Why is CRM the ideal solution for every small business?

CRM is a great tool for customer management!

However, unfortunately, many small businesses have still not started using it. Reason – A myth that CRM software is designed only for the large businesses.

And this is what is keeping most of the SMBs away from using CRM and improving their customer service.

Why is this a frightful situation?

Experts have predicted that by the year 2020, customer service will beat price and product quality and become the first brand differentiator.

That means only those businesses will survive who will be able to understand the Voice of the Customer through the CRM and provide exceptional customer service, along with good product quality and low price.

If now the SMBs do not take up the CRM then, nothing will be able to save them them from meeting the doom after a few years.

What do the small businesses need to understand?

CRM is not just a tool only for the BIG BOYS.

Although earlier CRM was designed to just meet the enterprise needs, today most CRM vendors have involved small business’s growing needs to shape up their solution. In fact this is exactly what Brent Leary, popular CRM thought leader has also commented in Software Advice

“There are a lot more CRM choices for small businesses today than there were a few years ago. These products are more affordable, easier to use and the subscription pricing terms are in line with what small businesses are looking for.”

In fact the few small businesses that have taken the CRM have admitted of a hundred percent satisfaction.

According to Software Advice online survey (conducted over 304 large, medium and small businesses who use CRM software) – small businesses (those with 100 employees or fewer) are “very satisfied” (37 percent) or “somewhat satisfied” (33 percent) with their current CRM system.

This clearly proves how well is the CRM performing for the small businesses.

What kind of benefits do the small businesses get from CRM?

  • Customer Data Management
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Customer Interaction Tracking
  • Lead Management
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Project Management
  • Workflow Standardization
  • Internal & External Team Collaboration
  • Social Media Management.

It is interesting to see that CRMs are delivering on so many more areas (such as project management, team collaboration, sales and marketing activities) other than customer relationships.

The reason behind this is the objective to expand the scope of CRM from just a Customer Management Tool to a full-fledged Business Management Application.

That is why, sales, marketing and project management features have been integrated to the system. This has made CRM a more significant tool for every business as it has more features and benefits that result into revenue generation and growth.

The right choice of CRM

In order to get the benefit from CRM, it is important to select the right technology. However, due to so many different types of CRM solutions available – it can get confusing for small businesses to make the right selection.

Some of the factors to take note while choosing a CRM are:

1. Ease of Use

2. Mobile functionality

3. Customization

4. Training

5. Frequency of CRM upgradation

6. Open APIs

7. Cloud or On-premise

8. Security Measures

9. Support Service.

In addition to these elements, small businesses should also consider their own goals that they wish to fulfill through the CRM.

Example: if they are looking for CRM to automate most of their routine data entry work, then they should look for a CRM that has a robust automation module.

Michael Kristian, CEO of Asuret (business consulting firm) also has the same point of view-

You need to get a package that’s tailored to your company’s size. At the most basic level you have simple contact management. Then you have contact management with a shared database. You can have sales tracking or opportunity tracking or customer service functionality. Match the capabilities of the software with what your business goals are.”

Final Thoughts

Once small businesses have CRM by their side, they will automatically develop a tight grip over their business process. Customer relations will improve which will result into a better and continuous flow of ROI.

It’s just that small businesses need to opt for the CRM that is correct for their business. Right? Or do you think that there is some other factor also that plays a key role in ensuring the success of a CRM

Top 10 Recommendations to Revitalize Your B2B Marketing

 

We are coming up to the last holiday weekend of a wonderful summer. The countdown for back-to-school has begun. Corporate team leaders can’t wait to get their teams back in full strength. Managers are gearing up for strategy meetings to make the last quarter of the year count. Let’s just say it’s “get serious, get back to work” time for the majority of us.

For B2B marketers, this is a good time to review what has worked in this year so far and what needs to change before the year is over. The State of Marketing* report offers valuable insights from over 5,000 global marketers. Let’s examine the top 10 recommendations to cover 3 key areas of marketing. ”The Customer Journey, Mobile and Social.

The Customer Journey

86% of senior level marketers surveyed in the report stress the critical importance of tracking and understanding the customer journey in order to implement an effective marketing strategy. How will you achieve this?

