4 tips for successful customer relationship management

The key to running a successful business is building relationships with your customers. For most modern business, keeping up with customer communications can be difficult with so many different communication options like email, telephone, text, and web-based chat available.

A recent study found that businesses are spending nearly $26 billion a year on customer relationship management (CRM) software. If you’re looking for a better way to manage your customer relationships, consider these 4 tips for implementing CRM software in your business.

1. Find the right CRM solution

With all the different CRM software programs on the market, selecting the right one may be difficult. Consider consulting your managed IT service provider for help finding the best CRM solution for your business.

The main difference between the CRM programs on the market are the features they have. Growing companies will need to find a program with features like advanced lead generation and call center features. You’ll also want to find a program with customizable features that you can add or change later as your business grows.

2. Implement the software

Once you have found the right CRM program to fit your business needs, it will be time to implement it. Having professional IT support during this process can save you a lot of time and stress.

You’ll also need to train your team on the new software. Make sure not to overload them all the new features at once. Focus first on the basics like creating records and assigning tasks. Consider regular training meetings to train your staff on the more complex features as they become more comfortable with the system.

3. Customize your approach

A well-built CRM system will allow you to customize both the customer and employee experience. Not everyone on your team will need access to every bit of customer data you collect. This is why you need to work on creating a single pipeline and then limiting access to some of the elements within this file.

Some business owners make the mistake of creating separate folders for the same client. If a client has separate folders for things like sales or support, it can become confusing. The beauty of using a CRM system is you can store customer data in one place and while limiting access to different parts of the information as needed.

4. Utilize mobile CRM tools

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, you know how popular mobile devices have become. While the mobile CRM tools on the market are not as detailed as desktop software, they do provide you with the ability to update customer data from your mobile device.

These apps will also help your team pull up information like a customer’s contact data. Most CRM mobile apps allow users to create tasks and make notes about a client with the click of a button. If you have lots of employees who work in the field, then having these mobile tools is essential.

Are you ready to embrace the power and convenience of CRM software? If so, contact your managed IT services provider for help finding and implementing the right CRM solution for your business.

5 ways to use technology to improve productivity

Productivity is a big buzzword in office culture, and for good reason. The more productive your staff is, the greater your overall efficiency and the lower your total expenses. Who doesn’t want to see their employees get the maximum work done in the least amount of time?

There are plenty of technological tools to help increase productivity. The following are a few we’ve seen work in business settings.

1. Cloud-based project management

If your project management software is housed based on a single machine (or even on your local network), there’s a good chance it isn’t accessible remotely. However, if you use cloud-based project management software, your employees can stay on task no matter where they are.

Many cloud-based options even include a smartphone app for optimum access. It doesn’t matter if you’re across town for a quick meeting or across the country at a conference. You’re still engaged.

Options like Basecamp, Asana and Zoho are great for agile teams and those with workers who prefer to work from home at least part of the time.

2. Instant communication

As we alluded to above, it’s not uncommon to find more folks working from home. In fact, some teams are spread across the globe, working together as part of multinational corporations.

And, of course, sometimes you just don’t want to get up and walk across the office to have a conversation. It will disrupt your flow.

With technology, you can easily communicate with anyone, anywhere. We recommend instant messaging apps for the easiest, most seamless communication. You can IM from your PC or your phone, and it’s so much like texting that it will feel immediately familiar to everyone.

3. Automate everything

With all the business automation tools available today, you never need to be in the position where a critical (but fairly minor) task is forgotten.

You can use automation for everything from pre-scheduled email marketing campaigns, to CRM-based reminders to follow-up with prospective customers, to in-depth analytical reports that get delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Automation is an immediate productivity booster. There’s no reason to pay someone to do something by hand that can easily be automated. Instead, free your employees to focus on the things that really require their attention.

4. Easy Outsourcing

Consider this scenario. You don’t have the right person for the job, but you also don’t want to hire a whole new employee.

There are technology tools that make it easier than ever to hire outsourced help. It even possible to hire specialists in situations where a high level of expertise is required.

Online services like Upwork or Fiverr allow you to easily view and hire freelancers for simple, straightforward jobs. When partnering with whole outsourced firms and high-level specialists, we recommend using the previously mentioned communication & project management tools.

5. Online Learning

Employee training is actually an important component of productivity. Not only does it improve the skills of your employees, which naturally makes them better at their jobs. It’s also a perk. Most employees appreciate an environment that fosters their own development.

