Making the process simpler – The CRM perspective

Before Dropbox, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Tumblr and the many social business tools to connect, share and collaborate across the business functions, people were concerned with a more basic question: how do I access my files on another machine?

If you were in sales operations, it was how to keep a customer proposal somewhere that had more than the 20MB of storage on your desktop computer; maintaining forecasting numbers on a VisiCalc (Visible Calculator) spreadsheet on a non-graphical user interface; and if you were lucky, email to your peers, employees or managers to ask, beg and plead for customer information across the company.

Sharing was still a strange idea. Most of the network access was more to have access to large storage space, which was typically broken up and distributed across employees as separate areas. There wasn’t really as much actual sharing in file sharing, between people at the time.

So what if at that time, there was a single application that could, as a team, manage customer records, manage calendars, track sales interactions, and even be used to track and forecast sales, and generally become a common sales and marketing automation system?

There was once a time when only the contact managers are what empowered and enchanted the line-level business people. It enabled them to build relationships and work as a team through those relationships. But management was fearful. They were fearful that salespeople would walk out the door with the contacts. They were fearful that the salesperson wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do. They didn’t trust them. And they wanted a pipeline forecast [so] they can figure out future growth. And thus the CRM was invented…

That was … the Golden Era of engagement and relationship management, workgroup/contact management, (and sales force automation). CRM evolved from that. In many respects, CRM took over the line management and they forgot the sales guys. And now the era of Cloud CRM starts which gives the power of engagement, customer relationships, sales automation, and collaboration, tying together content calendar and communication into one cohesive platform and integrating sales, marketing and support, thus making itself a wholesome package for any organisation to be more productive in the long run with systematic steps, minimizing the total efforts.

Coming out of the traditional approach

So let’s start off with a few questions. How does your organisation keep track of its leads, prospects, clients or constituents?  You may have your sales leads tracked through a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or even better, through Google spreadsheet and maybe your customers’ documents are trapped in a file cabinet. But what would happen if you begin to assemble all those contacts in one place? How would that change the way your organization connects with people?

A CRM (customer relationship management) software is the answer to all. It can help everyone who interacts with those contacts work together to maximize the impact of each of those relationships.

CRM refers to a wide range of traditional and online software solutions that help an organization keep track of its constituents. CRM programs keep a record of the organization’s contact with a constituent and can remind employees to follow up with that person at the appropriate time.

Depending on the size and structure of the organization, a different staff member might manage each of those relationships, but what if all the employees are looking at the same record when one particular member interacts with that person? By keeping all of this information in a single CRM database, everyone who interacts with that contact can see the big picture of the organization’s relationship with her.

Now-a-days, there’s this buzz going on around regarding Cloud Computing. So, if put simply, cloud CRM refers to any CRM system that one access over the Internet rather than hosting it on his own computer. The software itself runs on computers in datacenters owned or rented by the CRM providers.

Unlike most traditional CRMs – whose costs might include both a site license and licenses for individual users or devices, in addition to hardware costs – most cloud CRM systems offer a per-user pricing model. This makes it easier, and likely less expensive, to change the number of users who can access the database as per the changes in needs.

Similarly, depending on how an organization is structured and who needs access to the CRM, one may find keeping the CRM in the cloud to be less of a hassle. If the people who need to access the database, and not all of them work in the same office, or if employees need to be able to access the database from the field, then connecting remotely to an office server can be an annoyance. If an organisation has multiple branches throughout a city, then cloud CRM can be a way to collate all of the branches’ shared relationships in one place, thus making it a boon in disguise in maximising productivity and minimising the efforts of the employees.