CRM to lead enterprise software spending in 2013

Businesses are increasingly recognizing the benefits that can be reaped from an extensive CRM system. The advancement of cloud and mobile technology along with data analytics have served to further enhance the potential for companies to engage customers and attract clients. The modern incarnation of CRM software provides businesses with the resources needed to launch an effective customer communication and retention service. With the increased availability of sophisticated CRM systems, companies are investing more heavily in the technology.

Gartner recently released a report on current IT spending trends across the globe, IDG's Chris Kanaracus reported. The study found that CRM software was the most cited priority for companies investing in enterprise applications over the next two years. According to the analyst firm, a burgeoning interest in bringing on new clients and maintaining customer satisfaction and retention levels is driving worldwide interest in CRM software. Cloud Computing contributor James Bourne's analysis of the report found that CRM had surpassed ERP as the number one priority for application software investment.

The increasing global interest in CRM software reflects the necessity of providing quality customer service to ensure the continued success of a business. With the proper system in place, companies can stay in contact with their clients at any time over a variety of formats. By integrating CRM software with a business' social media accounts, sales managers can directly target potential customers. Email utilities can also allow businesses to more effectively monitor and analyze communication efforts.

In addition, data analytics applications can provide sales teams with more complete client profiles, allowing them to more effectively engage both current and prospective customers as well as appeal to their needs. With mobile capabilities, this essential information can be accessed by employees in the office or on the road. Investing in quality CRM software can immeasurably benefit businesses looking to increase their customer service efforts.

CRM enhances banking customer retention

What separates a good business from a great operation is often exemplary customer relations. It is widely known that investing resources toward recruiting new clients is much higher in contrast with retaining existing ones. Perhaps no industry is more aware of the need for customer retention than the banking sector. According to a study conducted by Ernst & Young, 55 percent of consumers in the United States reported having less confidence in banks than previously. Building customer trust requires a dedicated company-wide effort to engage clientele. Deploying a CRM solution can further facilitate these goals.

Forbes contributor Chad Hamblin recently identified the benefits CRM software can offer banking institutions. The focus of any CRM campaign should be placed on understanding customer needs and addressing their concerns. Using CRM software, banks can create a profile of existing and potential customers for staff to reference when attempting to offer their services. Financial centers receive clients from all walks of life with many different financial situations. It is immensely beneficial for bankers to be able to more quickly ascertain the specific needs of a customer so they can begin providing the most appropriate services to them. For example, Hungarian MKB Bank saw major performance increases after implementing a CRM solution. The bank was reportedly able to decrease customer churn by five percent and increase the profit gained from the most valuable customer segments by 20 percent.

CRM software that is compatible with mobile devices will further enhance a bank staff's ability to serve clients, as they can quickly access the most up-to-date customer profiles at any time. Bankers will be aware of any changes to a client's financial situation and can offer the most beneficial services. By addressing customer concerns quickly and effectively, financial centers can maintain ideal customer retention levels.

Adaptive CRM methods can lead to greater client satisfaction

Small and large businesses have found that CRM software solutions can facilitate their efforts to engage potential clients while keeping existing customers happy and maintaining robust retention rates. CRM software can provide companies with the resources needed to engage customers, but it is up to those businesses to successfully implement and maintain those tools to maximize their return on investment. When either launching a new CRM system or operating an established solution, it is important to always approach customer relations with flexibility.

No two potential clients are exactly alike, and yet some businesses will deploy a one-size-fits-all strategy to identifying, approaching and converting customers. BizCommunity contributor Simone Tal suggested that businesses consider the individual needs and motivations of potential clientele when approaching them. A better understanding of a particular customer will allow businesses to deploy more individualized CRM techniques to build trust and loyalty. Once clients have been brought on board, it is equally essential that companies continue to monitor their changing needs and circumstances so they can provide the best possible service and maintain ideal client retention rates.

