How the cloud is revolutionising CRM

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CRM has become a staple for businesses of all sizes, with even SME adoption levels now reaching 68%, according to a new survey from Workbooks. However, success rates for CRM remain too low. For every business achieving its goals of phenomenal business transformation, another will have wasted resources and seen zero return on their CRM investment.

In the post-lockdown landscape, businesses are adjusting to change across every sector. Staff turnover has reached unprecedented heights as individuals’ priorities and motivations shift. Not only have customers moved online, they now have radically raised expectations of the quality of experience. While new markets have opened, others have been mothballed. In the current climate, it is little wonder that businesses are reassessing their existing CRM solution and asking: why didn’t it help?

CRM is a significant investment but adopting a cloud-based system has the potential to truly transform performance, profitability and customer experience in two major ways.

Quickly adapt to a changing world

When deployed in the cloud, CRM provides a framework that can transform operational performance across a range of business areas. And, as a number of companies discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic, a well-designed and well-implemented cloud-based CRM can adapt to enable rapid changes in business direction.

Indeed, cloud computing is the solution to many of the business pain points traditional IT used to cause business leaders. Gone are the days when small businesses struggled to keep up with the latest technology due to the expense and complexity of installation. Yet, according to the Workbooks survey, just under half of CRM systems (42%) used by SMEs today are on-premise.

With working and buying habits continuing to change so rapidly, this simply doesn’t provide the flexibility required to respond. CRM in the cloud is quick to deploy and it doesn’t require investment in costly infrastructure as it’s already there and ready for an organization to use. Crucially, it can be accessed from anywhere, and providing CRM data is much easier in the cloud, too.

The cloud provider manages the number of servers required to support the CRM system; additional servers can be added and scaled as the organisation grows. That’s how ‘elastic’ the cloud is, allowing businesses to respond quickly to changes in the environment with the help of guaranteed levels of cloud service and support.

The traditional in-house alternative on the other hand is much more expensive, with associated costs that include software, maintenance, support and professional services. This approach requires the software to be hosted on internal servers, which organisations need to buy. The other problem is that organisations may not have the expertise to implement the CRM system to full effect, or to do so may require a certain amount of additional development. These are the basics, so in what other ways is the cloud revolutionising CRM?

Introduce a CRM partner not just a platform

The Workbooks survey identified the primary reason for CRM failures is that the CRM solution is a poor fit for the firm’s needs (37%) – yet features and functions (47%) remain one of the most important factors when choosing a CRM. Businesses clearly spend time ensuring the technology is a great match, so why is CRM still a poor fit? While features and functions are often impressive, they should actually come later in the selection process. Companies should first identify the business outcomes required from the investment. Driving revenue growth? Improving customer experience? Reducing operational costs? Enhancing decision making? These questions might seem obvious but they are often overlooked. Without clearly defining business objectives, companies are unlikely to achieve any value from the CRM investment, regardless of which product they choose.

Once business outcomes have been defined – and prioritized – companies can truly begin to understand the requirements of the CRM solution and identify clear expectations for its implementation. For example, many businesses want CRM to provide a 360-degree view of all customers. This is a common requirement – most systems can offer to pull data together, but why? How is that information going to be used? And crucially, where will the value be derived?

If businesses are investing in CRM to drive cross-selling, then pulling all data into one place will allow them to improve segmentation and refine marketing. But sales teams will need to be automatically informed when customers click through a marketing email to achieve the desired business outcome. Have plans been put in place to ensure this happens? Will these leads be scored to help salespeople prioritize their response? A cloud-based CRM provider will work with organizations on an ongoing basis to identify and address these challenges, with solutions that are easily adaptable to each company’s needs. They are providing companies with a service not a product, so run the risk of losing business if they don’t!

Conclusion

CRM has the potential to revolutionize a company – when projects work, businesses look quite different. When projects fail, businesses are left looking exactly the same – just financially worse off. Navigating a rapidly changing commercial landscape presents companies with a real dilemma: they need CRM, they know it can work and deliver real value. But can they afford to take the risk? Or crucially, can they afford not to?

Together, the Cloud and CRM have the potential to revolutionize a company, making it more efficient and effective in its customer delivery. Not taking advantage of what the cloud and CRM can achieve can make it very difficult to cure business pain points.

These might include inconsistent revenue performance, the backlash of a poor company culture, a lack of cost and margin visibility and cash flow management problems. Cloud-based CRM provides the speed and agility crucial to business growth today, while inviting the consultancy that CRM partners can provide businesses in terms of prioritizing outcomes in order to maximize ROI and achieve successful business change, fast.

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John Cheney

A Software-as-a-Service pioneer, John Cheney launched one of the first software as a service companies back in the late 1990s. He is a successful entrepreneur with over thirty years experience in the IT industry; twenty of which have been running IT companies in Europe and North America.

Prior to Workbooks Online, John founded two previous successful SaaS security companies. He founded BlackSpider Technologies in 2002 and successfully grew the company to become an award-winning provider of cloud-based email and web security services to more than 2,500 organisations world-wide before the company was bought by SurfControl in 2006. John then led marketing and product management at SurfControl and was a key member of the senior management team which led the company through to its acquisition by Websense in October 2007.

Prior to BlackSpider, John was the founder and CEO of Activis, a managed security services company which was acquired by Articon-Integralis in 1999. Activis was a leading provider of managed firewall and VPN services in North America and Europe, winning awards from SC Magazine for its services and Frost and Sullivan for its business strategy.

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