Archives For CRM

I just returned from a jam-packed two days at the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit in Las Vegas. While there, I met with analysts, existing SugarCRM customers, and a lot of prospects and IT leaders looking for the next “big thing” in application software.

gartnerimage002After dozens of great conversations, it is exciting to know that the IT and line of business leaders who attended are driving change in their organizations – mainly around the customer experience. And, perhaps more important, they are doing so in ways that align perfectly with the vision we have here at SugarCRM.

Here are some key takeaways I brought back from the event. I think they are pretty telling about the state of the industry and where we need to be as solution providers for businesses of all sizes looking to reinvent the ways they interact and build customer relationships:

Disruption is a serious issues for nearly ALL industries. I spoke with (and spoke to during my breakout session) individuals from all types of industries – both old, establish firms and even some startups. They ALL said they feel disruption BOTH from digital native upstarts as well as see the changing demands of the customer as disruptive forces.

Transformation over Migration/Modernization. I LOVED hearing that those with older technologies performing CRM functions were looking to go broader and truly transform their cultures and engagement strategies, and NOT simply put in more up to date systems. Right now is a time for transformation, not migration.

You gotta have a platform to win. In nearly every conversation we had with those managing a transformation, or even a broad CRM initiative – they indicated the need for a process-driven platform at the heart of the project. We built the Sugar platform, and embedded advanced workflow, with these types of projects in mind.

CX and CRM are Merging. Well, maybe to be more accurate, as one Gartner analysts described to me – “CRM is becoming a subset of CX.” Meaning, all businesses need some sort of core CRM tool, which can be a foundational system to power broader, more inclusive, end-to-end and omni-channel CX initiatives. I think the attendees are still bewildered around how to create a wholly inclusive CX strategy, but we as an industry need to be experts and be there to help guide them.

Value Matters, Always. We had hundreds of people coming by our booth at the conference and one overarching theme was that a lot of companies simply do not feel they are receiving value for the biggest and entrenched enterprise CRM players. We had a lot of productive conversations about how to drive value inside a CRM/CX initiative – and as more CIOs and business leaders are pressed to do more with less, we will continue to strive to be a leading value-oriented provider for all types of businesses.

Ultimately, it is comforting, energizing and exciting that we have built up a portfolio of offerings and solutions that align well with the needs and visions today’s business leaders see as necessary to remain successful in their respective markets. Thanks to all of the attendees and analysts with whom I had the pleasure of speaking to at the event. It was an awesome few days of learning and sharing ideas!

Business models and entire industries are being disrupted by new technologies as digital transformation forces organizations to reassess how they adapt and provide their customers with value into the future.

One key theme that has emerged during this time of disruption is a big obstacle to making the transition from product-focused to customer-focused is often changing business culture. Changing employee behavior is more difficult than redesigning products and services or implementing new technology. However, the failure to  consider the impact of organizational change will undermine any other investment.

Using CRM Technology to Drive Cultural Change

The often unrealized potential benefit of CRM technology is that it can be a very effective way of driving organizational change.

Customer-facing employees using a CRM will spend many hours per day on the system in order to be more effective in their daily job duties. A flexible CRM system supports and reinforces the behaviors you need in order to succeed in achieving your desired future state.

What Culture do I Need?

Organizational culture is as unique as the customers you serve and the products and services you provide. But, there are some fundamental principles that can apply to any organization.

Recognizing and Valuing Customers

Your customers are people who want to be recognized, respected and valued as individuals and as customers.

One of the major obstacles facing employees trying to be more customer-centric is access to accurate information. Modern CRM provides the opportunity to consolidate information from multiple sources and provide a single view of the customer; providing a way of “hearing,” understanding and relating to each individual customer.

Data about customers can be gathered from all of your information systems, including digital channels like online orders, the website, social media and more, and then combined with information from human channels when a person speaks to a customer on the phone.

Customer-centric culture starts with understanding who a business’ customers are, and CRM that helps employees see the full view of their customers underpins this.

