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robocopRemember when SaaS CRM companies needed to build their own multi-tenant architectures to bring their CRM to market? And how they needed to maintain expensive and unwieldy architectures that took focus away from actual product development? And how the cost and complexity of said proprietary architectures was passed along to the customer to maintain revenue goals?

Oh wait. That’s still going on with companies like Salesforce.

But, even Salesforce has finally admitted that CRM vendors should not also be cloud infrastructure providers anymore. The company’s recent partnership announcement with Amazon tells us all we need to know. Salesforce needs to focus on innovation, since its core product is old and the cost of maintaining the underlying delivery and development infrastructure itself is proving costly.

So, why is Salesforce potentially repeating past mistakes by trying to create a proprietary AI product for CRM?

Let me explain. What I see brewing with Salesforce’s Einstein concept is a hodge-podge of Wave analytics, generic machine learning (pieced together by several small pocket acquisitions), SalesforceIQ, and elements of Data.com – all components of Salesforce’s portfolio. In short, Salesforce is building yet another proprietary stack in AI.

By “owning” the entire stack, one could argue the profits (as noted, something perennially eluding Salesforce) can be much higher. But at what cost? By instead focusing on integrating industry standards and expert-AI platforms into its tools – a CRM provider can have more flexibility and be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

Today, companies like IBM with Watson, and Amazon with its AI platforms are opening these up to software manufacturers as a service. These companies have both the deep pockets and expertise to offer broad and even focused AI-tools for CRM usage scenarios – without CRM vendors having to do much if any heavy lifting.

Here at SugarCRM, we are taking a “best of breed” approach for a number of reasons. One, it will speed our time to market to leverage pre-built, highly scalable and proven AI toolsets and platforms. And, of course, the cost to bring AI-powered CRM offerings to our prospects and customers will be lower, which we can pass on to the user and remain a value-driver for our partners and customers.

And again, by leveraging larger platforms and standards, we will be more nimble than those building hulking masses of analytics engines, giant data warehouses, etc. We will be able to quickly hone our offerings to adhere to market demands, without having to re-architect massive purpose-driven AI stacks.

In short, it is becoming clear to me that AI is an arms race – and categories like CRM should not be trying to reinvent the wheel. Just as with cloud delivery – when you integrate and build upon expert, proven strategies – you can cut costs, speed time to market, and focus on building exceptional customer experiences.

 

(Editor’s Note: the following is a guest blog post from Sarah Friedlander Garcia, the director of marketing at W-Systems. It originally appeared on the W-Systems blog. For more blog articles from W-Systems visit the company’s SugarCRM Blog.).

Silo mentality has become a major problem in organizations across the globe. Today, the lines between sales and marketing teams have become blurred. Marketing teams are often tasked with converting new leads from social media interactions, emails and website visits into customers –  traditionally a sales role. Meanwhile, many sales reps are using these same vehicles to gain insight into a customer’s buying behavior – traditionally the marketer’s job. Organizations must do a better job at clearly defining the roles of sales and marketing, where marketing generates leads and sales closes them.

Software as a Barrier

Technology now serves as another reason for silos between sales and marketing teams. If sales reps are using a CRM platform to manage their customer relationships and marketing is using a marketing automation platform to manage their leads and these two systems aren’t sharing information, it’s a recipe for disaster. A disconnect between sales and marketing can lead to lost opportunities and lost revenue. Then sales and marketing teams are left pointing the finger at each other.

Better Together

Successful organizations need to utilize both CRM and marketing automation systems. However, these two systems must have the ability to share data. By connecting these two systems together, organizations can fully realize the value in each.  Marketing automation is worthless if salespeople aren’t closing deals from the leads provided.  Likewise, CRM is a useless prospecting tool if it is not being fed quality leads from marketing.

The Dynamic Duo

In many cases, you’ll find CRM and marketing automation platforms on the market that offer integration on a very basic level. Unfortunately, basic integration yields basic results. And world class sales organizations need to be much more than basic to compete in the current hyper-competitive landscape.

Marketing automation solution Act-On integrates deeply and seamlessly with Sugar CRM, providing a complete, closed-loop system for multi-channel lead generation, management, and revenue contribution. Act-On features a native, out-of-the-box integration with Sugar, allowing sales and marketing teams to set up automatic bi-directional synchronization between the two platforms.

Synergy at Work

This deep integration allows marketing to deliver highly qualified leads to the sales team, while allowing sales to access those leads and activity histories, personalizing their sales pitch to the individual, in real-time. This is powerful stuff. A sales rep that knows a prospect’s preferences, behaviors and activity history before the call, changes a cold call into a warm call, makes the call more satisfying for the prospect and has a better shot at making the sale.

Studies show that when both sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies become 67% better at closing deals. Therefore, an integration of the technologies used between sales and marketing teams are imperative to breaking down the information silos that exist between them, opening the door to realizing the ultimate goal of both teams – increased sales and revenue.

