Archives For CRM Success

Maybe this experience is familiar to you: You want to grow your business, but don’t have confidence in your growth machine. Your current sales organization performs adequately, but ramping up new reps is hit or miss, some are total flops.  It’s clear the growth formula just isn’t there. Making it harder, marketing keeps handing over leads that are barely qualified and rarely pan out.  And, the constant pressure to grow, grow, grow, is weighing on the team.  

How to solve this when you have too little consistency in how your sales reps engage with your prospects? And customer hand-offs from department to department also seem to be a constant challenge. After all the hard work of signing up a new customer, it frustrates your sales team to no end when new customers have less than an ideal experience with the rest of your company.

On top of all that, your budget is finite, and you aren’t exactly sure increasing your sales and marketing spend is the answer (yet) to dramatically increasing growth anyway.

If this sounds familiar, I have a suggestion that will help close more deals and keep more customers, all without blowing the budget…take a close look at your CRM implementation.

Here’s why: a new, fresh approach to your CRM can change the way your organization interacts with customers, qualifies leads, manages the sales cycle, and helps you differentiate yourself from the competition. In many cases, this self-analysis will lead you to evaluating a new CRM solution for your company.

It’s simple really: Legacy CRM is primarily all about reporting numbers to management with little, to no, focus on helping your people deliver an awesome customer experience. This is amazing to me given that, with a few exceptions, different companies in the same industry usually offer just a variation of the same services or products. And every one of those competitors are just a simple Google search away from each other.  How you win customers is now based on how you treat customers as much, or more than, as what you sell.

That means the need for an exceptional, and unique, customer experience is more critical than ever before.  Think about it, I’ve stayed in many business class hotels all over the world. There are some minor differences, but they all offer a comfy king-sized bed and a bathroom. The list goes on: airlines, rental cars, even Uber vs Lyft. How do you differentiate yourself when you offer similar goods or services as your direct competitors?

The answer is your customer experience. The companies that win in this era of empowered and intelligent customers win because they create better relationships with their customers. That makes sense, but a natural follow up question (and the key question to this whole blog post) is: How can you create a better customer experience when you are using the same, uninspired CRM system as your competitors?

Last month, at SugarCon 2016, we heard many great stories from SugarCRM customers who started out by looking for a different approach to CRM. We heard over and over again that they didn’t want to look like their competitors. They realized that they needed a different kind of CRM to build a different kind of customer experience.  These folks were all mavericks, disruptors, mobilizers of change. They were tired of adequate, average, and the status quo. They saw Sugar as a chance to find a better way. And, their research and investment paid off:

  • Jaime Morillo of Marathon Sports said his organization has seen a 225% increase in customer purchases during monthly promotions and increased customer retention from 47% to 57% since implementing Sugar
  • Naomi Ward of CitySprint in the UK talked about how Sugar is powering their logistics and delivery company’s fight against major disruption from the likes of Amazon and Uber, while driving sales growth.
  • Rober Amber of Unifin, a financial services company in Mexico, said his organization was able to reduce credit application processing time by 60% and grow sales revenue by 300%

These organizations, and many others, understood they had options when it came to CRM. They felt playing it safe was not really all that safe. They realized a modern CRM could help them sell more, increase revenue and build their brand without having to increase budgets.

I challenge you, don’t be a follower. Separate yourself from the CRM pack. If you follow your competition’s tools, you’ll follow everything else.

Besides, the view from the front is much better.

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published on CMSWire.com)

Have you been Ubered? Has technology reshuffled the deck in your industry? Are you about to become obsolete as some new (or renewed) competitor steals all of your hard-won, seemingly loyal customers?

Digital disruption is the new buzzword in the business transformation consulting circles, and for good reason. We are watching business model after business model being disrupted by ridiculously fast evolution in mobile tech, new marketplaces are popping up all over the place and faster and faster communication keeps connecting buyers and sellers in new ways. Technology has truly punched the accelerator on business digital transformation in industry after industry.