CRM software offers businesses a variety of tools to utilize for increasing customer satisfaction. The integration of social media resources can be useful when trying to enhance communications with both potential and existing clients. More customers are flocking to these mediums and choosing them as their preferred platform for communications. Businesses can use social media sites to address customer concerns and questions directly. In addition, consumers can be alerted to promotional offers and deals that can build brand loyalty and increase client retention rates. CRM software provides companies with the tools needed to keep customers happy and continue their business relationship. By considering the individual concerns of clients and maintaining the lines of communication, companies can significantly strengthen their CRM efforts.

Top CRM features to implement

Whether they realize it or not, online businesses that have adopted a quality ecommerce software platform have many tools at their disposal to help them succeed in their marketplace. A good software vendor will provide a number of preloaded applications for ecommerce companies to facilitate their efforts to engage and communicate with potential and current clients. Once given those resources, however, it is up to business owners to take advantage of them. By applying these features to their CRM strategies, ecommerce companies can benefit immensely.

Quality CRM software allows businesses to integrate the service with their mobile devices. The increased access provided by this feature facilitates companies' communication efforts with their clients even when employees are away from the office. With the proliferation of mobile devices, customers expect greater access to their business contacts. If a client needs product support but is unable to contact the vendor, he or she will likely go to a competitor in the future. Using social media tools in conjunction with mobile devices, businesses can stay in contact with customers and address any concerns almost immediately.

Business-Software's Ashley Dotterweich examined the untapped potential of CRM methods and found that many companies do not utilize workflow processes to their full potential. By spreading workflow information to every member of an organization, businesses can maintain a level of operational consistency. For example company executives can use CRM software to be sure that their sales members are delivering a similar and tightly constructed experience for potential customers. Businesses can also use workflow tools to monitor every step of a service request and identify potential issues before they escalate.

With CRM software, ecommerce businesses have several tools to enhance their operations. By taking advantage of these available resources, companies can better facilitate communication with customers and keep their clientele satisfied with a well-monitored service process.

Businesses stand to benefit from CRM

Customer engagement is a major concern for any business. Satisfied customers are usually converted into returning customers. According to Forbes contributor Alex Lawrence, keeping existing customers is about 50 percent easier than acquiring new ones. Thus, it is in the best interest of ecommerce businesses to maximize their efforts to engage consumers and facilitate customer satisfaction. One option for companies looking to increase their customer relations is to implement CRM solutions.

There appears to be a gap between businesses’ recognition of the importance of customer relations and the actual steps they are taking to address the issue. According to a survey conducted by Oracle, titled “Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era”, 91 percent of respondents said they aspired to be an industry leader in customer experience. However, 37 percent of those queried admitted their customer experience initiatives had not been fully deployed yet.

IT Web contributor Joanne Carew’s analysis of the report found that poor customer service could result in businesses losing as much as 20 percent of their annual revenue. In addition, 71 percent of those surveyed acknowledged that customers held more bargaining power than before. Respondents cited the growing influence of social media as a major factor for customer opinions becoming more amplified.

Building good relationships with an ecommerce business’ customer base can be facilitated with the application of CRM software. A quality tool will seamlessly integrate help desks and call centers into a company’s operations, providing customers with a support network to address concerns. Social media and email applications can enhance communication between an ecommerce business and its customers. Utilizing the right CRM software, a business can be sure that it is taking advantage of every opportunity to ensure customer satisfaction.

Enhancing social CRM efforts

Any online business fully utilizing the potential of its ecommerce business can attest to the benefits provided by modern advancements in the field. CRM tools allow companies to monitor various processes like sales and identify potential prospects and marketing campaigns. CRM software streamlines what used to be an arduous and painstaking process of keeping tabs on the activity of a business. These tools have been so successful in helping companies engage and track clientele, they have begun to be applied to social media. Before ecommerce businesses take the plunge on social CRM however, there are a few factors to consider when crafting an approach.

In social media circles, those who carry influence are treated like online royalty. Individuals who have their activity followed by large numbers of people are going to be enticing targets for CRM efforts. The logic goes if someone with influence can be swayed, a business just gained the built-in audience of his or her followers. However, CRM Buyer’s Chris Bucholtz cautioned that those large audience numbers could be misleading. If that audience is unlikely to be converted into a customer base, they – and by extension their influencer – holds little value for an ecommerce business.

