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A few months ago, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com invited the founders of Rypple, a start-up he had hoped to buy, for lunch. Soon thereafter, Salesforce bought Rypple for $60 million – turning down a much larger offer from a company with mega-vendor backing. The decision, as one of the founders said, was made “not because of deal terms, but corporate culture”.

Published in Software
How to use social media to help generate sales

Sales, at its essence, is all about connecting with people and building relationships. “The rise of social media brings a new dynamic to the sales environment of any organisation and those wanting to be part of a new generation of industry leaders should invest in Social CRM,” says Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President for Sales at Sage ERP Africa and Middle East.

Published in Sales
Preparing for the mobile workforce: Bring Your Own Device and beyond

The days where employees were confined to desks in front of a company-owned-and-controlled personal computer are long gone. Workers are increasingly mobile, jetting off to different locations around the country (and the globe), and they no longer keep office hours, preferring to fire off emails and complete tasks on the road and from home.


This was when we first saw the concept of BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device), and with it, Mobile Device Management, enter the market. The premise behind Mobile Device Management was, initially, the need to control the data employees were accessing – mainly for security purposes and to curb the abuse of company Wi-Fi. The first phase of MDM was concerned with restricting information – and with good reason. If a CEO’s IPad, containing the latest pricing strategy, was stolen, the IT department had to be able to remotely shut down the device to prevent a competitor from accessing it. Likewise, if an employee left the company’s service, so would their smartphone - with all the potentially sensitive emails contained on it.

Published in Mobile
How data can deliver results without big budgets

The current hype around "big data" raises the spectre of big budgets to match - but, says Angelina dos Santos-Barrett of Innervation, most retailers can extract far more value from their current data without embarking on expensive specialist projects.


"You don't need to pay a lot money for data you don't already have, or hire a specialist team," says Dos Santos-Barrett. "You simply have to make better use of the assets already sitting around in your organisation."


All but the smallest corner-store retailers, says Dos Santos-Barrett, "are gathering data every day. People are used to considering it only as sales and inventory data, but once you start to match that with what you have in your marketing databases, your loyalty programme and maybe a CRM system,  it becomes far more valuable. All you have to do is tie it all together."


This doesn't have to be complicated, she adds: "It's literally just about finding a few unique pieces of information like a name, a mobile number, an email address or a masked credit card number. Once you've matched these across a few databases, you can start to build a picture of your customers that can feed into your development of new products and services."


Many retailers are missing opportunities presented by their loyalty programmes in particular, she says. "If your loyalty information is sitting in an isolated database, you are really not getting value out of that investment," she says. "You have their name, their card number and the fact that they've made at least one purchase -- but are you looking at exactly how many times they've been through your tills and what they bought? Do you have an understanding of what might motivate them to come back?"


Too many retailers, she says, limit their engagement with loyalty customers to an occasional "Hi, you've earned R50 credit" -- and many don't even do that. "If you're not regularly sending relevant offers and reminders, you're relying on the customer to remember to present their card at each transaction - and many will quickly lose interest. If you're counting on your cashiers to remind people, you have to consider that they're also under pressure to move the queue through the till as quickly as possible, and there's no time for a long conversation about the loyalty programme."


The only solution, she says, is to use the information gathered at the till to maintain customer engagement beyond the till. "Your customers give you valuable information about themselves -- you have to use it creatively to give them something valuable back. It's pointless having a loyalty programme, for example, if you're sending the same generic set of special offers to all your loyalty customers. If I regularly buy the same premium brand of coffee, sending me 20% off your chicory-blend house brand is helping nobody."


"You can only give your customers what they want when you understand who they are," says Dos Santos-Barrett. "And all you need to do that is a relatively simple strategy, and a simple interface to your data. Retailers can start small and still see big results."

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 12:46

Who still cares how much money VoIP can save?

Who still cares how much money VoIP can save?

Voice over IP. What’s left to say? You can save money. Lots of it. It’s great for moves and changes, super easy, even the receptionist can do them. Sure. Tell me something I don’t know. It’s time we moved the hoary old VoIP conversation on a little.


