Sunday, January 3, 2010

eCRM Software and beyond

Sharon Software Systems has developed full fledged software solutions - eCRM to cater to many business and eDatacenter along with a classifieds framework, exclusive for B2C customers. This is being projected to be used for out venture Indiarealestventure, a realty portal venture in a box. We are also coming up with few other ventures in the Saas model, where the user ends up paying, for a monthly use, with a small commitment. There will be a dashboard concept, where even other vendors can provide combined, seamlessly working application for a given customers need. I am in the process of patenting this.

There are many questions raised by the investors on why, how and where our solutions would be used, and what the benefit is going to be.

Today cloud, distributed servers and internet, with powerful wireless networks bring the office closer to anyone on the move, and the customer would expect the business to be closer to them as well.

CRM is something that is not restricted to any country or culture. Wherever customers are there, businesses cannot afford to keep them unhappy and that is where CRM comes in as a very strong requirement.

In India, the trend is positive. When compared to about few years ago, people have more choice and every company knows it can’t take customers for granted. May be the movement is slow, but we see a steady progress towards an increased focus on the customer, rather than merely on the products and price.

Recently, everyone gets to notice concepts like loyalty program's adopted even by our new departmental grocery chains. Earlier, loyalty was taken for granted if good products and services were provided. But now, that is no longer the case, and companies are trying hard to win the customer’s heart, not just his purse/money. In the process, both the customers and CRM are getting the attention they deserve and hence the business improves and grows. Mutually rewarding for both.

Innovation can help any business grow. CRM can help businesses in many ways. To start, when somebody calls you or drops in at your office, do you know everything about him or her? That can be a good beginning, and knowing fully about a customer (or a prospect) is something that is always going to help us in suggesting products of interest to them.

Next, the services area. Many great Indian companies are known to be poor in providing support. Here again CRM concepts and tools can help.

Modern Indian businesses are definitely keen on implementing CRM concepts in their day-to-day operations. For example, a bank started providing 'Platinum', ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’ cards to its valued customers, and depending on their status the customers get faster services and better rates and best rewards. The customers were happy, and the bank spent time with the right customers, prioritising well, and proposing things that are more likely to be accepted by the target audience.

CRM success metrics differ for each industry. The most common ways of measuring CRM success are: increase in the number of leads, for a sales organisation; and the average time spent on each call, in a service organisation. Airlines and Travel industry see the immediate results. No seat can be left unsold, if you know the customer looking for it. That is why we came up with the venture.

Any organization, if it uses our own CRM implementation, we can see an immediate improvement of 25 per cent increase in the number of leads that got converted to orders.The broad based experience of the founder, working in an Automotive portal business, with low volume and high margin, has given enough insight to assist with brick and mortar business.

Though each organization has its own way of measuring CRM effectiveness, in general, organizations feel there is a definite value-add from CRM in the long term. According to Harvard Business School study, ‘Companies that put customers in the center are 10 times more likely to achieve growth goals.’ And CRM is a great tool to make that happen.

First of all, many people assume that CRM means a software package. You buy it paying huge chunks of money, and then it takes care of your business. No we beg to differ. It is not like that. Unfortunately, life is not a well laid out plan. Here we have to do the work, and software is just a tool, to support us. The tools to improve business comes along all the way!

CRM is more a business concept, and it is left to our creativity how we want to use it. You don’t need fancy software to support your CRM efforts, even though one such software would definitely help doing things faster.

For example, recently, I was visiting a self service hotel, that was very crowded. I was very worried whether we would get out plate meals. Should I have to return hungry or go to the nearby hotel? At that time, the bill cashier looked at me and asked, ‘How many meals you want Sir?’ I gave my order, and knew that we would be served in due course.

All this time, he was busy working on taking so many peoples order. Once he took the interest in me, I was no longer worried about waiting, because he had given me an impression that things are moving and we would be served. Life is not just make believe, real service is needed. Later, I observed that he was doing so for almost every new customer. Interestingly, nobody did mind waiting, after all that was small trick - best practice any business can use.

Note this hotel doesn’t have any CRM software, but still he is able to apply its concepts in his daily work. That is the power of creative CRM, and there are endless possibilities of what you can do with it.

The second popular CRM myth is that all CRM implementations are costly and they take a long time. It is not only companies with deep pockets can afford to go for CRM implementations.

May be this was true a few years earlier. Now, CRM is slowly making headway for SMEs (small and medium enterprises). This is a positive trend we are seeing in the last few years, and expect this will be of interest even to big enterprises, to save their overall cost of CRM implementation.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a big trend now. That's why Sharon Software Systems is coming up with ventures catering to this domain. We specialise in SaaS-based CRM solutions, both in our products and services. What SaaS is doing now, is to bring CRM to the masses, and the SMEs.

People who believe in CRM’s power, but can’t (or don’t want to) spend a whole lot of money immediately on that, can start by subscribing to CRM services, which are available for as low as Rs 500 or US $ 10 per month per user, with a small plan commitment. Thats all. Once the hardware is setup, the software comes almost for free, just like paying the annual maintenance contract.

These provide a good start. You can use them and see the value. Once you like it, or when ready for the next level, you can move to the more advanced services, or even a pure portal hosted solution, with intranet and cloud for internal services.

For example, many educational institutions in the US and Europe are now using CRM to track their current and potential students. They start with simple things, such as course registration, and slowly increase their CRM bandwidth. Also they can target the particular country with better seminars, to brings students on board.

This model is perfect for India, owing to the economics. SaaS provides companies with the luxury of sampling at a relatively low cost. The CRM solution can, accordingly, grow with the company.

CRM as a business is worth about Rs 50,000 crores or $50 billion in India, if you see that the service Industry has a turn over of Rs 500,000 crores annually, considering 10% IT spend. No wonder there was Service Tax introduced in 2004 to garner more revenue for the Indian government.

But this is a kind of unclear number because it includes CRM products and services in the traditional sense, and also the related IT enabled services.

Big players in CRM such as Oracle are very enthusiastic about CRM’s growth potential. Almost every major corporation is introducing its own CRM version, to get a part of the CRM pie. And the latest on the bandwagon is the biggest one, Microsoft, actively promoting the ‘Microsoft Dynamic CRM' and host of other services.

In general, the CRM market is buzzing with activity. Market leaders like Siebel and are still strong, despite tough competition from new players. We in Sharon Software Systems, have the knowledge and bandwidth to match the big players service quality and products.

Industry interest reflects in the media’s coverage of customer relationship topics. Business schools are gearing-up to teach CRM basics to the next-generation professionals. Because of huge CRM implementations, and their direct effect on the business, end customers are also becoming aware of the change, and have started expecting more.

Everyone asks CRM is intruding into people’s privacy?

The other day, I was making a phone call to an Pizza store. A guy picked it and said, ‘Hello sir, you are so-an-so, you purchased a special Pizza last time, can I give the same npw?’

This, right in the beginning of conversation, had taken me aback. We all know a CRM tool can match my phone number with their records and flash all the details on the monitor, and one can just read out from the screen. But the leery feeling that somebody is watching my orders and tracks after a month makes me scary! This has to be solved. I also wondered, whether they sell my data to others, based on affluence, imagining that only certain set of customers, can be looked at to sell some other service. Which in a way is OK. But it has to come from the consent of the customers, themselves. Many online subscriptions track these habits. This has to evolve. That is where our software solution comes into play.

Such problems can occur when you go too aggressive on CRM. The challenge is to find the right balance, and work in such a way that the customer is happy with the service, as well as the way we manage the relationship.

Contact us for an open source based CRM software, that comes at an affordable cost and a better maintenance.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010