Building Trust

Customer loyalty and trust go hand-in-hand, and the behaviors for building trust are fairly universal.

Keeping Promises

One of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to break a promise, even if it’s trivial commitments like, “someone will get back to you in 24 hours.” CRM technology can help employees learn to keep promises by reminding users of commitments and deadlines, and escalating urgent activities and tasks to ensure promises are kept.

Being Responsive

Trust is built by organizations being consistently responsive to customers, especially when there are questions or issues. CRM tools provide the opportunity to give your customer-facing staff the tools and information required to answer enquiries and address issues quickly.

Being Proactive

Having a single view of the customer, with all relevant information in one place, will allow your customer-facing staff (and automation systems) the ability to anticipate the needs of customers and proactively address them, rather than waiting for the customer to initiate contact.

Knowledgeable People

As anyone who has ever called customer service knows, it’s a joy (and a mild surprise) to speak with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful.  But knowledge about what you are selling is only part of the picture. The picture isn’t complete without being similarly knowledgeable about the customer, their needs and wants and previous history with the organization.

Having Time for Customers

Mobile Workforce

Mobile technology has changed the way we work, and provided the opportunity to free employees from their desks to spend more time where their customers are.

Automation

The process of automating otherwise frustrating and time-consuming administrative efforts provides another opportunity for a quick win. Automation only works when the data being collected and the supporting “what do I do with this data” processes are in alignment. When this occurs, the benefits of automation positively reinforce new business processes.

Listening to Customers

When a CRM system pulls customer data together across the customer’s whole journey, it invariably crosses departmental boundaries and makes it easier for marketing, sales, and post-sales teams to collaborate. This transparency will help highlight where things are working and where there is room for improvement.

The process of configuring the CRM forces teams to consider where the departmental boundaries should be, and what the optimal approach for process handoff should be. The new processes become embodied and reinforced by the CRM system, quickly defining the new normal. This works especially well when the early phases of the CRM project focus on those high-profile challenges facing two teams who need to work more closely together.

Measuring what’s working

CRM can provide transparency into what’s working and what’s not by measuring the organization at three different levels; business outcomes such as revenue or profit, customer metrics such as net promoter score, and operational indicators such as time to resolution on customer enquiries.
Constantly monitoring performance keeps the organization focused on the change that was envisioned, identifying the areas that are working and the areas that need more challenge. Getting the measures right, creates a constant reminder of the new processes, making it part of “the way we do things around here”.

Incremental improvement

A CRM that is flexible enough to continue to evolve and improve without huge re-implementation costs will help support a “culture of innovation”.

Encouraging the organization to continually improve the information system will also drive constant innovation in business processes, and ultimately the exercise of change itself will become part of the organizational culture.

However, the contrary outcome is that a big, complex, and inflexible CRM reduces the ability of the organization to innovate and adapt to changing customer demands.

Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

Culture can be defined as behavior and shared values among a group of people, who then pass those values on to new members. An ideal CRM will support this normalization of behavior by providing reporting and transparency into who is effectively following the new ways of doing things, and highlighting those exceptions as and when they occur.

Standardizing this approach provides the opportunity to tighten the feedback loop so that deviations from accepted practice are identified quickly, immediately, or even prevent the deviation from occurring in the first place.

A flexible CRM system, appropriately configured, can entrench a pattern of delivering great customer experiences into your organizational culture.

I just read a report from Grand View Research that said the global healthcare CRM market is expected to reach USD $17.4 billion by 2025. For comparison’s sake, the same report said healthcare firms will spend about $6.5 billion on CRM in 2016 . The study said, “rising demand for workflow automation and a single platform for tracking medical information provides coordination of patient care, service and timely delivery which is expected to drive the industry growth.”

At SugarCRM, we obviously like hearing about growth in CRM no matter what industry. However, our customers in the healthcare industry have always been some of our favorites. Doing our part to improve the relationships between providers and patients, caregivers and those in need, and helping to simplify the complicated medical insurance industry is extremely gratifying.