How about this: most of what you hear in these conversations about VoIP is smoke and mirrors. Even if it’s not wrong, it’s often also not important.


Let’s start with Number 1. By moving your telephone lines to a VoIP system you will save money and be a hero to the company.


This is wrong in two ways. Firstly, you might not be able to save money with VoIP indefinitely. You save money if the cost of carrying a call is lower over VoIP. But what if Telkom slashes phone call rates? Whoops!  Moving from a tried-and-tested landline system to the sometimes tricksy VoIP world, for savings that may not materialise?


And will you be a hero to the company?  IT directors get a budget to work with. Do they really want to go to the CEO and say, “Hey, we’re saving half a bar a year on voice calls! I can get by on a smaller budget! Do I get the premium parking spot now?”


No – if an IT director finds a way to save on costs, wouldn’t he want to take that budget and allocate it to something else on the critical projects list. Show him you can save money, and then give him something clever to do with that cash that will help his company and add real value.


The CEO and the FD have heard the cost savings story from VoIP providers before. They like it – cutting costs always rocks their world. But VoIP has been around in mainstream South African business for ten years. They’ve heard the promises. They also know that VoIP can be hard to get 100% right. They’ve had to deal with the fallout of unmet expectations. If they have any sense, they’ll kick the decision on VoIP back to their IT director to ask the hard questions of the vendor – because he’s going to be the one out on a limb if something doesn’t work.


So lets stop talking about cost savings. Yes, they’re there. No, they shouldn’t be an all-consuming reason to look at VoIP.


For most IT decision makers, VoIP provides no magic bullet that kills some big pain. The IT director is not going to get fired for sticking with the tried-and-tested Telkom. If he manages to successfully implement VoIP across all offices, branches and satellites, he may get a pat on the head, but no ticker-tape parade.


So what can he do that will make it worth his while to take the potential risk when it comes to choosing the right partner?


How about doing something cool, something hi-tech, and something that will directly impact staff productivity?


Rather than looking at VoIP in terms of how it improves the plumbing, rather look at staff habits, work practices and real life interaction, and how VoIP and the new age of digital telephony can improve that. Make no mistake, we are going that route – there’s really cool stuff that can be done with a bit of imagination!

Example: if you move to VoIP, it’s not a big stretch to then do a full integration of cellphone connectivity to the PABX.


Almost every exec carries a cellphone. At the office, out the office. We don’t look up a number and dial it if we can help it, we’d rather select a contact and hit “go”. That’s our habit. Work with it. When we can’t find someone at their desk, we call their cell. That’s also our habit. Work with it.


Maybe integrate a Closed User Group cellular package with your existing landline infrastructure, where all calls between these cellular and landline extensions are zero-cost. When you call someone within the CUG, from either your cellular phone or normal extension, the call is free. In other words, your cell phone now becomes an inter-branch call like any other extension within the company. There are a few options when it comes to the base cost of the Closed User Group; all depends on the group’s size and package chosen.


Cost saving – nice. Doing something cool that helps people get their jobs done more easily? Priceless.


Then take it a step further – set up white lists of customers, partners and staff, so that private calls can be billed back to the individual. Black-list problem numbers. Allocate different white and black lists to different staff groups.


No staff member needs a mobile phone number on their business cards – calls are rung through from the company PABX to ring on both their landline extensions and cell phones. They choose where to pick up the call.


In fact, forget about cellphones and look to tablets. So many execs carry them around – even to the water cooler. Why not run VoIP to tablets through a good, business-quality messaging client that has directory synchronisation with the company contact list? That’s something that’ll impress the top brass.


Integrate your VoIP with your CRM and sales force automation systems. Do a bit of thinking about how to reduce information duplication and errors by ensuring that contact information and case files are synchronised.


The reality is that VoIP is a commodity technology.


Assuming you pick a partner that is technically skilled enough to get it working, and working reliably and consistently (and let’s not forget – VoIP is not trivial to do properly), it’s much of a muchness which system you use.


