The benefits of a CRM programme
By Keith Fenner, Senior Vice-President of Sales for Africa, Softline Accpac and Sage MMD Africa.
In the face of shrinking pipelines and declines in profitability, the uptake of customer care tools is consistently increasing. Managing multiple channels of communication, such as e-mail, faxes, SMSes and voice recognition software, could, however, be tricky. "If you add the unstructured world into the mix, such as the Internet, Twitter and LinkedIn, you are lumped with a vast amount of information related to what people are saying about you," says Keith Fenner, Senior Vice-President of Sales for Africa, Softline Accpac and Sage MMD Africa.
A customer relationship management (CRM) suite is primarily designed to aid users to accurately interpret any and all information circulating on the Internet in such a way that it will add value to the business.
Customer interaction channels, such as face-to-face communication, phone, e-mail, the Web and social media, are the mediums that connect you to your customers. "A sound CRM strategy reaches out to target customers through multiple channels. It will ultimately aid you to understand your customer better, streamline communication and update client information across your entire business operation without the customer having to repeat themselves 10 times over. That is what makes CRM so essential," explains Fenner.
The proliferation of CRM in the last decade, and the increasing demand for the cloud, goes hand-in-hand. "Reduced connectivity costs and continued growth in the quality of broadband and wireless offerings are driving users into the unstructured world. As a result, the upswing of cloud customers across our product lines has significantly improved. It speaks volumes about the demand for cloud offerings and clearly underpins the necessity of having a comprehensive CRM solution," says Fenner.
The feature sets that a CRM suite offers include:
* Account Management Features: Contact records - demographic information as well as account history.
* Activity Management Features: Calendars, task assignments and Outlook integration, among others.
* Call Centre Features: Computer-Telephony Integration (CTI) and call management.
* Collaboration: Employee-to-employee and customer collaboration.
* Customer Service Features: Case/ticket management, agent workflow tools and service resolution tools, such as decision trees.
* Knowledge Management: A knowledge base for customer service in addition to external content indexing.
* Marketing Management Features: E-mail and other channel campaign and project management.
* Mobile Support: Including dedicated apps.
* Reporting and Analytics: Real-time dashboards for sales, marketing and service.
* Sales Management Features: Lead generation, qualification and pipeline management.
* Social Media Features: Social listening, keyword or sentiment analysis and content creation.
There is, however, a prevailing misconception that CRM is only meant for contact reporting, when it is in fact capable of providing your business with a strategic advantage. "A CRM suite adds a whole new level of automation to the business that enables you to complete the loop in terms of capturing relevant information in addition to incorporating the social media explosion into your customer relationship strategy. A comprehensive CRM solution will ultimately allow you to offer superior customer service, which is vital in a tough economy," concludes Fenner.