Companies are increasingly turning to online learning as a way to offer more affordable value for their employees. One major benefit is the flexibility that comes with online learning. Whether we’re talking about online classes through a university or a specialized training course, online learning is extremely convenient.

If any of these productivity-enhancing options sound like they’d be a good fit for your business, we encourage you to reach out to your managed IT services provider. They should be able to help point you in the right direction. Plus, they can ensure you have all the network capabilities you need to support the tech tools you want.

Which CRM solution is right for your organization?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software empowers businesses of all sizes and sectors to make smarter, more accurate decisions.

According to some estimates, over 90 percent of companies make use of a CRM solution—and for good reason. On average, CRM solutions see a return on investment of $8.71 for every dollar that you invest.

Despite the obvious benefits of CRM software, however, it’s not so obvious how to choose the best solution for your organization. There are a lot of options available to you. Plus, your company’s situation may be influenced by a number of different factors:

  • Number of employees
  • Industry
  • Specific business requirements
  • Preferred pricing model
  • Upcoming projects
  • Existing resources and technologies

Whether you’re making your first CRM purchase or replacing an existing system, this article will go over the most important concerns that you should consider when choosing a CRM solution.

Defining CRM return on investment

There are essentially three different approaches to CRM solutions: basic, standalone, and integrated.

  • Basic CRM systems include standard functionality without any custom features or coding. This enables you to get up and running quickly and easily.
  • Standalone CRM solutions include more complex processes than basic CRM systems, including custom features for reporting, views and workflows.
  • Integrated CRM systems connect a standalone CRM system with external applications, websites, and systems. This helps you share data and make your workflow more efficient.

No matter which type of CRM you select, you need to understand the value of your CRM solution to evaluate whether it’s the right choice.

For example, focus on how a CRM will improve your customer relationships by giving you easy access to important metrics and key performance indicators, as well as helping you manage connections on social media.

On paper, defining the ROI of a given CRM is easy: simply weigh the costs of using it against the benefits that you gain by doing so.

In practice, however, calculating CRM ROI involves a good deal of subjective assessments and estimates about how much given features are worth to you. Note that most of the value you extract from your CRM will likely come from a few of the most frequently used functionalities.

CRM factors to consider

The cost of a CRM solution is perhaps the best factor to contemplate first since it can disqualify certain options right off the bat. Consider questions such as:

  • What is the pricing model? Subscription-based or a perpetual license? Most CRM applications, especially those that are cloud-based, use a per-month, per-user pricing model.
  • What are the different pricing tiers? Which features that you consider important? Make sure you’re looking at the price for the tier of service you’ll need.

CRM software comes with many different features and functionalities. Some of the capabilities that might interest you include:

  • Lead management and sales for finding, nurturing, and converting new customers
  • Marketing tools for email and SMS campaigns
  • Reports and dashboards for highlighting important metrics
  • E-commerce integration

Depending on your business, you may have other questions to ask when evaluating CRM software options, such as:

  • How easy is it for employees to learn and use the software?
  • What kind of support and maintenance plans are available?
  • How will the software integrate with your existing technical setup?

Final thoughts on your CRM solution

With so many advantages at stake, deciding on the right CRM solution isn’t a task to be taken lightly.

If you need help selecting the right CRM software for your business, contact your IT managed services provider for additional guidance.

4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips to help you become a superuser

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management (CRM) software package from Microsoft. Dynamics CRM is intended to help users improve the productivity and effectiveness of their sales and marketing campaigns and get better business insights, especially by integrating with other Microsoft products such as Office 365.

If you’re like most Dynamics CRM users, you’ll want to get the most mileage out of the application, uncovering any hidden tips and tricks that’ll help you along the way. In this article, we’ll go over 4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips that’ll help you become more efficient.

1. Know your keyboard shortcuts

Time is money when you’re working with CRM software, and every little bit can help you become more productive.

Let’s start our Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips with some of the most useful Dynamics CRM keyboard shortcuts.

  • Shift + Tab: Move backward to the previous field or option (just as Tab moves you forward to the next one).
  • Ctrl + [: Switch to the first tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + ]: Switch to the last tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + K: Automatically fill the current field with the correct value after typing a few letters.
  • Ctrl + Shift + S: Save and create a new document or workspace.
  • Alt + S: Save and close.