In fact, we just received a new report from Nucleus Research that examines the success of a global healthcare provider that relies on Sugar. Because of the sensitivity of patient/insurance data, we are withholding the name of the customer for security reasons. But here are the highlights:

The Company

The company profiled is a global provider of eHealth and digital imaging solutions, specializing in radiology, enterprise imaging, hospital IT and integrated care.

The Challenge

Prior to SugarCRM, the company had a homegrown funnel management application. Customer data was siloed between software solutions, preventing a single view of the customer across departments, and made it difficult for marketing and sales to cultivate and manage opportunities effectively.

The Strategy

The company began exploring potential CRM solutions in January 2013, putting together a list of business requirements and sending a request for proposal (RFP) to six qualified CRM vendors. Salesforce, SAP, and SugarCRM were evaluated, and ultimately the company’s global team unanimously chose SugarCRM based on the following reasons:

  • On-premise solution: With its unique interfaces, the company believed it would be better served by an on-premise solution. SugarCRM has both SaaS and on premise, which would allow the company to transition to the cloud later if they so chose.
  • Mobile: Of the vendors considered, SugarCRM had the most robust mobile solution, on and offline, which was essential for the company’s sales teams.
  • SugarCRM ecosystem: The company was attracted to the large number of apps that integrate with SugarCRM, because they had many solutions to interface with including SAP, Lotus Notes, and a third-party quoting tool.

The company began customizing the solution to fit its business needs and deployed it for testing in January 2014. In October 2014, it went live in North America and employees underwent one full day of training. In preparation for deployment in Europe, the company performed gap analysis and worked with Sugar to make minor adjustments for the European market, going live there in October 2015. Sugar continues to manage design and development for the company. By June 2016, design work was complete and the solution was live in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America with over 500 licenses.

Key Benefits

Implementing SugarCRM enabled the company to replace its customer relationship management processes with an on-premise, CRM solution that meets its global business needs. SugarCRM has broken down data siloes, enabled sales and marketing to become more effective at managing accounts, and increased profit overall at the company. Key benefits driving increased profits include:

  • Growth of new business: SugarCRM enabled sales to manage prospects more effectively, equipping them with the tools to capitalize on new opportunities and move them through the sales cycle seamlessly.
  • Expansion of existing accounts: With a single view of its customers, the company has a more complete picture of customer histories, enabling it to maintain relationships more effectively and take advantage of upsell opportunities.
  • Improved collaboration between marketing and sales. SugarCRM has provided a framework for sales and marketing to collaborate and manage accounts, reducing duplicate efforts or opportunities falling through the cracks.

Key Costs

Over the three-year period, the largest cost area was software, taking into account both expensed and capitalized software costs. Other costs included consulting, personnel, and training.

Best Practices

With so many offices located around the world, the company needed a highly customizable CRM solution which would suit a wide range of needs. The company also needed a partner which could design, develop and integrate customizations into the platform for them. With SugarCRM’s open platform and third-party integration capabilities, it can integrate other applications while still having a unified, on premise solution.

For colleges and universities, student outreach begins with the first recruiting interaction and it must continue throughout the student’s time on campus and into his or her career as they become a potential donor.

CRM is the technology foundation that many colleges and universities use to focus on engaging with students and alumni. It enables schools to coordinate and track the student journey throughout their time on campus and beyond.

SugarCRM customer Fordham University uses Sugar to build relationships and boost loyalty among students and alumni. We caught up with Shaya Phillips, the associate vice president for information technology at Fordham, to discuss how the university gets a complete view of its students and empowers its staff by putting Sugar at the core of its student relationship management.

Check out the video:

I am happy to announce a new podcast series from SugarCRM. This, among others to come, will be a series of short, but useful vignettes focused on forging a path to long-term CRM success.

The first series is titled: CRM Secrets Revealed. It outlines a lot of “secrets” (but for many of us who have deployed CRM – these are more truisms than secrets) that some CRM providers DON’T want you to know. The series represents the launch of our podcast channel: CRM Insights.