It can be easy for businesses to lose track of what is important in their social CRM strategies. Many companies track positive data such as their number of followers. However, digging deeper would provide greater analysis of their place in the market. Examining what specifically a business is doing to draw followers in is more important than simply measuring success by the number of fans acquired.

By successfully integrating social media campaigns with CRM tools, ecommerce businesses can maximize their prospect conversion efforts. CIO’s Ian Whiting noted that by using social media to initiate contact with potential customers, sales team members can quickly begin the conversation on what they have to offer. Social CRM tools can be a valuable resource for ecommerce companies, but getting the most out of them requires proper planning and execution.

Cloud custom software can make business more productive

New technology is affordable enough at this point to where all businesses, no matter how big or small, can take advantage of it. Cloud computing is an example of a transformative technology that can help financial institutions, manufacturing businesses and other organizations when implemented correctly. ERP Cloud News said one thing the cloud can bring is improved productivity, something that can be very useful when adopting new custom software.

“It cannot be denied that cloud computing is having a tremendous positive effect upon integrating technology and making life easier overall,” the website said. :”This is also true in the workplace, and more and more businesses are reaping its benefits. In the past, traditional IT has managed inter-office communications, information logging, file sharing, data storage, and team and collaborative efforts. All of this used to require a more hands-on and managed approach.”

Many of the functions can now be handled remotely by the cloud, especially when using a quality custom cloud solution, ERP Cloud News said.

Other ways the cloud can help business productivity include:
– Better in-office communication between employees and access to files or other documents
– More flexibility and scalability than the companylikely had in the past, as companies can add more to the solution or take parts away if need be
– The ability to easily integrate inlegacy technology

Rick Blaisdell’s cloud computing blog said custom software solutions have been quickly moving away from physical implementations and over to the cloud, as outsourced solutions can help automatespecific migrations. Even painful movescan be made much easier when bringing in cloud computing. As a result,not only will companies increase productivity, they will save time as well.

Company uses new software to improve processes, boost revenue

Travel expenses can be a budget buster no matter how often a business decides to send its employees out. One IT support services company, according to The Globe and Mail, started to realize it was spending both too much time and too much money on traveling, so leaders at the organization started looking into a solution to better arrange operations. The news source said to improve the service to their customers and save revenue, the company wanted to use custom software to have an easier time working remotely and invest in time management software to better have control of processes.

“This means we can catch and solve small problems before they escalate – all without us ever having to leave the office," one of the company's executives told the news source. “This way we could not only respond to our clients more quickly and easily but also track and figure out how to manage our time more efficiently.”

Moving to this new software solution took about half a year, according to the Globe and Mail, but it has already started to work wonders for the business. In 2010, the company said, less than 50 percent of technicians' time could be considered billable to clients, which has now risen to 65 percent. Revenue is also on the rise, increasing from $780,000 at the end of 2011 to $800,000 for the fiscal year ending in 2012.

A communications company said prepackaged software may work for businesses in certain instances, but it isn't designed to meet all the needs for small businesses, which can end up being very unique. With custom software, these organizations can figure out how to best optimize the programs to their needs and get even better return on investment for the money they put into the software.

Custom cloud software could be great for small businesses

Small businesses now have more advantages than they ever have with regard to custom software, and IT professional Avi Kaye wrote on Business 2 Community that cloud-based software may be able to help entrepreneurs tackle some of the challenges that come with starting and running a small company.

"There’s the matter of money. You don’t have money to burn, so you want to spend as little as possible on the tools that you use, and the hardware that you need to run it on," Kaye wrote on the website. "The matter of space – you don’t want to waste your space on office supplies like printing paper or toner, when you could put it to better use – maybe your welding equipment, or your paintings. And of course, more space also costs more money."

With companies looking to save money, cloud-based custom software has many advantages, Kaye wrote on Business 2 Community. Some of the biggest pluses of the technology include:

– No need to install new software but instead easily have access to updates of the best apps and programs the company uses
– Data is kept safe and secure, perhaps even more so than it would be on a local network, due to the backup and added protection the cloud gives a company over local network storage
– Cloud software will allow for more flexibility across the company, making it much easier for employees to do work the way their department best sees fit

There are many good reasons for companies to use cloud computing for their custom software, including big improvements in employee productivity, the reduction of both upfront and ongoing costs, more accessibility and collaboration across the cloud, and the technology also offers much more resiliency and flexibility than many on-premise options.

