Archives For CRM

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.

 

If you’re like us, you’ve spent the last several hours digesting the UK’s Brexit Leave vote. While we recognize this is an economic and political story before a tech story, here’s our take on what the vote means.

A UK exit from the EU impacts not just physical borders, but digital borders as well. Data sovereignty, the concept that data is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located, will likely require companies to change systems and processes for managing customer data.

Why? The UK is part of the EU data regime. The vote to leave the EU could create a new UK data regime where companies need to manage CRM system data crossing the new digital border between the UK and the rest of the world. Storing EU customer data in the UK will no longer satisfy EU data laws. Likewise, UK customer data stored in EU countries will have had to comply with separate UK data laws. Changing processes and systems to comply with the new legal landscape around customer data takes both time and money.

How can business protect themselves against the likely forthcoming changes in tech policy? For one, it’s vital to have flexibility in cloud options and can adapt solutions to suit the particular needs of their customers and comply with data sovereignty laws. Modern SaaS companies leverage multiple infrastructure service providers in different countries so that customer data can reside wherever legal requirements force a business to store that data. In contrast, legacy SaaS providers operate a single, vendor-specific cloud putting all of their customers’ data at risk under the umbrella of that vendor. In this next generation of SaaS, technology companies operate both their own cloud and also enable other service providers to deliver that SaaS service on their clouds, either private or public. For example, with SugarCRM, businesses have a CRM system that is ready for a world with multiple clouds and many data sovereignty regimes.

Looking further ahead, the issue of data residency is not exclusive to the EU, but is part of a global trend with similar discussions currently taking place in countries like Russia and Canada. I see this trend continuing with more and more countries moving towards security and privacy laws that require their data to be kept within national boundaries.

The recent battles between the EU and US over the “safe-harbour” legislation are an example of what a thorny issue cloud-based data storage continues to be. The problem is that there’s a fundamental contradiction between the cloud and national borders; information has no respect for lines on a map and tech companies thrive when their solutions are systems that have maximum flexibility. The more legislation that occurs, and I think that this is inevitable post Brexit, the bigger the headache for SaaS companies as they are forced to navigate different legalities in different markets.

I am certain that this debate, this tension between data storage and national security interests, will continue for many more years to come.

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.

 

Last week, SugarCRM hosted more than 1,200 attendees at SugarCon, its annual conference for customers and partners. The SugarCon 2016 theme was “Transform Relationships” as we gathered to talk about how industry after industry is being disrupted by ridiculously fast evolution of technology – and what that means for the customer experience.  

It was a great week, with more than 35 breakout sessions from SugarCRM customers and partners, a fabulous list of main stage keynotes, and demos that wowed the crowd.

SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin kicked off the show by outlining a four-part strategy for companies to adjust their operations to thrive during the era of digital transformation. Clint Oram, SugarCRM’s co-founder and CMO, followed with a demo of the some of the new capabilities that are coming to the Sugar Platform and mobile app.

SugarSRM SugarCon 2016 in San Francisco, California, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

 

Dr. Catriona Wallace and Rich Green, SugarCRM’s chief product officer, provided some serious brain power on the second day of keynotes. They dazzled the audience with details about how the rise of platforms as replacements for individual applications, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics are the key technologies that will shape the future of CRM. Rich introduced the crowd to SugarCRM’s new Sugar Intelligence product line and “Candace” our future intelligent assistant.

