Last week, the National Air Traffic Control centre became the latest in a series of high profile system failures attributed to out of date or poorly tested software. Before this, customers of RBS and Nat West were on the receiving end of a corrupted software upgrade. This prevented millions of customers from accessing accounts and even extended the prison stay for one poor individual.

Like it or not, we are all dependent on software and have all at some time experienced the effects of system failures. For the average business, system failures are unlikely to be as extreme as the cases mentioned above, but they are nonetheless disruptive to the organisation and frustrating for users.

The problems may not always be catastrophic. In fact, complete system failures are in many ways the easiest to resolve, as it is evident when the system is restored. The more difficult thing for a business to do however, is to keep on top of creeping inefficiencies which can result either from technology of business process changes. These are the problems that often go unseen which can cost the business a lot in wasted effort and time and can sap staff morale. Out of date screens or poor workflow controls which cause a user a few seconds delay on a regular activity, will amount to hours of lost time and significant cost over the course of a year.

Nowhere is this more evident than in a CRM application. Because it is so fundamental to a business, shortcomings in a CRM that hasn’t kept pace with business needs, quickly become the source of user frustration, often leading to a general loss of confidence and a belief that the CRM software is at fault. This is the point at which a company goes off in search of a new system which they believe will meet their needs more effectively.

The truth, of course, is often that the old system was perfectly fit for purpose, but nobody had the time or knowledge of how to examine the business needs and adapt the system to suit. The business then takes on an expensive new development only to be surprised to find themselves back where they started sometime later. Having seen this time and time again, we have come up with the following pointers to help a business to maintain an effective CRM.

  • Ensure that the CRM system has visible business support from senior management. If the management don’t believe in the benefits of CRM the users won’t either.
  • Have a sensible budget for ongoing system development. Business needs can change rapidly, so there should be funds available to make relevant changes to the system.
  • Provide a method for users to easily report system issues and let it be seen that these are being attended to.
  • Have a formal annual system review that looks at current and projected requirements. This should result in a written development plan.
  • Keep software up to date. New product features often provide additional benefits or solutions to old problems.
  • Don’t rely on IT to take the lead on new developments. It’s a business system which should be driven by those who understand the business issues.
  • Test any changes thoroughly before deploying to the live system. Sage CRM allows the installation of a second instance that can be used for testing and rollback. Making changes directly to a live system is a very risky practice.

This all sounds very good in theory. However, for a company engaged in its day-to-day business it is easy to let these things slide, either through lack of time or knowledge. This is where using an accredited business partner like Loria makes sense. We keep our clients up to date with the latest developments in the software and provide solutions to problems in an objective way through ongoing support. This often brings many additional benefits to the business. If any of the points above are relevant to your business, please get in touch.

Much of the work we do in developing Sage CRM, is focussed on making it as easy as possible to get information in to the system. However, the main interest to users is what they can get out, to help with their day-to-day tasks. A CRM implementation that doesn't recognise this, will never be adopted by users and will consequently fail to meet business needs.

Sage CRM is provided with a range of reporting tools, of which we find ‘interactive dashboards’ the most useful way of providing valuable business information.

With a dashboard, data can be drawn together from a number of sources and displayed as a series of graphs, tables and charts in a single screen. These then provide quick ‘at-a-glance’ access to information relevant to a user or department within the business.

Dashboards can be used for a range of business information purposes. For instance, a member of the sales team may want to see information regarding opportunity stage & status, leads and forecasting, alongside contact lists and a calendar view. A senior manager will probably be interested in business KPIs relating to their departments of the business generally.

Sage CRM will support many custom dashboards, and individual users can be assigned access to one or more of these.

Information can be displayed on dashboards from a number of sources:

  • ‘Internal’ CRM data
  • External Web Sources and RSS feeds
  • Data from integrated systems such as accounts and production systems.

It is the latter of these that makes Sage CRM dashboards particularly powerful. For instance, an operations manager could not only see what is in the sales pipeline held in CRM, but can also monitor production information drawn from process systems – all from a single screen.

Dashboards are compiled from individual elements called ‘widgets’. These can be passive or dynamic, allowing a simple view of information or a graphical view with drill-down capabilities.

