and easily integrate with IBM and other business applications. You can read more about the Rodobens story here.

SugarCRM is thrilled to be the recipient of an IBM Beacon Award in the Outstanding Commerce solution category.

Winners in the IBM Beacon Awards, a part of IBM’s business partner recognition program, are selected by a panel of expert judges consisting of IBM executives, industry analysts and members of the press. IBM’s Beacon Awards recognize Business Partners who have demonstrated business excellence in delivering IBM-based solutions to clients around the world to drive transformation and business growth.

SugarCRM won for the integrated “IBM Marketing Cloud and SugarCRM” solution. This solution empowers the delivery of exceptional experiences for customers across the buyer journey by leveraging customer data, providing analytical insights and automating relevant cross-channel interactions. The solution provides:

  • Automatic Customer Data Sync: Automatic data synchronization between Sugar and IBM Marketing Cloud delivers a complete view of customer activity across all departments and functions, and eliminates data duplication and inconsistencies.
  • Customized Alerts: Alerts can be set to inform key stakeholders in any department when a customer reaches a certain score or rank. Scoring models can be built based on a broad range of behaviors.
  • Contact Insight: Enables users across Sales, Marketing and Service to open and track all interactions with customers and prospects. Sales personnel can add contacts in the CRM system and trigger automatic inclusion in marketing programs.
  • IBM Marketing Cloud emails sent directly from Sugar: Sales teams can customize pre-configured email templates and use them to communicate personally with their customers and prospects.

Multiple customers, including Rodobens in Brazil, and Henry Wurst Inc., have already chosen to deploy this solution. You can read more about their usage here

To learn more about the solution, see sugarcrm.com/ibm/marketing-solutions

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(Editor’s note: The following blog post originally appeared on IBM’s commerce blog on February 4, 2016)

In the digital world, customer journeys have become much more complicated than they used to be. Customers may research a product or service online or via social media, visit the vendor website, or react to paid or owned media. They may talk to a vendor and/or its competitors at a tradeshow, or they might get around to talking to a vendor’s sales or call center reps. Many of these touchpoints in the complex journey involve separate technology solutions: a web personalization tool, a social media tool, a campaign management tool, or a CRM system being used by sales and call centers.

CRM can be an invaluable tool for designing, optimizing and coordinating the entire customer experience across all of these touchpoints. Although, what’s needed is a way to more easily tie together all the events across the journey, regardless of the systems and technologies that drive the interactions. IBM’s Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX) facilitates seamless connectivity of customer identities and events across channels, apps, and data sources to make this integration far easier.

SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with an innovative, flexible and affordable CRM solution. SugarCRM’s integration into IBM UBX makes it easier to connect with all the systems and applications that drive digital interactions with customers, keeping sales and service reps fully informed about other activities and events that their customer has experienced. With SugarCRM and the IBM UBX ecosystem, organizations can more easily manage customer experiences across the entire customer journey, regardless of which tools are used to manage individual touchpoints.

Learn more about SugarCRM and IBM Marketing Solutions.

sugarCRM-IBM

SugarCRM’s integration with IBM UBX makes it easier to understand and coordinate interactions across the entire customer journey.

 

We all know the importance of customer experience. Watermark Consulting published a great study on this showing that customer experience leaders outperform the S&P 500 by 35 points, and customer experience laggards post a return 45 points lower than the S&P 500.

Yet, many organizations struggle with providing a consistent and optimized experience for their customers because of:

– internal siloes between sales, marketing and service teams

– disconnects between digital touchpoints, such as digital marketing initiatives, and human touchpoints, such as sales, service, and call center people

How many times can you think of cases where a prospect received an email or web offer, but then followed up with a salesperson who had no knowledge of that offer?

That’s why, SugarCRM is very excited to be working with IBM on the new IBM Marketing Cloud for SugarCRM. Multiple customers, including Rodobens in Brazil, and Henry Wurst Inc., have already chosen to deploy the newly released offering, which integrates Sugar for customer relationship management, and IBM Marketing Cloud built on Silverpop Engage, for marketing automation.