Catriona pic

Announcements that we made during the show included:

  • Sugar is now available on IBM Cloud in a single tenant, dedicated private cloud environment. SugarCRM has extended its relationship with one of its closest partners. Organizations now have more flexibility and control over their CRM data with new IBM Cloud deployment options, including bare metal servers, OpenStack-managed clouds and virtualized, multi-tenant cloud services.
  • SugarCRM’s vision for Intelligent CRM begins with the Sugar Intelligence Service™. The new service, currently in development by SugarCRM, combines data from best-in-class external sources with internal data to provide a more comprehensive view of the customer. Further, the Sugar Intelligence Service adds predictive analytics capabilities to make intelligent recommendations for next best actions in customer interactions.
  • A sneak peek at “Candace,” an intelligent agent that guides and assists users in interactions with customers, helping them plan meetings, build deeper connections, recommend best actions, and respond to breaking developments as relationships evolve.
  • A new advanced plugin for Sugar — the Customer Journey Plugin from Addoptify. This new enterprise solution helps SugarCRM customers unite best-practice CRM with their customers’ decision journeys. This infuses the customer’s entire decision process with internal efficiency to streamline processes, boost sales performance and strengthen customer engagement across all departments.

Thanks to all who attended and shared the week with us. Videos of the keynotes will be available shortly for you to (re)watch. In the meantime, please save the date for SugarCon 2017.

SugarCon2017-SavetheDate

We have just returned from a bit of a whirlwind week of events: the trio of CRM Evolution/SpeechTek/Customer Service Experience shows in Washington D.C. and thecrossrdGartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit in London. Throughout the week, we heard a LOT of insightful and innovative ideas from analysts, practitioners and other industry experts around the present and future of customer engagement and customer relationship management in general.

One item that stuck out in my mind was Gartner analyst Ed Thompson’s keynote, which focused on the “defining moments” that shape our personal lives as well as the world around us. Note, these are very different than “moments of truth,” those small, but far more frequent interaction points that can make or break your relationships with customers. Defining moments, as Thompson explains, are far more infrequent, think of a major breakthrough such as the market availability of the first digital camera (or even the first camera phone), and have far more profound and lasting impacts.

These moments affect not just the way individuals see the world, but also shape the way businesses (and really, the world in general) operate.

When I look at the industry in which SugarCRM operates, that of front office software, it is easy to see several defining moments. These monumental shifts have been both in the way the customer relationship has evolved, and also about the nature of the technology we create and use in business. And of course, these two are inextricably linked.

A few examples of defining moments that have shaped CRM: the introduction of email into the customer relationship, the emergence of SaaS delivery of apps (and the eventual evolution into cloud software), the iPhone making mobile CRM apps a must-have, Facebook and Twitter becoming de-facto customer conversation channels, etc.

Looking at these defining moments, a few observations become clear. One, the pace and breadth of defining moments in our world is increasing, due mainly to the insanely rapid pace of technology innovation. Second, those that refuse or simply fail to take advantage of the changes pushed forward from these moments do so at their own peril.

We talk a lot about “disruption” and “digital transformation” – but in the light of defining moments these should not be considered single “projects” or a one-time transformation endeavor. Rather, the pace of innovation and the onslaught of more customer channels, data points, and expectations means that businesses must be in a constant state of development, with total openness to change. Sure, change is hard, but you need to aggressively embrace new business models.

One great example is SugarCRM customer CitySprint (who just happened to co-present their transformation story on stage at the Gartner event). While CitySprint is a leader in its space as a last mile delivery and logistics provider in the UK, they saw the disruption curve coming – from new digital technologies like Uber, Amazon Prime, etc. Rather than risk getting left behind, CitySprint is incubating its own startup to shift its business from simple delivery into providing technology, solutions and tools for businesses across the UK to create more effective customer experiences. (CitySprint will be telling more about this story at SugarCon in June FYI.)

So, no matter what your industry, one thing is clear: disruption is coming in some form or another. And, it is going to keep coming. Those who embrace the pace of change and respond accordingly will win. Those who do not will face steeper and steeper uphill climbs in an increasingly competitive marketplace. On which side of this equation would you rather be?

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on destinationCRM.com)

Cloud-based SaaS solutions offer some great benefits, but be careful. Getting trapped in a proprietary cloud solution can lead to a loss of control—of your data, your security, and maybe even your career.