2. Add members to different marketing lists

Since the release of the 2015 version of Dynamics CRM, you can now add Leads, Contacts or Accounts from one marketing list to another marketing list. This saves you the time and effort of looking up and adding each member individually.

Here’s how you can do this.

  1. Under Marketing, select the Marketing Lists option.
  2. You will see a list or grid view of your active marketing lists. Click on the list whose members you wish to add to another list, and then click on the Record Associated View icon.
  3. Select the members of the list that you want to add to another list, and then click on the ellipses icon. Click on “Add to Another Marketing List.” From here, you can select the desired list or create a new list.

3. Use business rules

One of the benefits of CRM software such as Dynamics CRM is the ability to define your own business rules.

In Dynamics CRM, business rules are pieces of business logic that can be expressed by non-technical users, without having to write code in a programming language such as JavaScript. This empowers business users because they no longer have to wait for developers to do the work they need.

In fact, this is so powerful that our list of Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips wouldn’t be complete without it.

For example, users can define a business rule that hides a field or changes the value of it based on the size of a value in another field.

To use business rules in Dynamics CRM, select the Fields or Business Rules section beneath a given entity when you’re in the Solutions section. Keep in mind, however, business rules can’t replace all the functionality you can achieve with JavaScript.

4. Automatically generate documents

Sales and marketing campaigns are absolutely rife with piles of paperwork that must be created and reviewed. You can save yourself time and improve your customer relationships by automatically generating templates in Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. From the Settings menu, select Processes. Create a new process of type “Workflow” on the Campaign entity, and set the scope to Organization.
  2. Set the workflow to run when record fields change and select the field as “Status Reason.” Click on Add Step > Check Condition, and then Add Step > Perform Action. The Action should be “SetWordTemplate.”
  3. Click on Properties to the right of Action, and choose the “Selected Template” that you want to generate. Finally, choose the Target to be your current campaign.
  4. Save and activate the workflow.

3 different approaches to CRM systems

It’s essential that you have a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) for managing customer data. Deciding which type will best fit the needs of your business will depend on various aspects of your company, including your budget and who’ll be using it.

There are three general types of CRM systems to choose from.

Implementing a basic CRM system

A basic CRM system is your general cloud-based implementation. The configuration would be limited to UI layout, with built-in configuration that would edit necessary fields. This type of CRM typically does not include any type of customized coding or involve any extensive processes.

This is a basic cloud solution that can provide standard functions, yet is still powerful enough to make a difference for your company.

Using this type of CRM system, you would likely focus on one single component of the modules such as sales, which would further limit the scope. Pre-built additions can be added to the basic CRM.

A basic CRM also involves transferring data of your accounts, contacts and leads into a CRM application. It won’t be necessary for the user to have all the data entered manually before using the application. With a basic CRM, a company can implement and use the CRM solution with a minimum amount of costs and in the shortest time. Some of the benefits include saving time in tracking and consolidating customer information.

Choosing a standalone CRM system

Standalone CRM is considered the superset of a basic CRM system.

This will involve the implementation of more complex processes including custom reporting, custom views, customized workflows and add-ons. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Send automated emails or notifications
  • Gather and accurately maintain customer information
  • Analyze data and uncover various trends
  • Improve your customer service

It’s important to note that the data migration sometimes involves multiple sources which can require the need for data cleansing.

For a company that decides to use a standalone CRM, employee training will be required. CRM training for administrators will also be required if the business plans to self-maintain this kind of CRM application. This training will help those using the system gain greater efficiency and enable your company to better understand and meet the needs of your customers.

The benefits of an integrated CRM system

Integrated CRM includes the range of a standalone solution while integrating the CRM application with an external system. An external system could include an ERP application, different websites or some type of home-grown application.

This enables the systems to share data.

The integration of systems can be accomplished by either using some type of commercial off-the-shelf middleware application or by custom programming. By creating your own website to function seamlessly with the CRM system you’ll find there are several benefits for your business.

  • Maximize the company’s overall operational efficiency
  • Increase and improve the automation process
  • Spend less time on administrative duties
  • Increase employees’ time spent marketing and servicing customers
  • Eliminate the duplication of data entry
  • Provide synchronization for all your data
  • Provide better leads for your sales team

Companies using an integrated CRM solution will need to provide training for their employees. And, like a standalone CRM system, administrator training for an integrated CRM will also be needed if the company plans to self-maintain the CRM application.