So VoIP vendors should not be sending an IP telephony technician to clients, they should be sending in a Business Analyst to work out how VoIP can be more than a way to get a better voice-minute rate, and then get the engineers working on the solutions. Technology from the top five or six suppliers are pretty similar; it’s the value-added services and integration that counts when choosing who to partner with.


The IT director is not so much interested in cost saving projections as in whether the VoIP provider he’s talking to would be a good and reliable business partner. Will you add value to my business and life? Will you be responsive and take ownership of the system you’re making so many promises about? Are you going to implement VoIP in a way that does not make my life harder (like interfering with other network traffic)? Can you come up with good ideas to make VoIP part of a productivity-enhancement package?


On the typical IT director’s list of personal priorities, saving a few per cent in call charges is not big. Having more time to do his job is. Getting kudos for doing cool things for the company is.


The VoIP solution should be about productivity, time saving, labour saving and lastly about cutting costs.

Published in Mobile
Friday, 26 October 2012 12:45

The Power of the cloud collective

The Power of the cloud collective

The cost-cutting advantages of cloud computing are well-publicised and accepted. Which company wouldn’t relish the prospect of paying only for the services they use or adjusting consumption up and down according to business needs? Of course – it is not without its pitfalls.


Simply put, no single cloud provider can deliver all the cloud services a business might want to procure, which means that there is often a need to use multiple vendors. And these vendors, if they are attuned to the marketplace, have to make sure that all they are able to integrate and accommodate a variety of in- and outsourced systems and keep all the moving parts working together effectively.


Gartner has said that the various systems that support technology are becoming as important as the technology itself, predicting that mash-ups, joint projects and integration will dominate the market. After all, businesses are finding that they need the ability to speak to their customers and access information across a variety of technologies. We’ve already seen that time-constrained technologists are composing applications and programs through collaboration and mashups, as opposed to creating them from scratch. Collaboration in the cloud is particularly powerful.


We’ve seen the success of integrating our own platform from Interactive Intelligence with Salesforce.com. Part of the reason we chose to do this was because Salesforce is, in all likelihood, the most popular CRM product in the world – with trends companies predicting that they will have captured 25% of the market within the next five years. But mostly we decided to integrate because we believe in the power of using cloud-based CRM programmes.


For one thing, we want customers to buy into the concept of running at least part of their business in the cloud. If Salesforce doesn’t turn out to be what you need, you can switch it off at the end of the month and change it to something else. You can’t do that if you’ve made a huge upfront capital investment in a system. And for us, integration was virtually effortless. It was simply a matter of downloading a pre-packaged integration application from their app centre.


We want to create a world where companies run in the cloud – without expensive data centres, complex upgrades or on-premise software. All of this, of course, integrated with social channels like Twitter or Facebook that allow businesses to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and gain new insights into what their customers are thinking.


As cloud computing continues to gain momentum, buyers and providers of outsourced services have to take note of the actions they will have to continue to take in a world where the cloud business model continues to permeate all aspects of enterprise. It is important to choose the right solution and service delivery model, since it influences everything – basic set-up of the technology, operation, trouble-shooting, quality assurance and technology refreshes.


In the end, cloud services need to be understood, supported, deployed and managed by competent partners. By choosing a partner with a service-centric, consultative approach, customers can be sure that core issues such as their call routing and queues are set up with the help of the experts, reports deliver the best possible analysis for their business type and goals, and their system functions with optimal quality and productivity.


This again proves the argument for making use of a hosted cloud service platform that provides a single point of contact and an end-to-end solution that includes integration into company systems.


There are many ways in which to fail at the risky business of setting up and running a call centre. Partnering with the right platform provider is one way of ensuring you don’t fail before you’re even out of the gates.


Published in Software
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 11:11

The Benefits of a CRM Programme

The Benefits of a CRM Programme

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 Email, faxes, SMSs and voice recognition software could however be tricky.  “If you add the unstructured world into the mix, such as the internet, twitter and linked-in, 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, Email 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 ten 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.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing

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