The cloud is certainly having its day in the sun. Social, mobile, and now the cloud have taken turns topping IT priority lists for large enterprises. This notion was underscored when a recent Bitglass survey of 92 CIOs and IT leaders revealed that 55 percent of respondents said their companies embrace a “cloud-first” strategy. Such reverence is hardly surprising. The cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers a lot of advantages for many enterprise solutions. Rapid deployment of off-the-shelf software systems can be affordable, present a low barrier to adoption, and provide an excellent way to prove new ideas quickly. This has certainly made it easy for many companies to implement new software, but there are pitfalls that must be watched for and avoided.

Most cloud solutions are available only in proprietary, multitenant, shared-infrastructure, single-cloud configurations—a big black box in the sky. There is little or no opportunity for companies to decide where they want their applications and data to reside. Public cloud of your own choice? Private cloud? Within your own country’s borders? On premises? A hybrid combination of these? In some cases, all these options are off the table. The only choice is the vendor’s proprietary cloud—a model that just doesn’t work for everyone.

Security concerns, regulatory requirements, and enterprise integration strategies should be carefully considered before deciding to “lock in” with a solution that’s limited to a single vendor’s proprietary, public, shared-infrastructure cloud.

It’s interesting to note that a recent Gartner study, Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2014, states that 47 percent of CRM software revenue was generated from SaaS-based CRM applications in 2014. But that means the other half of CRM revenue was generated from private cloud, managed hosted, and on-premises solutions. The more sophisticated multinational companies with intense data integration and data security needs are turning away from the public cloud and choosing the private cloud for their CRM needs.

I recently met with representatives of a large company in the financial sector about a new CRM deployment. Without hesitation, they said, “There is no way we are putting our customer data in a public cloud environment where we lose control.” This is an understandable reaction: Around the world, companies in highly regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, and the federal government must comply with strict regulations that govern the handling of personal information and sensitive data. An out-of-the-box shared infrastructure cloud CRM offering will not meet these strict regulatory requirements.

Compliance is becoming an even greater challenge outside the United States. Many countries have strict rules governing the collection and storage of customer data. This has led to an increasing drive for data localization. For example, Germany requires that data about German users must be stored within the country’s borders. Recent court rulings against the USA-EU Safe Harbor framework and the proposed “Safe Harbor 2.0” data transfer rules will lead to many companies deciding the best way to stay compliant is to keep customer data stored within the same continent and same country, if possible.Cloud Portability Image

In addition to compliance issues, data security concerns have caused many CIOs to delay shared-infrastructure, public-cloud deployments. One of the main concerns for organizations is that information stored in the public cloud is beyond its control. Imagine investing in the best security tools and having the most sophisticated authentication protocols, but still being at the mercy of your cloud vendor’s security mechanisms for managing your most precious asset, your customer data. Your top-notch information security team has no visibility into those security controls, and you have no way to move to another CRM cloud vendor if those security mechanisms are challenged or, worse, fail. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Couple the loss of control with the media’s constant reporting of embarrassing high-profile data breaches such as happened with Anthem InsuranceAT&T, and even Ashley Madison, and the unease about having customer data exposed grows—which is understandable, given the obvious consequences: compromised reputation, lost business, and fines levied for regulatory violations.

Another large multinational electronics manufacturing company I recently worked with reviewed all of the public-cloud CRM solutions available and determined that moving its large volumes of customer data across multiple public cloud vendors was not only potentially unsecure, but too costly. With tens of millions of customers around the world connecting with it across a variety of brick-and-mortar and online channels, the dollar costs of storing that data in a public cloud service and the costs of accessing its own data for reporting and integration purposes via that cloud service did not work out. Global enterprises find the very size and complexity of their customer data challenging to manage and integrate in the public cloud. All of these cost and control issues melt away when the CRM solution is managed in a private cloud, often by one of a variety of different expert-managed cloud service providers.

Organizations should have the freedom to implement the systems and architectures that best address their needs for security, regulatory compliance, and data integration. The cloud is a great option. But getting there shouldn’t force you into an environment that puts your data, your business, or your career at risk.