Here are 3 useful recommendations:

  1. Look beyond buyer personas and lifecycle marketing: In our enthusiasm to plan lead generation campaigns based on proper segmentation, we tend to sometimes get carried away with marketing to buyer personas. In the ideal world, every buyer would perfectly fit at least one persona we have thought of. With the increasing demand for personalization, however, B2B marketers need to focus more on the individual behaviours of different buyers instead of planning for broad patterns across different categories.
  2. Trace the customer journey beyond email: Email marketing has stood the test of time as an effective lead generation and nurturing methodology. The limitation of this method when it comes to viewing the customer journey is that email communication is linear and follows a set pattern. You can only trace the customer’s interaction with your brand along that one path of receiving, opening and acting upon email stimulus. In an integrated marketing approach, we need to look beyond email to examine multiple channels, including social, where our customers are spending time. The last thing you want to do is upset a customer by responding officiously to their email while ignoring their much more emotional communication on a social media platform.
  3. Make customer journey mapping a team exercise: You can’t possibly sit in the board room and try to map the full customer journey. There are multiple touchpoints and various people within your organization that can offer keen insights into how your customers react and interact at every stage of the customer journey. A regular brainstorm with your team is a great way to stay updated on what your customers are thinking, feeling, doing, and wanting you to do! Discover the gaps in your marketing strategy where customer experience has suffered, and focus on making improvements rather than trying to sweep those instances away under the carpet.

Mobile

This year is considered the “last call” for joining the mobile marketing train. Experts say it is a is now or never situation because a majority of the corporate workforce now functions as “phablet” users or users with smartphones that have tablet-like screens and features. Here are 4 critical steps you need to take with regard to mobile marketing:

  1. Define your mobile marketing strategy: You will see from your customer journey mapping exercise recommended above that one of the most important and frequent customer touchpoints is facilitated via mobile. In the absence of a clear strategy to optimize customer experience at every mobile-enabled interaction, you are losing a huge opportunity to make an impact on the dominant majority of your buyer population.
  2. Use an integrated approach to manage mobile campaigns: It’s no longer enough to have a mobile campaign once in a while. That is like spike marketing, you may get a sudden peak in lead generation but it won’t last. If your customers are on the go and using their mobile devices 24/7, what choice do you have really? Think about it! Mobile campaigns must become a part of your integrated marketing plan, communicating brand messaging consistent with all other channels and media you are using.
  3. Take advantage of location-based mobile content marketing: 67% of global marketers, according to this report are already doing this. If your business is just starting out to test the waters, a location-based mobile marketing campaign is a better way to test and learn before you spread out nationally or globally. Relevant content served up at the right time, in the right place to your mobile buyers will drive traffic to your target location faster, better, easier. It doesn’t necessarily have to be promotion or offer based either. Remember that the customer journey is more than 70% independent research for the vast majority. If your mobile content fits right in and adds value, you will be more successful in helping the buyer complete that last 30% of the decision making process in your favour.
  4. Monitor mobile analytics to devise loyalty programs: This report shows that more than in-store and web-based loyalty programs, mobile loyalty campaigns have an 86% effectiveness rating. That is huge! When planning your loyalty program, take into account the data from your mobile analytics and incentivize loyalty for your mobile buyers.

Social

While social has become an everyday, all the time phenomenon, it is far from easy. With all the automation available, there is still no silver bullet. Here are 8 Techniques that Work for B2B Social Media. You have to work at social relationships steadily and you can’t expect unrealistic returns. Let me remind you of the 5 Laws of Real Social ROI.

  1. Explore new and niche social channels: Mainstream social media channels may or may not work for your B2B audience. Consider niche channels where your target buyer spends time. For example, we created this exclusive, invitation-only LinkedIn Group for B2B thought leaders. feel free to join and exchange ideas with B2B thought leaders.
  2. Dedicate resources for social marketing: It takes time and effort to do this right. Rather than trying to build volume through more fans, allocate capable and trained resources to run your social campaigns selectively on the channels that work.
  3. Focus on engagement and keep testing: Leave the selling to your sales team or even to your website. On social media, your buyers are looking for meaningful content to engage and enlighten. That’s what you need to do consistently. Conversion is always the ultimate goal, but you can’t make that the primary one, especially on social platforms.

How will you refresh and rejuvenate your B2B marketing efforts? Feel free to add to the list of recommendations above. I look forward to hearing from you, so please leave me a comment. If you would like to receive updates and information about B2B lead generation, please click here.

10 top predictions for the Contact Centre of 2020

 

With customer experience on everyone’s  lips, the contact centre is about to undergo a major metamorphosis from an ugly duckling to the enterprises swan.

Contact centres don’t always represent a shiny jewel in the company’s crown. However, as the pressure mounts on brands to offer excelling customer service, they are becoming a focus of the battle for client’s satisfaction. Considered as a touchpoint of growing importance contact centres are bound to make an interesting subject of a CX makeover.