We recommend finding an experienced technology company to assist with both implementation and maintenance of your CRM system, no matter which type you choose. Many managed IT services providers can help with your CRM, in addition to other critical areas like cloud solutions, enterprise resource planning, security services and basic IT support.

Real-world examples of business intelligence

Software and technology play an ever-increasing role in the business world. One of the most important technologies in today’s business environment is business intelligence software.

Here’s what you need to know about the basics of business intelligence and how some well-known companies have put it to work in their day-to-day operations.

What is business intelligence?

Today, businesses of all sizes have access to mountains of data that were never readily available in the past. Business intelligence (BI) is a way to make sense of what these data points mean and turn them into insights that businesses can use in real-world decision-making.

Using analysis software, BI systems take raw data sets and use them to inform everything from marketing strategies to planning for possible future setbacks.

Want a few examples?

Lowe’s leverages BI

Though the concept itself may seem a bit vague, there are many examples of large businesses putting BI to work to solve concrete problems. One of the earliest examples you’ll find of a large enterprise using BI is Lowe’s, America’s second-largest home improvement store chain.

In 2007, the company started building a new data center in Texas specifically to expand on its already significant business intelligence capabilities. Like many retail chains, Lowe’s uses BI to optimize its supply chain efficiency and reduce the rate of fraudulent returns in its stores.

Starbucks gets in on business intelligent

The Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks is also a prominent user of BI technology. Through its popular Loyalty Card program, Starbucks is able to amass individualized purchase data on millions of customers. Using this information and business intelligence software, the large coffee company can then predict what purchases and offers an individual customer is likely to be interested in. The company informs customers of the offers it believes they will want to take advantage of via mobile devices.

This system lets Starbucks draw existing customers into its stores more frequently and increase its volume of sales. In this capacity, BI has a use similar to traditional CRM systems. In fact, many businesses choose to combine BI and CRM systems to get the most out of their data.

Amex is big on BI, too

One of the areas of business in which BI has been most effective is the finance industry. American Express has been a pioneer of business intelligence in this sector, using the technology to develop new payment service products and market offers to customers.

Rather impressively, the company’s experiments in the Australian market have rendered it capable of identifying up to 24% of all Australian users who will close their accounts within four months. Using that information, American Express can take effective steps to retain those customers who would otherwise be lost.

BI software also helps the credit card company detect fraud more accurately and thereby protect customers whose card information may have been compromised.

Amazon and business intelligence go hand-in-hand

Last but not least among the companies that use BI is the online retail giant Amazon.

Much like Starbucks, Amazon uses business intelligence technology to personalize product recommendations and market products, but it also uses its BI software tools for logistical business decisions. In fact, in-depth data analysis is what enables Amazon’s massive supply chain to run smoothly.

From optimizing shipping routes to allocating inventory among warehouses, data and BI tools influence practically every step of Amazon’s supply process.

The tip of the BI iceberg

Amazingly, these are just a few of the many uses to which modern business intelligence software can be put. From finance to retail and even in the public sector, BI technology is helping organizations glean useful insights from their data.

If your business has large amounts of customer data but isn’t using it to increase profitability, now is the time to invest in BI software solutions and the IT support needed to implement them effectively.

4 ways a CRM helps you improve customer relationships

Excellent customer service is an art. One that can be difficult to master. The good news is there are plenty of tools that can help you better serve your customers.

Our favorite is a CRM.

But CRMs are packed with features. It’s hard to know the best way to use such a robust tool. To help out, let’s explore the high points.

Here are our 4 favorite ways your CRM can help you improve your customer interactions.

#1: Detailed customer dashboards.

When all of your customer data is in a single location, you spend less time searching for individual pieces of information. 360-degree customer profiles centralize customer information so that it’s all available on a convenient dashboard. In a single view, you can see email messages, order history, transactions, previous customer support interactions and more.

When a customer calls, you’ll be able to see every interaction you’ve ever had with them. All without having to dig for information.

“64.2% of companies rate CRM tools as impactful of very impactful.” — LinkedIn

#2: Access important information on the go.

Sales representatives need to be able to help customers no matter where they are—at their desks or out on the road. CRM systems are built with mobility in mind.

It doesn’t matter if your employees at a trade show, a client’s office, or in a cab on the way to a meeting. As long as they have an internet connection, your team can stay productive.

#3: Social media management made easy.

More and more CRMs are incorporating social media interaction. Why would you want to link your company’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn account with your CRM? So you can see how social media activity is affecting customer relationships.

