CRM: Time to cut through the confusion

Customers expect to interact with companies wherever and whenever they want and to receive relevant, tailored information that cuts through the white noise of incoming messages.  To meet this demand, the last few years have seen an explosive development of new marketing communications and CRM technology.

However, this growth of these different channels is leaving many retailers and marketers facing too many options, struggling to co-ordinate their various CRM systems and unsure about where to focus their resources.

“We see customers who are juggling five or six, sometimes more, different pieces of software to manage different aspects of their business,” says Laura Burrus, product marketing manager at Zoho, a solutions provider that offers a single platform for all the applications needed to run a business entirely from the cloud. “Most of the time, the different pieces of software don’t talk to each other, which leaves the company with disjointed visibility into their business operations.”

Different departments, she points out, need to talk to each other for a company to gain visibility into its operational system. “If your sales team uses a CRM and your marketing team uses a different system to send email marketing campaigns, meanwhile your support team uses a yet another system to answer customer support questions, it’s important that each piece of software talks to each other,” she says.

With disconnected software, you can see how quickly a company can miss the big picture and lose the ability to gain insight into its customers

Companies that implement CRM systems should understand their customers’ buying process and look for ways to make this process more valuable to the customer, argues Ms Burrus.  “Keeping in mind that customers want to be in control of how and when they buy, the sales rep’s job is to be available when the customer is available,” she says.

To meet this challenge Zoho has built in artificial intelligence technology called ZIA into its CRM product. This works as an assistant to the sales rep by notifying them of the best time to contact a customer. “This technology along with real-time notifications, enable sales reps to maximise their productivity by engaging customers at the right time,” explains Ms Burrus.  “The result? Faster and smoother buying processes for customers, and happier and more productive sales reps.”

According to Ms Burrus, a growing number of companies are approaching Zoho because it provides a unique operating system that gives companies visibility into all aspects of their business. They find that when they operate on one platform, as they do with Zoho, there’s more collaboration among teams, more visibility into business operations across departments and more focus on the customer.

Customer context across all touchpoints

“The thing that we admire most about Zoho is that they are really trying to build one cohesive product where everything works well – and works together,” says Alex Tolbert, founder of Bernard Health, a benefits brokerage and human resources software company, and a Zoho client. “I’m just really confident that Zoho’s roadmap is going to continually add more and more value. Our bottom line has increased by over $100,000 per year from the cost-savings alone. That’s not including the increased revenue due to our improved customer experience.”

New product development is essential. Ms Burrus says: “Zoho’s focus on product development allows for more innovative and feature-rich products, which provides value to the customer.”

She believes that Zoho’s status as a private company with no outside investors is a key reason for its success. Rather than spending money on aggressive sales and marketing, it invests in new product development and customer service – its two pillars. An essential element of these pillars is the Zoho University from which 15 per cent of the company’s employees have graduated.

Certainly, this focus on new product development and excellent customer service has paid off. From 15 million customers in 2014, it recorded 20 million in 2016 and is on course for 30 million this year.

Another Zoho client is Revision Energy, a fast-growing solar panel contractor. In late-2009, Fred Greenhalgh, its digital marketing manager, realised that to drive rapid growth, he would need a reporting methodology to manage the company’s entire sales pipeline. Spreadsheets weren’t sufficient anymore because all-too-common incorrect editing and deleting of information was interfering with their sales processes and tracking.

Mr Greenhalgh cites Zoho CRM’s scalability and flexibility as two of the main factors that have enabled Revision Energy to overcome one of its biggest challenges to grow sustainably while embracing a data-driven culture. To maintain this momentum, he has also started using Zoho Reports, which when integrated with Zoho CRM, enables the company “to spend more time analysing the data and implementing strategy, rather than building tables and spending hours formatting”, as Mr Greenhalgh puts it.

He concludes: “We can accurately track the entirety of a customer’s journey and manage our solar installation projects from start to finish. Zoho CRM provides the tools to create the methodology and culture to accomplish our goals. I think we can attribute our growth to tracking our sales pipeline in Zoho.”

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