Here are the 10 predictions for the (not so distant) contact centre future:

1. Forget the voice/chat/email divide

Customers want to use a breadth of communication channels for customer service.  Channel usage rates are quickly changing. Customers want consistent service experiences across these channels. They also expect to be able to start an interaction in one channel and complete it in another.

Kate Leggett, Forrester

2. Army of specialists

Most customers will be able to help themselves with an aid of online communities and step-by-step video tutorials. The few interested in contacting a live agent will be usually faced with more complex issues (not to mention frustrated and angry). The contact centre will become the last resort, an emergency number. To remain relevant, companies will be forced to offer their customer a quick-fix. In years to come first tier employees will become redundant. After stating their inquiry into the new breed of Natural Language Processing IVR, customers will be connected directly with a technical specialist, able to help them on the spot, with no need for further transfers.

3. Conversation Analytics will become ubiquitous

Thanks to development of conversation analytics voice of the customer will be used in number of processes such as customer identification, pinpointing sale opportunities, rating customer satisfaction (with product, company, agent, offers), trend prediction, preventing fraud or sensitive information leaks and many more. Analysing every bit of information available will become a mantra of the future companies. Data gathered by call centres will become an intrinsic source of information for the company’s decision makers.

4. Where the agents roam free

As soon as you read, say or hear “call centre” your brain conjures up a vision of a crowded space full of cubicles, full of employees in headsets bent over computer screens. Not the most uplifting view. Press a forward button, and you’ll see cubicles disappearing, desks becoming optional and agents roaming free. With the advance of the speech to text technology, punching the details in manually will become a thing of the past. Identification will be completely automatic and handled by voice-based solutions. This will mean more freedom of movement for the representatives.

5. Uber-style employment

A bane of the call centres’ high traffic will be waved goodbye by the scores of casual employees working from home at the time of increased traffic. Trained and tested online they will be given Uber-like online profiles where their skills will be graded by both monitoring algorithms and clients.

6. Real time calibrated monitoring

The current system of random scoring of the calls by the supervisor will be replaced by fully automated, real-time monitoring. Companies will guard their reputation by preventing sensible information leaks with ever alert algorithms. Conversation analytics solutions designed to recognise and understand words, context, sentiment or emotion will be able to raise a red flag and inform managers of situations requiring their attention.

7. Community & loyalty

As contact centre becomes recognised as a vital CX touchpoint, the pressure to keep agents engaged grows. Contact centres’ managers will be faced with a challenge of reducing employee churn, the number of sick leaves and absences. This will require revisiting some fundamental assumptions about the purpose of agents’ work. The focus will be shifted from achieving desirable metrics to helping customers. To inspire engagement agents will be given more autonomy. Offering opportunities to move up in ranks beyond the contact centre hierarchy will be crucial to stop valuable agents from leaving.

8. New era of metrics

Forget about AHT, CSAT and FCR. The old metrics that choked employees and caused them to engage in some shady trickery will be replaced by scores that encourage them actually to help the caller. Customer satisfaction will be measured throughout the call to produce a clear picture of the aspects clients are satisfied or disappointed with. Script compliance will become a mythical creature once companies take advantage of voice analysing algorithms that recognise identity, gender, age and emotional state within seconds. Real-time alerts will offer cues as to what style and lingo are most appropriate in each particular case. Customer-agent matching will be a crucial task of analytic tools.

9. Cloud-based contact centres

We feel almost silly having to mention it, but yes, the Cloud will be the default choice. More and larger telco companies will offer their cloud-based contact centre services. This will allow companies to rent bundles of equipment and software, and stay competitive at a fraction of the cost. Unconstrained by the technicalities, contact centres will shift their focus to tuning their performance by applying the insights gathered by customised analytic reports.

Forrester data backs this up: 16% of contact center buyers indicate they will move their contact center systems to the cloud in the future.

10. Google’s employee treatment

The fabled treatment received by Google employees will sneak into even less affluent companies. Think healthy snacks or rest and play areas. Agents will be encouraged to move, exercise and meditate to fight off the stress caused by ever more challenging customer calls. As the demand for the specialists will grow, so will the HR budgets. Contact Centres specialists will become valued assets, worth competing for. Tempting employee benefits and perks will become a bait for employee loyalty.