“We’re pleased to see how well this solution is being received by our customers,” said Larry Augustin, SugarCRM CEO. “IBM Marketing Cloud and Sugar have immediately resonated with clients who are looking to improve customer engagement and business performance. Together, Sugar and IBM Marketing Cloud enhance customer relationships while making marketing more efficient, sales more productive and service more satisfying.”

IBM Marketing Cloud and SugarCRM empower the delivery of exceptional experiences for customers across the buyer journey by leveraging customer data, providing analytical insights and automating relevant cross-channel interactions.

Integration with Sugar customer relationship management software provides:

  • Automatic Customer Data Sync: Automatic data synchronization between Sugar and IBM Marketing Cloud delivers a complete view of customer activity across all departments and functions, and eliminates data duplication and inconsistencies.
  • Customized Alerts: Alerts can be set to inform key stakeholders in any department when a customer reaches a certain score or rank. Scoring models can be built based on a broad range of behaviors.
  • Contact Insight: Enables users across Sales, Marketing and Service to open and track all interactions with customers and prospects. Sales personnel can add contacts in the CRM system and trigger automatic inclusion in marketing programs.
  • IBM Marketing Cloud emails sent directly from Sugar: Sales teams can customize pre-configured email templates and use them to communicate personally with their customers and prospects.

“At IBM, we’re committed to delivering exceptional experiences for customers across the entire buyer journey,” said John Mesberg, General Manager, Offering Management and Strategy, IBM Commerce. “Our integration with Sugar enables us to tap a rich store of customer data that includes all touchpoints – both human and digital. This comprehensive view makes for better decisions and more meaningful interactions at every step. We’re very pleased at the added value this integration delivers to our users.”

Learn more or register for a demo at the SugarCRM page here, the Sugar Exchange entry here, or the Silverpop page here. Or, come see it in person at any of the following upcoming events:

For the most up-to-date list of events, please refer to the SugarCRM events calendar here!

Picture this: you are interested in a product from a particular company. You look at that company’s website and register for a special offer. Then, you contact a sales or call center representative from that same company. But – the representative has no idea that you’ve already looked at the website, and that you’ve registered digitally for the special offer.
This is an example of a disconnected customer experience, where digital interactions (like web or email marketing) are disconnected from human interactions with sales or service people. Unfortunately, this results in an inconsistent customer experience for the prospect, and represents missed opportunity to increase return on marketing investment and to increase lead-to-cash efficiency for the company.

SugarCRM, an IBM global strategic business partner, is working together with IBM ExperienceOne to address these issues and to provide optimized customer experiences across marketing, sales and service; and spanning digital and human touch points.

At IBM Amplify 2015, there will be many opportunities for you to learn more about the exciting combination of SugarCRM and IBM ExperienceOne:
– On Tuesday May 12, from 2:45-3:45pm in Room 33c, listen to a panel discussion featuring Chris Wong, IBM VP ExperienceOne products and strategy; Clint Oram, SugarCRM CTO and co-founder; and customers and partners including Rodobens, a diversified financial services and automotive company, and Triscal, an IBM and SugarCRM business partner. You’ll hear Chris and Clint’s views on the intersection of marketing and sales automation. Listen to Rodobens and Triscal describe how they are providing a consistent customer experience across their disparate lines of business, with IBM Campaign, IBM Silverpop, and SugarCRM (session MHT-1286A).
– Also on Tuesday May 12, from 11am-12pm in Room 29A, you’ll get an exclusive preview from Dale Price, Senior Product Manager with IBM Silverpop, and Laurence Leong, Senior Director Strategic Alliances with SugarCRM, about the new Silverpop for SugarCRM integrated solution (session MEE-1283A).
– You can also visit the SugarCRM booth 606 to see and learn about these solutions yourselves.

Not going to Amplify? Learn more, and get a copy of the solution sheet, at sugarcrm.com/ibm/experienceone