The application for Sage CRM dashboards is almost limitless. We have extensive experience of developing simple and complex dashboard screens for a wide range of businesses. Please get in touch to discuss your reporting requirements.

Much has been written about the importance of customer service to retain and attract new customers. However, most of the evidence has been intuitive or anecdotal. This makes it difficult for companies to justify investments in technologies like CRM, which enable businesses to operate efficient and effective customer service programs.

A recently published article in the Harvard Business Review blog1 has, however, finally managed to put some numbers on the impact of good vs bad customer service. The effects are significant.

By carrying out a survey that tracked customer spending behaviour over a period of time, the study was able to show that in ‘transactional’ businesses, (where somebody is paying for goods or services), customers who experience good service 'spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience'.

A comparative study of membership organisations showed a similar distinction, where less than half of members in one year were likely to renew their subscription the following year, as a direct result of poor customer service.

As the study concludes: ‘unhappy customers are expensive’. They tend to absorb more of the company’s time than a contented customer will. It is also far more expensive for a company to continually have to win new business, than to look after the customers that they have.

By focusing on customer service, telecoms firm Sprint is turning around a poor reputation, to become the most improved company in customer satisfaction, across 47 industries, over the last five years 2. Far from costing the firm money, Sprint is on record as saying that their customer care costs have gone down by as much as 33%.

The secret of Sprint’s success is largely down to providing a joined-up environment for its workforce, where information is shared and consistent across customer-facing teams. This is supported by the introduction of self-service tools, regular feedback surveys and intelligent use of new media, to allow a closer interaction with customers.

Sage CRM provides all the tools that a business needs to run an efficient customer care service. Contact us, to find out how Sage CRM can help you to win and retain more business.

1. Peter Kriss, Harvard Business Review on 1/8/2014: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/08/the-value-of-customer-experience-quantified/
2. http://www.sprint.com/responsibility/ourcustomers/customer_support/index.html

For a long time, the self-service portal has been a powerful but largely underutilised feature of Sage CRM. However, driven by businesses that want to provide online services, improve their customer service or reduce administration overheads, we are implementing more and more web portals to extend the scope of new and existing Sage CRM applications.

With Sage CRM Self Service, customers can log into a portal via the existing corporate website. This allows them to perform functions such as viewing account information, reporting problems, or requesting product information. This is a standard feature of Sage CRM that many companies pay web developers substantial additional fees to create.

As users of Sage CRM ourselves we have a well-developed portal which allows our support clients to log new cases directly onto our system. This places any new issue directly into a workflow which ensures that it is picked up quickly and that the client receives update emails as the case is progressed.

The self-service feature can however be applied to many applications. Recent Sage CRM portals that we have implemented include:

  • An online work request logging system for a commercial cleaning and maintenance firm. Key features of this allow users to upload pictures and documents, as well as displaying progress data on a large monitor.
  • Membership management and subscription renewals for a major UK non-profit organisation. This system provides users with access to download content based on their membership status and integrates with a paperless direct debit system.
  • Public facing portal for postal services business, which allows users to sign up for services and amend preferences online.
  • Clinical case management with controlled levels of data access by job role. Provides an online appointment booking facility for patients and clinical staff based on need and location.

In addition to providing a valuable service around the clock, self-service portals significantly reduce administration costs by giving customers access to data which they otherwise would have had to get via a phone call or email. Having a self-service portal also creates a tie-in service not easily replicated by competitors.

The initial setting up of a portal takes some work, particularly if it has to be styled to integrate with the design of a corporate website. However, once implemented, a portal can be managed by an administrator from within Sage CRM.

For more information, please see our main web portal page.

We would be pleased to discuss any requirements you might have for providing your clients with remote access. Please get in touch.

We are delighted to announce that, as of October 1st 2014, we have become an accredited Sage Business Partner for Sage CRM.

For the past three years, we have worked with other Sage Business Partners on Sage CRM applications that are integrated with Sage 200 and Sage 300 ERP. Whilst we will continue with this work, which utilises our extensive knowledge of the Sage integration component, there is also a large market for standalone CRM.

This is the next major milestone in our business development which, in the last year alone, has seen us move to new offices in Burgess Hill and also expand our team. Becoming a Sage Business Partner lays the foundation for the next phase in our development, to deliver excellent consultancy, development and support services for Sage CRM across the UK.