The age of Customer is upon us, and the success of the companies will be soon defined by their ability to listen to their clients. Effective interpretation of the customers’ signals will become a differentiator between the brands that just promise “delightful customer experience” and those who deliver it. How? By acting upon the information harvested from the source of the purest customer feedback: the contact centre

Green Cleaning Solutions: Maintain a Clean Polished Look without Harming the Environment

 

Everyone wants to look their best when they walk out the door each day. Whether you are just taking a trip to the grocery store or heading into work, how you look on the outside is often a reflection of how you feel and who you are. However, many can agree that in order to look as good as we do leaving our homes each day; we utilize a lot of chemicals to get the job done.

So how can one reduce the amount of chemicals used to do things like clean their clothes, jewelry, and/shoes without harming the environment (or themselves as chemicals can sometimes lead to adverse reactions to the skin)? Check out these green cleaning solutions listed below:

Cleaning Your Clothes
Everyone enjoys the smell of freshly cleaned clothes; however, there are several clothing detergents that are comprised of harmful chemicals to the environment and to the skin. Did you know that there are some laundry detergents that are petroleum based, while some dryer sheets are made from tallow (animal fat)? If you want to get the same fresh scent and clean results without the harmful ingredients, there are more and more eco-friendly detergent products on the market that you can invest in. For those that are really looking to go green, making your own detergent is pretty simple as well.

For those who are really looking to turn their home into a green zone, investing in washers and dryers that are Energy Star rated is another way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money as well. There are also eco-friendly washing machines. These washers are able to use a lot less water than traditional washers and also conserve energy consumption making it a dual method of saving. When it’s time to dry your clothes, allowing them to air dry is ultimately the best way to reduce energy consumption.

Cleaning Your Jewelry
Who doesn’t own a piece of jewelry that they love to put on? Whether it’s a watch, a diamond wedding ring, or a pair of earrings, most of us love to have a piece of gold or silver on when we are headed out of the house. However, over time, the jewelry’s appearance can begin to fade. The diamond clarity now appears dull, the metal begins to tarnish, or a buildup of debris begins to congregate in the nooks and crannies of the intricate pieces of jewelry. Rather than using harsh chemicals on your jewelry or paying an arm and a leg to have a jeweler clean it, you could always do it yourself.

There are plenty of easy and eco-friendly methods that allow you to have flawless looking jewelry without the harshness of certain products. Some of those methods might include: creating your own soaps, toothpaste and baking soda for jewels, boiling your jewelry in water, or investing in eco-friendly jewelry cleaning products.

Shining/Cleaning Shoes
For a complete polished look, you need to have footwear that looks decent. Walking out of the house with a nice outfit, accenting jewelry and dirty shoes will get you a few stares. So to finish off your look while still doing your part to help the environment (and yourself), you’ll need a green shoe cleaning/shining regimen. Shoe polish can sometimes contain chemicals that can be absorbed into your skin which is never a good thing.

To clean your shoes, using plant based soaps or homemade soaps is often your best option to remove all of the debris. Once the shoes have been cleaned and dried, then you’ll need to shine them up for a polished finish. Instead of purchasing shoe polish, all you need is a little olive oil and a gentle rag or sponge.

So there you have it folks! These are all great alternatives to cleaning your clothes, jewelry, and shoes without damaging the environment or your health. Now you can step out of your home knowing that you look good, smell good, and feel good while still doing your part to help the environment.

The place to be for Young Entrepreneurs: Global Clean Technology Innovation Forum

It is no secret that we need global participation in order to substitute our polluting ways. The World needs innovative and passionate leaders to bring about the change.

Athgo and UCLA are calling for Social and CleanTech entrepreneurs (or wannabes) with a passion for sustainability: On March 4-7 there will be a great event taking place in Los Angeles. If you’re a college student or young entrepreneur, this is the place to be. The 6th annual Global Clean Technology Forum at UCLA provides a platform for 200 selected young minds across the globe to learn and advance their causes toward achieving environmental sustainability. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 32 you might want to try and get one of the open slots. The deadline for applications is coming up fast, February 24.

Become an entrepreneur

The forum is hosted by Athgo, a non-profit with a strong focus on Environment and Energy, together with UCLA Sustainability. Their goal is to encourage young people to get engaged in sustainability and renewable energy and to develop and propose new initiatives in a creative and cordial environment. For four days, 200 promising peers will be together with influential government representatives, scientists, diplomats, experts and corporate executives to showcase successful sustainability practices.  Participants will work in small groups throughout the event, and every group will submit a business model that presents an innovative approach to addressing a particular aspect of the program. On the final day, each group will be present its business model on one of the innovation panels. The proposals will be evaluated by leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society, and will be showcased at the conference closing ceremonies. A jury will identify the participants with the best results, who will get the support of Athgo to continue the development of the business models.