Internet-connected equipment will greatly change manufacturing industry

The manufacturing sector may be the industry that has taken advantage of new technology to the greatest extent over the past couple of years. With cloud computing, speedier internet and what's known as the industrial internet, manufacturers are realizing efficiency gains that should hold over the long run.

"The industrial internet is enabling this change to be more productive by making the physical world of industry more intelligent," a guest poster wrote for Forbes. "By connecting machines to the internet via software, data is produced and insight into the manufacturing process is gained. These machines become part of an intelligent network that can automate information and action to optimize plant floor performance."

The professional wrote on Forbes that the big advantage for the manufacturing industry is that data collected by machine-integrated software will be working much harder than it has in the past for companies. Operational data will come online much faster through a series of programs, allowing businesses to view what is happening in real time and react much more quickly than they would have been able to without this type of solution.

Another big advantage of evolving technology, this industry professional wrote, is that workers can now be more mobile and have better access to information via cloud computing. This will allow employees to be able to get work done in a more productive way no matter where they are. To achieve the greatest efficiency gains, manufacturers should consider an ERP system that can collect and integrate data generated by internet-connected machines.

The CEO of one analytics company said in a keynote address at a conference that predictive analytics used by manufacturing companies can be of great help in identifying fraud, minimizing company risk and bringing in new revenue, according to Computerworld.

Canadian businesses embracing more cloud-based software

Canada has been somewhat behind other similar nations in adoption of new technology over the last few years, but according to a recent study by IDC Canada, cloud-based software became much more popular in the past year. Despite a large number of data breaches, the study said, these programs grew 27 percent. Whether utilized by small, midsize or large companies, cloud-based custom software can be a great option to help organizations become more efficient.

With the economy still volatile, IDC said businesses are looking at ways they can keep up production and even speed it up if need be. The cloud also offers ways to easily scale up as productivity rises as well as scale things back if need be, as so the growth of the cloud can be attributed partly to businesses looking for ways to be more responsive to protect and grow their bottom line. However, cloud adoption is also happening faster as it becomes easier to deploy cloud-based solutions.

"As Canadian organizations gain more experience with cloud software, the perceived benefits have shifted away from 'operational cost advantages' as the key driver for cloud adoption towards 'speed of deployment'," according to the research director of IDC Canada. "This is illustrative of how cloud computing enables businesses to move ever faster in today's hectic world. Meanwhile, top of mind inhibitors are security followed by integration, performance and availability. Line of business executives, however, are still very concerned about 'data residency' and 'data repatriation'."

Numbers from this report showed:

– In 2010, cloud software and applications were 5 percent of the Canadian market, but IDC said this will rise to as much as 15 percent in 2016
– The CRM market is already seeing a lot of cloud computing, as some functional markets are already at 50 percent spending on cloud based products
– There was a 27 percent year-over-year growth in the cloud from 2010 to 2011, and growth will continue at 30 percent a year until 2016

While not all custom software is based in cloud computing, it is becoming much more prevalent in the business world in Canada and other countries that have apprehended these benefits.

Manufacturers, distributors considering automation technology

Because manufacturing and distribution companies are under pressure to cut costs and tighten budgets while increasing productivity, the Automation Alliance of the Material Handling Industry of America recently conducted a study that found automation technology and custom software is starting to gain more popularity in this sector. Manufacturing software of this type can go a long way toward helping these businesses maximize their workflow.

According to this report, 74 percent of respondents are currently either considering or planning on launching an automation project. About 22 percent said they plan on investing in automated storage technology for the company, 17 percent are looking to automate guided vehicles, 16 percent are focusing on robots and 12 percent are looking at vertical lift modules and carousels. About 85 percent of these companies said they will be spending as much or more money than in 2011 in material handling, equipment and software.