But what’s the one immutable fact through all of this? Customers are king. Today’s customer expects immediate answers and instant gratification. You may have a fantastic product or service, but if you don’t put an outstanding customer experience at the center of all your business planning, you will lose. This means the most impactful digital transformation strategy for your business must be around transforming your customers’ experience with your company. In short: Make it easy. Make it awesome.

That’s where modern CRM comes in. With a thoughtful investment in CRM technology, you can impress your customers by putting all the answers and insights they could ever need, right at their fingertips. Regardless of the channel, from classic retail (like your nearest mall) to modern mobile marketplaces (like Uber), CRM technology puts immediate, relevant answers in front of your customer. Sounds like lots of moving parts though, right?

Taking a step back for a moment, it is worth reflecting upon the fantastic evolution that CRM technology has gone through. Thirty years ago, Customer Relationship Management software meant call center software for tracking trouble tickets. With the advent of laptops in the early 90’s, sales force automation became the hot new CRM topic for helping companies accurately forecast their sales pipelines. And then in the late 90’s, outbound emailing became Marketing Automation software. But what truly transformed the CRM software industry was when companies stopped looking to CRM software just as a way to gain efficiencies from their employees. Instead, when companies began looking to CRM software to orchestrate a set of interactions between the company and their customers, that’s when CRM transformed from a cost reduction investment to a growth acceleration investment.

However, many organizations are often stuck in their old habits, using their legacy CRM technology to support separate, siloed business functions. By looking forward, the opportunity exists to use modern CRM as the backbone of a digital, customer-first strategy. Here are your four steps to CRM transformation:

  1. Transform Initiatives – Align your business initiatives with customer needs. If a customer-first strategy is at the center of your business, it makes sense, then, that your CRM must follow suit. An organization evolving to meet the new demands of the customer — in fact, building infrastructure around the sole purpose of serving them — recognizes the customer’s power, and will ultimately succeed.
  1. Transform Individuals – Empower individual employees. Your CRM platform must be designed with the individual employee and the customer in mind. As CRM has evolved to meet customer demands, organizations must remember that helping their own people get their job done is equally important. The right CRM helps salespeople sell and helps customer service agents deliver an extraordinary customer experience by providing the right information to the right person at the right time — even before they ask.
  1. Transform Interactions – Orchestrate customer interactions across the customer journey. Doing so brings a customer focus to everything and orchestrates consistent and informed interactions throughout the entire customer journey and at each human and digital touch point across departments, processes and systems.
  1. Transform Information – Deliver insight with a single view of customer information. Today’s customer is more informed, thanks to smart phones, social media and the rise of the digital economy. A Modern CRM gathers and organizes information about the customer across all internal and external data sources.

If a customer-first strategy is at the center of your business, congratulations. You’re squarely on your way to fostering a customer-first strategy. Your next goal should be to ensure your CRM supports this strategy and positions you to win in this era of digital transformation.

 

No, I’m not going Dear Abby on you, I’m talking about your relationship with your CRM provider.

Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re in for. Everything starts fine, the whole thing seems like a promising partnership between vendor and customer. But, the more you get to know someone, the more you start to realize there are some flaws you just can’t stand – like an ambiguous pricing model.

If you are considering a new CRM relationship with Salesforce, you should be aware of a few things. Salesforce pricing includes upcharges for system usage, which are often very hard to calculate and budget. Just as companies start to realize the business benefits of the CRM system, the costs start to grow exponentially. Upcharges include API calls, which equate to connections to other data sources. Storage-based fees can balloon when storing large files such as PDFs or presentation slide decks in 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 CRM platform can cost an additional $300 per application per month.

It helps to understand Salesforce business model. They talk about “the age of the customer” and how they want to help you build close customer relationships. That’s great, but what they also want to do is lock you into their proprietary cloud environment and charge you every time you want to access your customer data. Think about that, it is like being charged a toll every time you park your car in your own garage.

A recent Forrester survey revealed that 52% of the respondents picked “high cost of ownership over time” as the one thing they most dislike about Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, followed by “rigid and inflexible pricing model” at 42% of total. As a result, 43% of the respondents said they will “renegotiate our contract with Salesforce when it comes up for renewal,”

Good luck with that one.

