Thursday, September 15, 2011

Focus on Customer Relationship Management Applications

by Sidney Angelo

Businesses which desire more efficient sales, marketing, and support teams should focus on customer relationship management (CRM) applications for maximum results. These types of applications will assist customers with organization, analysis, scheduling and data storage. Businesses need to find innovative ways to remain abreast of their particular industry, to streamline business, to maximize results and to increase revenue. CRM applications help companies do all of this—and do it effortlessly.

CRM applications contain tools that enable businesses to track sales, profits, competitor analysis, opportunity analysis, sales analysis, and sales forecasting. Businesses who integrate CRM applications into their daily routines can increase productivity significantly. These applications increase productivity by decreasing manual data entry and data analysis. Companies who migrate from performing data analysis on spreadsheets to data analysis within the CRM applications enjoy the time savings these applications provide.

Collaboration is one of the major benefits of CRM applications. Managers can call an impromptu meeting with his or her sales team. Regardless of where the salesperson is located, he or she can log into the system and contribute to the conversation. No longer does each team member need to be present in order to participate in a meeting. Collaboration tools also encourage customers to offer input. Customers may want to participate in focus groups to improve customer products; however, their schedules may not permit them to travel. With collaboration tools, businesses may grant temporary access to certain members in order to contribute to the meeting. Collaboration has been proven to produce products that customers want.

For companies that have no central office, web-based CRM applications are ideal. These applications may be accessed simply by logging in, using any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. This allows companies to outsource certain departments, to support telecommuting, and to stay in touch with team members who travel frequently.

Take Tasting Table, a free daily email newsletter that offers recommendations of restaurants and bars in specific cities. Though the company has 14 full time employees, there is no central office. Each employee operates remotely. Web-based CRM tools enable the employees to share documents, attend meetings, offer feedback, and work more efficiently from their remote locations. As the manager holds meetings, he or she can make assignments in real time while connected to each employee. This type of work environment increases productivity for autonomous workers, because they value flexibility and control over their environment.

On the help desk and customer service side, employees get more information faster—and they get it smarter. Instead of having to manually input and retrieve data, they can rely on the applications to do much of that legwork for them. Everyone with access to the apps has a real-time, continually updated and comprehensive view of the customer’s account. They can provide the customer with superior service with shorter hold time. Establishing self-help options such as a knowledge base, FAQ, message boards or user forums, or non-phone-based support such as a dedicated customer service Twitter account or live chat software can decrease customers’ dependency on contact centers, which in turn frees up the customer service reps to focus on solving more complicated customer issues.

That cloud computing is changing the way people work and live is not an overstatement. Customer relationship management can be streamlined and automated; employees can be empowered; and profits are maximized.