For example, a lot of customers will take to social media when they have strong feels about a company. Every mention is an opportunity—even when customers are upset. If you can turn a bad experience into a good one right there in your Twitter feed, you’ll win that customer back as well as every other customer who’s paying attention.

“Customer relationship management (CRM) systems help you better understand your customers’ needs and how to meet those needs while enhancing your bottom line.” —CIO

#4: Knowledge at your customers’ fingertips.

Some customers will do absolutely anything to avoid making a phone call. That actually plays to your favor. Sure, you could tell insist that they call or email. Or you could create a knowledge management portal using your CRM.

Wiki-style knowledge management portals enable customers to access FAQs or troubleshooting information all on their own. Many CRM systems also let customers build their own online communities. These are spaces where customers can ask each other for help and provide your business feedback. An IT consultant with CRM experience can help you with setup.

Get the most out of your CRM system.

If you’re not using your CRM to build brand loyalty and enhance your customer service efforts, you’re missing out. These 4 CRM features will allow you to tap into and improve your customer’s experience.

Happy customers are loyal customers. And the more loyal customers you have, the more you’ll be able to grow your business.

Do you know the value of your CRM?

In 1989, a small-time collector was perusing art at a flea market. He ended up buying an uninspired pastoral painting, purely for the frame.

When he got it home, he removed the painting. He had no intention of keeping it. To his dismay, he discovered the frame was cheaply made and not salvageable.

But he found something else inside. Folded behind the painting was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. He could tell it was old, but he didn’t think it valuable. Then a friend urged him to research it.

As it turned out, the hidden copy was one of only 24 first prints of the historic document. In June of 2000, it sold at Sotheby’s for $8.1 million.

Hidden Value

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a slew of similar stories.

The original Velvet Underground demo someone bought for 75¢. The 11th-century Chinese pottery bought for three bucks and later sold for $2.2 million. The Warhol sketch purchased for $5 that turned out to be worth an estimated $2 million.

Sometimes there’s immeasurable value right under our noses, but we don’t see it. For many small business leaders, that’s true of their CRM solution. If you think of your CRM as little more than an elaborate database, you could be one of them.

How Your CRM Can Be A Game-Changer

A CRM (short for “customer relationship management”) solution is a powerful, robust tool—if you know how to use it. Unfortunately, we’ve worked with plenty of SMB owners who are barely scratching the surface.

Below is a quick list of some of the powerful things your CRM can do that you might not know about.

Streamline the sales process.

The goal in sales is to convert leads to prospects and prospects to customers. A CRM helps with that process by providing a clear picture of where each contact is in the process. By reviewing previous sales attempts, you can determine what strategies work best, equipping your sales team for better closing rates in the future.

Close the right deals.

One of the challenges of sales is qualifying potential customers. The faster you can determine who is and who is not a likely to buy, the less time you have to waste pursuing dead ends. A CRM gives you a framework for making that call faster, ensuring that you close the right deals—for you and for your clients.

Know your market.

You can also use the data in your CRM to tease out trends and movements in your market. If customers are migrating from one kind of product or service to another, you’ll see it in the reports. If your business is seasonal, that’ll become clear, too.

Meet customers’ needs.

Cross-selling and upselling get a bad rap. Neither is inherently bad. It’s all about knowing what actually helps your customer base. The better your customer records, the more easily you can identify the products and add-ons that will help the most.

Manage customer communication.

When all communication is housed in one place, it’s much easier for your employees to deliver top-tier customer service. This is especially true in the moment, like when they have a customer on the phone. A CRM makes that extra insight possible across your team.

Personalize communication.

Automatic messaging can include order status updates, shipping notifications, and simple thank you messages. A CRM gives you the ability to automate each of these with some nice personal touches. That way your customers know what’s going on at all times.

Incorporate social media.

The most current CRM tools also incorporate options for social media contact. Given the marketing potential of social media, this is a must-have for small business owners. And a CRM makes utilizing social media—for everything from announcements to events to contests to customer stories—so much easier.

Let CCS Technology Guide You to the Perfect CRM

With all the CRM solutions out there, how do you find the one that’s best for your business? And once you’ve found it, how do you transition your current process over to the new CRM?

The easiest way also happens to be the smartest way—get some help from the experts.

The pros at CCS can take you through the whole process, ensuring you end up with the best possible CRM solution for your business needs. If you’re ready to unleash the power of a CRM, give us a call. We’re ready to help.