Discussions & Panels

The Global Forum is highly interactive and includes a combination of individual presentations, panels and informal and group-to-group discussion sessions. Panels will be on the following topics:

– Rewards and Incentives for Going Clean

– Renewable Power Generation

– Clean Technology Funding

– Sustainable Development

– National and International Policies

– Recycling and Waste Management

– The Role of Media

How to apply?

You must apply by February 24 by submitting a one-page personal statement addressing only one of the following:

  • If a newspaper were to do a story about your life to date, what would they write about?
  • Describe your unique qualities and passion for your advocacy work and what let you toward that work or schooling
  • Describe a moment in your life or a situation that occurred which impacted on how you live your life today

Registration is free, apply here.

CleanTechies wishes you luck, and if you end up going – tell us about your experiences on this Blog!

U.S. Community Solar Market to Grow Fivefold in 2015, Top 500 MW in 2020

The United States community solar market is approaching a tipping point. In its latest report, U.S. Community Solar Outlook 2015-2020, GTM Research forecasts the market to grow fivefold this year with 115 megawatts installed. By 2020, community solar in the United States will be an annual half-gigawatt opportunity.

With 66 cumulative megawatts installed through the end of 2014, the U.S. community solar market is just getting off of the ground. However, GTM Research has pegged it as the most significant solar growth market for the United States. Between 2014 and 2020, GTM Research expects U.S. community solar to have a compound annual growth rate of 59 percent.

According to the report, there are 24 states with at least one community solar project on-line, and 20 states have or are in the process of enacting community solar legislation.  However, only four states will install the majority of community solar over the next two years: California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

In the near term, these state markets with community solar legislation will serve as the core drivers of demand, fueling just over 80 percent of installations over the next two years.

“Looking ahead to 2020,” said Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman, “the community solar opportunity is poised to become more geographically diversified, as developers ramp up service offerings to utilities in states without community solar legislation in place and national rooftop solar companies enter the community solar scene.”

The report identifies 29 developers that are actively working on community solar projects. Today two companies, Clean Energy Collective and SunShare, together account for 32 percent of operating community solar capacity.

However, GTM Research expects a wave of market entry and expansion over the next five years, as rooftop solar companies including NRG, SunEdison, and SolarCity build out their community solar efforts.

The next five years will see the U.S. community solar market add an impressive 1.8 gigawatts, compared to just 66 megawatts through the end of 2014

The Next Gen App for Curbing Your Transportation Emissions

Save time, travel costs and carbon? Yup, there’s an app for that: TripGo. It’s already being used in over 50 major metropolitan cities around the globe to streamline commuting times, travel itineraries and intelligently lower travel emissions.

Created by the Australian-based company SkedGo, the underlying sustainability focus of the TripGo app is designed to reinforce the need for smarter, cleaner and resource friendly transportation methods, i.e., smart cars, electric vehicles, improved mass transit infrastructure, bicycle commuting, ride shares, etc.

Because according to the latest findings in, A Global High Shift Scenario, the report released last month by the Institute for Transportation and the University of California, “Transportation, driven by rapid-growth in car use, has been the fastest growing source of CO2 in the world.”

So whether you’re trying to shave minutes off of your daily commute, or taking a vacation in an unfamiliar city, TripGo automatically plans trips to, from and between events in your calendar, and smartly proposes the least carbon-intensive connections using your personal transport preferences.

TripGo supports the following modes of transportation:

  • Public transport: buses, ferries, subways, trains, trams
  • Taxi
  • Shuttle services
  • Car
  • Motorbike
  • Bicycle
  • Walking

Additional TripGo features include:

  • Real-time public transport information.
  • Door-to-door options for easy comparison on price, time and environmental impact – including public transport, taxi and bike share.
  • Trip planners according to your transport preferences.
  • Get reminders for your upcoming planned trips
  • Public transport pricing.
  • Tolls and car park information.
  • Taxi fares.
  • Search for points of interest and businesses.
  • Save trips to calendar.
  • Open from Apple Maps.
  • Launch turn by turn navigation.
  • Universal for iPhone and iPad.

To date, over 500k have downloaded TripGo. To learn more, download the app, or see if TripGo is available in your city: http://skedgo.com/tripgo

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This article is brought to you by our sponsor – TripGo

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