I hope you can tune in to these podcasts, and hopefully learn something new that can help your CRM evaluation or deployment. Or, simply sit back and be entertained during your commute or time on the elliptical!

I read this passage in an article on CIO.com yesterday:

Most election prediction shops and public polls in recent days foresaw Republican Donald Trump losing the U.S. presidential race to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

They got it wrong, bigly. And the failed predictions could cast doubts on some hot technology sectors, including big data and customer relationship management.

Let me begin by saying this isn’t a political post. Instead, I’m going to focus on the value of clean data. No matter what side of the vote you come down on, I think we can agree something went terribly wrong with the almost all of the pre-election predictions. The reason, the forecasters were working with incomplete data. Which, led to a shockingly inaccurate (at least according to what the data predicted) result.

Relating this back to the CRM industry. If your CRM has inaccurate data, you will also get an inaccurate result. If you are dealing with dirty data, how can your CRM project be successful? How can your sales team be efficient and perform at an optimal level? Once dirty data enters the CRM, it can be painstaking to cleanse.

Luckily, intelligent CRM can help by automatically bringing in a broad range of accurate data for a more complete view of the customer. In so doing, the CRM solves a problem that has often been a stubborn obstacle to CRM adoption — the time-consuming effort of having to add, edit and update information in the system. Even more important than gathering a tremendous amount of accurate data, a product like Sugar Intelligence will use predictive analytics to sift through the data to enable the CRM to make intelligent recommendations for insights and best actions to take when engaging with customers.

It’s been said we are in the era of “big data politics.” Perhaps by 2020, we’ll have evolved to a political era of predictive analytics or even machine learning. But, I’ll save that for a future post.

A couple weeks ago, I was speaking with a journalist about all of the recent “artificial intelligence” announcements in the CRM industry. We both agreed the marketing and PR people have found their new buzzword, and the AI-craze is getting to be a bit much.

What we disagreed about, is how important predictive analytics and machine learning will be for the daily CRM user in the future. His take, “If I’m a salesperson who is good at my job, I don’t need the CRM to tell me what to do next. I can already anticipate when my key accounts need attention and prioritize my hot leads. The benefits of AI seem marginal at best.”

My counter argument, “You’re not really getting it are you? Data is gold, and there is so much of it out there, and the value of AI is that your CRM will automatically gather it, organize it, and make recommendations based on the data far better than any human ever could. If a salesperson is already good at his or her job, imagine how much better they can be with his or her own tireless personal assistant.”

Then, over the weekend I read this very interesting HBR article, “Customer Relationship Automation Is the New CRM.” The author, Clara Shih (CEO and founder of Hearsay), made the point that CRM must evolve and incorporate data analytics and machine learning to reach its full potential. She wrote:

“Just as Amazon proactively suggests to someone who has purchased a stroller that they may also want to buy the coordinating car seat, enterprise apps should proactively advise enterprise users on what the highest-value or most-urgent tasks are so they can prioritize them. Artificial intelligence and decision-support algorithms that can offer data-driven suggestions will unleash a new level of productivity among workers, allowing everyone to focus on what matters and to continually help one another improve.

Harnessing the power of machines to recommend actions and approaches allows every salesperson to become data driven, freeing their time to focus on the human trust and relationship aspects of closing business.”

She brings up a great point. AI in CRM isn’t about replacing salespeople with machines, rather it’s about making them more productive and freeing them up to do what humans do best, which is to relate to other humans. Granted, there will be a learning curve and a needed cultural shift so that salespeople learn to trust the data and the CRM’s recommendations. This shift is coming sooner rather than later, SugarCRM’s initial version of Sugar Intelligence will be available early next year.

Clara concluded her article: “The future of CRM is harnessing predictive data to become a proactive system. Sales reps who are able to leverage robot assistants are the ones who will thrive in this new world.”

Agreed! So, if the question is: Does the CRM Industry Need AI? The answer is absolutely.