The benefits of a CRM programme

By Keith Fenner, Senior Vice-President of Sales for Africa, Softline Accpac and Sage MMD Africa.


Johannesburg, 11 Sep 2012
Read time 2min 50sec

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.

Softline Accpac

Softline Accpac is a provider of business management solutions including financial, distribution, service management, retail, warehouse management, manufacturing and CRM to the mid-range market. Accpac solutions are delivered to 130 countries exclusively through a global network of solution providers, including over 150 throughout Africa. Softline Accpac's product line includes: Accpac ERP, Accpac CRM, Accpac RMS, Service Manager and Accpac Insight. Softline Accpac also distributes Sage SalesLogix, Sage Geode and Sage ERP X3, a full-service enterprise management software system for mid-to-large businesses. With a choice of languages, currencies, enterprises, locations and legislations, Sage ERP X3 offers an efficient, multi-company solution.

Softline

Softline is a leading provider of accounting, payroll, CRM and ERP software solutions to small, medium-sized and large companies. Founded in 1988 by Ivan Epstein, Alan Osrin and Steven Cohen, Softline was established during the formative years of the software industry and listed on the JSE Securities Exchange South Africa in February 1997. Softline expanded to establish a strong position within its area of focus in South Africa and Australia. Focused on the development of accounting, payroll, CRM and ERP software solutions, Softline has a 20-year track record as a market leader. The group has a broad range of products offering users a variety of software solutions to run their businesses efficiently. Softline's leading brands include Softline Accpac, Softline Pastel (Accounting and Payroll) and Softline VIP. The combination of the group's product offerings provide Softline customers with comprehensive, well-branded accounting, payroll, CRM and ERP software solutions. In November 2003, Softline was acquired by the Sage Group, a FTSE 100 company. The software group includes market-leading businesses throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia, supplying business software to the small, medium-sized and large business community. Softline has a solid track record of profitability and cash generation. The group delivers quality accounting, payroll, CRM and ERP software solutions that improve the efficiencies of businesses around the world.

The Sage Group

The Sage Group is a leading global supplier of business management software and related products and services, principally for small to medium-sized enterprises. Formed in 1981, Sage was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989. Sage has 6.3 million customers and 13 400 employees worldwide. It operates in over 24 countries covering the UK, Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia, India and China. For further information, please visit www.sage.com.

Editorial contacts
Watt Communications Keith Fenner (011) 807 3294
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