Breaking up is hard to do, the best approach is to avoid a dysfunctional CRM relationship in the first place and choose a better partner from the outset.

SugarCRM believes strongly in simple, predictable pricing with no hidden fees or forced upgrades. Unlike Salesforce, SugarCRM includes sales, service and other core CRM capabilities for one price with absolutely no hidden fees. SugarCRM’s sticker price is much lower than Salesforce for similar editions, but that really only tells part of the story.  SugarCRM aims to limit the “hidden fees” that Salesforce is known for.  SugarCRM does not charge exorbitant premiums for object storage nor does SugarCRM force users to upgrade to more expensive editions when the user hits arbitrary customization or API limits.

These are some critical elements to consider when entering into a new CRM relationship. Buyer beware!

For more information about hidden CRM costs, check out our pricing comparison guide.

 

Intro
Let’s say you’ve implemented a marketing automation solution. If so, you’ve taken a great step in terms of providing a superior experience for your customers.  

A next step, for many organizations, is to continue focusing on the customer experience with a Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, system.

Why CRM?
A CRM helps organizations create excellent customer experiences. As an example, at SugarCRM, we are focused on helping individual employees in customer facing roles – such as sales and service people – create extraordinary customer relationships.

A CRM typically differs from marketing automation in that marketing automation focuses on digital marketing to large audiences, whereas CRM is designed around human interactions (e.g. sales or service) to individual customer (or potential customer) contacts – what we at SugarCRM call i2i, or individual-to-individual. For an optimal experience from your customers’ point of view, and for optimal efficiency in your own sales, marketing and service teams, an integrated marketing automation and CRM system is the answer.

Benefits
Integrating marketing automation with CRM provides value in many ways. From the prospect or customer’s point of view, they see a seamless customer experience, regardless of whether they are interacting with your organization through a marketing-driven interaction, or a sales- or service-driven interaction, and whether through digital channels like website, email, or social media, or through human interaction like talking to a sales person or service person.

For your own sales and service teams, they are now more efficient and more prepared since they have the full context from marketing automation. They can see exactly which emails, websites, web / social / mobile offers struck a chord with a particular prospect.

Considerations
If you’re evaluating an integration between CRM and marketing automation, here are a few things to look for:

  • Data synchronization An automatic and configurable synchronization between data objects like leads, contacts, and opportunities in your CRM and marketing automation systems is an absolute must. This ensures that the two systems can share data. Look for an ability to configure data mapping, frequency of synchronization, and conflict resolution. Ideally the synchronization can be two-way. And, since most marketing automation and CRM deployments have their own custom fields, make sure the synchronization supports custom fields in an upgrade-safe manner.
  • The ability to create prospects lists in CRM according to specific criteria, and to supply those lists as input into a marketing automation program. When setting up new programs or campaigns in your marketing automation tool, what better place to start than with the data in your CRM system, which represents what you already know about customers and prospects?
  • Automatic lead alerting between marketing automation and CRM. You want the ability for highly qualified leads in the marketing automation system to be automatically pushed over to CRM. The ability to apply workflow is helpful here. Workflow can be used for lead routing or assignment to a sales rep, as well as for lead escalation or reassignment (eg a lead that isn’t followed up on within 3 days gets reassigned with notification to the first level manager). Workflow can also be used to trigger notifications to the rep, like an email or text to notify the rep of their new hot lead(s).
  • The ability for CRM users (like sales and service reps) to see full context from marketing automation. When a sales or service rep goes into their CRM system to work a lead that has been automatically created from the marketing automation system, you want that rep to be able to easily see what the lead did in marketing automation that resulted in the high score. Which emails did they open? Which websites did they visit and what did they look at on those sites? What digital offers did they respond to?  If sales and service can’t see this, they will provide an inconsistent experience to the customer. If, on the other hand, they can reinforce previous digital interactions, then you have created an optimized and consistent customer experience across channels.
  • The ability for CRM users (like sales and service reps) to reuse marketing assets and programs. Many marketing teams create great assets (like well thought out, rich email templates) and programs (like sophisticated multi-touch campaigns). Yet many sales and service people can’t easily reuse these assets and programs. A well-integrated CRM and marketing automation system will allow the CRM user to seamlessly reuse existing email templates from marketing automation, and will allow a CRM user to drop a prospect into an existing marketing automation program.