As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Customer Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

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!

SugarCRM is thrilled to report that our submission to the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework has been accepted. We are now certified.

First some background: the “EU-US Privacy Shield Framework,” was introduced earlier this year to succeed the now-invalid Safe Harbor agreement, which had been in place for decades. The Safe Harbor agreement allowed transfer of personal data from the European Union to the United States. Safe Harbor was invalidated by the European Court of Justice in October 2015 because of the perceived risk of US government spying on EU data.

The new arrangement, worked out earlier this year, imposes a range of new safeguards for transferring personal data from the European Union to the US:privacy-shield

  • US companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed.
  • The US has given the EU assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight.
  • There will be a dedicated new Ombudsperson role in the US State Department to address complaints from European privacy regulators on behalf of individuals.

What does this mean for SugarCRM and our customers? SugarCRM has committed to applying the Privacy Shield’s principles and safeguards to EU-U.S. transfers of personal data. No action is required on our customers’ part to benefit from the protection of this framework.

The official Privacy Shield Website where you can find SugarCRM’s listing is here: https://www.privacyshield.gov/list

(Editor’s Note: the following is a guest blog post from Rachel Brink, the marketing manager at 3CLogic. It originally appeared on the SugarCRM Community)

customer-serviceFor most of today’s consumers, customer service plays a larger role in purchasing decisions than both price and product. And this fundamental shift has led many businesses to invest more resources in innovations that enhance the customer experience, including CRMs, Marketing Automation platforms, and contact center software. But despite an increased focus, there continues to exist a large gap—while 80% of businesses think they are delivering a superior customer experience, only 8% of consumers agree. How can organizations make better use of their data management and customer engagement solutions to streamline and automate customer service processes, and boost customer satisfaction?

 

1- Help customers help themselves

customer-service-channelsConsumers are increasingly gravitating towards self-service channels to resolve their problems and inquiries—in fact, self-service recently exceeded phone as the most used customer service touch point. Sugar Enterprise and Sugar Ultimate each offer a self-help portal, enabling customers to create cases, upload notes, track case statuses, manage subscriptions, and update account information. They also offer a searchable knowledge base where customers can find FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and product updates. Platforms such as 3CLogic’s contact center software also offer the ability to enable self-service via IVR menus—all of which will help decrease support costs, and boost customer satisfaction.

2 – Leverage client data to optimize queue management and call routing

While every customer is important, certain instances may require the need to prioritize specific incoming calls due to the client’s size, the urgency of their need, or their status (i.e. Premier Customer, etc.). When integrated with Sugar, 3CLogic’s contact center solution can automatically prioritize calls in the queue based on the clients’ information stored in Sugar records. It can also intelligently route calls to the individual best suited to address them based on a number of factors, including language, who the customer has worked with in the past, and the complexity of the case/agent skill level.

3 – Offer users immediate access to client records and cases

3clogic-sugar-integrationWhen assessing why certain cases were not resolved on the first call, customer service managers have found that more than half the time, it is due to the agent’s inability to quickly access customer information. But by leveraging Sugar in combination with a cloud communications platform, help desks can automatically populate agent screens with each client’s record and open cases upon every incoming call, facilitating fast and seamless customer support. Users will also have access to click-to-call functionality within each customer record or case for enhanced efficiencies.

4 – Automate the recording and documentation of callscrm-call-data

Less than ten percent of interactions are entered into the typical CRM, largely due to the fact that it is an extremely time consuming and manual process. And this lack of interaction data can inhibit service rep and managers’ ability to adequately understand previous as well as existing client issues. But by using a solution such as 3CLogic’s telephony platform, businesses can automatically save all call recordings and call details within each Sugar record or case, enabling reps and supervisors to better understand each customer’s service history. Call recordings can also be used by managers for coaching, and quality and training purposes.

5 – Measure, measure, measure

The only way to truly understand how your customer service team is performing, how satisfied your customers are, and what product or process changes need to be made, is by properly documenting all case information, interaction details, and customer feedback. Thanks to Sugar, this is quite easy to do using its reporting Module, offering actionable business intelligence including support team responsiveness, customer satisfaction scores, and incident frequency. Combined with call center data, managers can gain a better understanding of their team’s efficiency and where improvements should be made to cut down support costs and improve CSAT scores.

 

Is your organization using Sugar to automate sales, marketing, support, or in some other unique way? Have you gained benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the Sugar platform?

Then it’s time for your voice to be heard.

pi

Gartner’s Peer Insights is an innovative new concept from the analysis firm. Rather than have potential decision-makers hear only from analysts, who may or may not have hands-on experience with the software they recommend, Peer Insights gives potential buyers first hand analysis from actual users.

These reviews, combined with other steps in the evaluation process, can better equip IT and line of business decision-makers with the tools they need to best address their CRM initiatives.

Want your voice heard? Simply provide a review by clicking HERE.

We look forward to reading your thoughtful reviews!