"When it comes to planned capital equipment investments, traditional material handling products such as rack, shelving and lift trucks top the list of planned expenditures during the next 12 months," the report said. "Still, both manufacturers and warehouse/distribution professionals are planning to invest in automatic identification technologies, such as barcodes and RFID, dock equipment, conveyors and totes/containers."

As to why these companies are choosing to invest in this new technology, the MHIA said cost savings, improved efficiency, better accuracy and faster speeds are all important issues driving investment in custom software and other innovations. Among those looking for warehouse and distribution software, accuracy is the most important thing they are looking for, followed by on-time delivery and order fill rates. With a quality custom software solution in place, companies will be well-positioned to improve their performance and achieve objectives related to these and other metrics.

Good software can help rescue company from inefficient bookkeeping

Today, companies have the advantage of using technology to automate and make sure processes run in a timely fashion. Even so, many businesses are foregoing software for ERP or custom accounting software in favor of working from spreadsheets, which is less efficient. TechTarget talked to one market research executive who said this got extremely tedious for the business he works for.

"We were living in spreadsheet hell," she said, according to the news source. "Like a lot of people, we were using Excel to do our budgeting, and while we're not a huge company, we're a complex company. … Then you'd sit back and prayed that no one wanted to add a new account."

After going through this for years, the executive told TechTarget, her research firm brought in a custom software option that put the business forecasting tools in the cloud. After using this system for a few years, the executive said she is confident this may be a good starting point for other companies that may be wary about using cloud-based software. She said budgeting and forecasting finances could be a good place to "put your toe in the water" when it comes to cloud computing. Thanks to its software solution, the firm is staying ahead of the competition and continuously improving, the executive said.

Small Business Branding said there are a lot of keys to success when it comes to bringing in custom software for accounting, but the main benefits include:

– Improved decision making leading to faster and more stable growth
– The ability to more easily manage payroll across the entire company
– Management of cash flow that would be impossible without financial software
– A more fluid bill management and invoicing system, due to the software's ability to keep track of revenue and expenses

Financial planning software ‘integral’ for small businesses

Custom software has grown increasingly sophisticated, and financial planning and forecasting programs in particular could benefit small businesses. This business service software makes sure that companies are looking beyond the basics to maximize their potential for growth, according to The Guardian.

"On a day-to-day basis, forecasting ensures scarce resources – for example a sales force – can be managed more efficiently, appropriate targets are set and costs minimized where possible," the news source said. "What's more, both private investors and banks will have greater confidence in businesses with realistic forecasts which signal their future intent."

One professional told The Guardian that forecasting is "an integral part" of a business plan but remains especially important for smaller companies that need to get a firmer handle on cash flow and determine when capital is strained. Conversely, the professional told the website, financial management and forecasting software can also show when companies may have a little bit more in the bank than they previously thought, and can inform the decision-making process about how to allocate these funds.

A financial analyst wrote on Yahoo! that when users begin to look for custom software to help with finances, they should seek a program that fits their knowledge base, as there are programs that can be made extremely simple and others that may be far more complicated. No matter what, a company should track metrics related to the program to be sure it is bringing a good return on investment.

Small businesses use finance software for improved efficiency

Small businesses have been leveling the playing field between themselves and larger companies, as the ability to use custom software to help with general accounting and finance means SMBs can now focus on more important tasks instead of spending hours worrying about money. USA Today said companies are starting to realize the benefits of adopting new financial software – some of which is run by third-party service providers – to help generate even more sales, and it has gotten to the point at which most of these businesses have made huge strides in accounting with this increasingly automated technology.

"Identifying necessary but mundane tasks … can free up capital and manpower," the newspaper said. "Then precious resources can be redirected to tasks directly related to growth, such as customer relations, production and sales. What's more, the efficiencies gained at this ground level of commerce can have a ripple effect through the wider economy."

Working with this software to track the flow of money and keep up with financial concerns such as sales tax can free up budget lines and make sure the focus of employees is business needs. One chief finance officer told USA Today that knowing the sales tax the business collects is accurate due to the software is a big key in making their operations smooth and provides peace of mind for the business leaders. said it's important the right custom software is chosen for accounting. Businesses will need to figure out who they will be putting in charge of the project, what they need to keep track of and any other features they may need to ensure the program will run smoothly.