Summary
Integrated marketing automation and CRM provides a consistent and optimized customer experience, across digital and human interaction channels, and across marketing, sales and service. By using the above considerations to evaluate a marketing automation and CRM integration, you’re well on your way to driving better customer experience, as well as on increasing your organization’s’ internal efficiency.

(Want to learn more about SugarCRM and Marketing Automation? Come see us at IBM Amplify, May 16 – 19 at Booth #125)

Got customers? Want to differentiate yourself by providing a superior customer experience?

If so, SugarCon 2016 is the conference for you.

SugarCRM’s annual conference for customers, partners, developers and technology experts explores the latest CRM trends and innovations. It will take place on June 13-16, 2016, in San Francisco at the Hilton Union Square.

This year’s SugarCon will feature some of the richest, most powerful content ever assembled by SugarCRM. Sessions run the gamut from high level Business Transformation topics, to Strategic IT Management, to hands-on Sugar In-Depth, where Sugar experts get into the nitty gritty on how to use new Sugar tech, like Mobile SDK, Sugar 7.7, and Advanced Workflow.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Catriona Wallace, one of the world’s leading thought-leaders on the customer experience and trends related to the era of the empowered customer. Led by appearances from Dr. Wallace, SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin and many leading business strategists and technology experts, the event will also feature interactive panel discussions, hands-on product training sessions, and opportunities to engage with SugarCRM executives and product development teams.

Customer journey expert, Phil Winters returns to SugarCon to discuss “Transforming the Agent Experience”, and Paul Greenberg, Author of “CRM at the Speed of Light,” will unlock the secrets of “Selling the Business Value of CRM.”

Agenda highlights include:

  • Feature presentations and panel discussions with leading SugarCRM customers from the technology, financial services, hospitality and automotive industries.
  • Sugar platform demonstrations on the main-stage will show how organizations can use Sugar to manage the customer journey and empower individuals to create extraordinary relationships.
  • Product training educational sessions where attendees will discover groundbreaking Sugar features that help individual employees to do their jobs better.
  • UnCon hackathon, which offers Sugar developers a great chance to hack side-by-side with SugarCRM engineers.
  • Sugar Labs gives attendees an opportunity to do hands-on usability testing with upcoming Sugar features.
  • The annual app throwdown, SugarCRM’s annual head-to-head competition to see who will take the top prize for the best Sugar application.

For additional information about SugarCon 2016, to view the agenda or to register, please visit the SugarCon website. Early bird registration for the ends on April 15, 2016.

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.

A key initiative here at SugarCRM is to provide to our customers a platform that allows them to create and support extraordinary relationships with their own customers. In the spirit of sharing best practices, we wanted to publish some ideas on how we approach designing and building our platform to meet this objective. True to the philosophy is breaking down the problem and then putting it back together in a way that helps us to reach the best possible outcome.

Background

Designing and building a software application is no easy feat, if it were easy, anyone could do it (well). While many companies have become quite good at managing and building product features leveraging Agile methods, Agile is specific to a specific part of the production lifecycle. Figuring out what the user community actually wants, and going through iterations in design is a different matter all together. In order to attack this issue the two methods that have come into favor during the past 10 years are both Lean and Design Thinking. There are strengths and weakness to both, but what if we take the best parts of each?

It is important to outline the basic principles for each Lean and Design Thinking. Yes, there are many books written on each, clearly a paragraph does not do justice, but will suffice.  A Lean focused product development approach works towards creating a minimal viable product (known as MVP) and leverages data and specific feedback throughout the design and development process. Lean takes a feature/function approach to the product as well, more on that in a bit.  Lean is considered a fast, efficient approach to the whole process, as depicted below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.21.32 PM

Design thinking puts more emphasis on empathy and creating a stronger bond with the target end-user and the job the user needs to get done with the product in question. This is also known as a Service Design or a jobs-to-be-done philosophy. Where Lean is closer to quantitative, Design Thinking is qualitative. Where Lean is logical and detailed, Design thinking is emotional, detailed and places the product in question within a larger context; the future, my business, the world around us. Visually, Design Thinking looks like the picture below, note the differences from the picture above:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.22.29 PM

In designing and building a platform for a large enterprise, it is harder to think in terms of MVP, because the team is not designing or redesigning the entire product. In this case the team needs to create another vehicle in order figure out what to build, when to build it, and whether it will work (to satisfy our customers).

With respect to building or enhancing an Enterprise platform, should the team choose an approach that favors Lean, or one that uses Design Thinking?

Both.

Resetting the Baseline

In order to make my case, it is important to redefine the rules, if only a little bit. Taking a moment to discuss exactly what “minimum viable product” describes is important to this discussion. By definition an MVP has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. While, by definition, MVP needs to deliver just enough of a desired outcome for people to want to sign up and use it, within a Fortune 500 organization, the bar is quite high. The baseline for MVP within the Enterprise domain is different. So much so that it cannot be ignored. Is it possible to look at this from a feature-by-feature perspective?

In the world of Enterprise Software, there is not one target user (persona), there are many more.  Enterprise applications live on a technology stack, and often have domain areas of functionality. Within the spectrum of Enterprise users, some are very analytical, logical and perform tasks in a very specific way, these jobs-to-be-done require repeatability and precision. For others, there is a strong emotional element, efficiency and creativity are a high priority; like sales people for example. For this reason, this reason alone it is enough to now make the statement that one method cannot work. In an Enterprise fast, iterative, quantitative and qualitative design, along with a strong empathetic bond is required to build the right stuff.

Here are the three groups Enterprise application designers and developers need to keep in mind as they design and build software (using CRM as an example):

  1. End-User – Sales, Service or Marketing user, I need CRM to get my job done.
  2. Designer/Developer – Configuration, Customization, Integration
  3. Technology Support – Raw iron (or VM) up to Application layer; OS, DB, PHP

A balanced approach to each of the personas is required to design, build and deploy software that meets the needs of all three types. The balance in approach needs to come not only from how the process takes place, but whom the team talks to and how the discussion takes place.  The question of approach may need to pivot towards the question of how best to get user input into the process, again, not a simple task.

What is Feedback?

“If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would say faster horses,” attributed to Henry Ford – though he never said it, and many are not sure if it was good or bad. In other words, the job that needed to be done was to get from point a to point b, Ford was selling cars, something very new.

Some might contend that the key difference between Lean and Design Thinking is one of practicality and science versus wants and desires.  The quote above, whether factual or not does represent how Ford approached the automotive industry. However, the factory model he built created his legacy and nearly caused its downfall. It was rigid and hard to change. General Motors came at Ford pretty hard in the late 1920s. In 1921, the Ford Motor Company sold about 2/3 of all the cars built in the U.S. By 1926, this share had fallen to approximately 1/3. (5)

The practical value of when and how to listen to customers and/or users is a very complex problem. Any designer/builder of enterprise software should have detailed understanding of their customers and their customer’s problems via both empirical knowledge and observable patterns; domain expertise is a definite nice-to-have. In the end, the team should also feel empowered to ignore customer input, as the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ is often lost in the day to day within many organizations. The emotional attachment to features and functions needs to be heard and considered, but in the end tough decisions made.

Thoughts anyone?

Sources for the discussion:

1 – https://medium.com/art-marketing/lean-vs-design-thinking-6ae7c04453a6#.7ue9w2px9

2 – https://medium.com/lean-product-design/couple-design-thinking-lean-for-your-mvp-80478b8fb9f5#.prs6zjujv

3- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reuse-lose-many-uses-stan-garfield

4 – https://hbr.org/2011/08/henry-ford-never-said-the-fast

5 – http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-user-experience-why-data-not-just-design-hits-the-sweet-spot/