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News and Comment

The AppScope blog.

News from the cutting edge.

Customer Database System – CRM

Manage customer information using a Customer Database System or CRM system, get efficient, provide value, excel in customer service, and do more with less. If you haven’t considered a customer database system, then lets explore what it is and how it can benefit your business.

Companies need to store customer information, for small companies, in many cases tends to be in the form of spreadsheets or even emails, or using contacts in email clients. As the company grows, this quickly becomes unmanageable, spreadsheets not located in a shared location, each person has their own local edits etc.

When a contact is made with an existing or new customer, if this response is not recorded in a central location, no one knows who said what. Next time a customer makes contact you have to start the conversation all over again.

Having information stored centrally means that you can have one place for everyone to access it, and updates can be controlled.

Once you have your customer database, or information in a central location, you can start to organise the data, from marketing and sales quotes to delivery of your products or services and even after sales. Of course you don’t have to do all that in one go, but we will discuss more on that later. Customer database systems are sometimes referred to as a CRM or Customer Relationship Management system.

Getting Started with CRM

It’s good to have a vision and a strategy of what you want to achieve, perhaps you already have an idea based on how you manage information currently.  With that vision in mind you have a big picture, but don’t try and implement everything in one go. Ensure it’s easy and simple to use, after all your employee’s will be using it a lot.

Why not start using a CRM, or Customer management database system for sales quotes and purchases to start with.  Overtime, this can lead to a great insight for your sales and marketing team, potentially you will be able to figure out the type of prospects that become customers, which marketing strategies work best etc.  You can also use it to manage quotes by allocating quotes to a specific team, or staff to respond, set reminders for quotes that haven’t been followed up, email quotes in a consistent manner etc.

Now that all your customer information is in a customer database system, make the other operations of your business easier and slicker, consider the following, either integrate it into your existing system, or bolt-on to your CRM:

  • Invoice and billing
  • After sales / customer service
  • Delivery (where this could be warehouse and shipping, or service, whatever you provide your customers)

Again this doesn’t have to be done in one go, and to repeat myself, keep it simple, and easy to use.

Automation: Finally automate where it makes sense to do so.  What do I mean by that? ,  Well lets just consider a few examples: run reports, automatic invoicing, export data from invoicing into accounting system without manually entering data, sending alerts and reminders.  Automation can be a powerfully way to increase your value by removing manual repetitive tasks.

Types of (CRM) Customer Database systems

Getting the right customer relationship management system is important, it will be the means by which you will potentially interact with your potential customer. There are several types of CRM systems:

Off-the-Shelf

There are several companies that offer CRM solutions, catering for complex requirements of enterprise companies, to basic solutions for smaller businesses.  Off the shelf solutions have the advantage of being tried and tested, and it’s one of the cheaper options.

The disadvantage is that you may not get all the features you want. It may not work the way you or your company necessary work. Sometimes you are forced to change your processes in order to use the software.

Software As a Service (SAS)

Web based hosted CRM application is a ready-made system, which allows you to get started quickly without having to aquire technical skills. Depending upon the hosting provider, you can also get started with minimum investment.

As with Off-the-Shelf software, features and ability to customise it may not be available, this depends on the provider or course.

Bespoke Software

This is software specifically tailored for your requirements, your company and your unique circumstances. You can start off with a basic system, then build on it as your company grows. Integration into existing systems can be setup to ensure invoicing, billing are all connected, no more re-keying invoices into accounting, or duplicating effort from quotes into sales. Choosing the right company to develop the software for you is important, as is knowing what you want out of the system being developed.

Benefits of CRM

Hopefully if you’ve read this far, you probably already have an idea how an CRM system can be beneficial for a company, some examples are:

  • Increase sales by providing a slick experience to customers, identifying customer needs and cross-selling.
  • Improve marketing.
  • Customer experience leads to retention
  • Reduce your cost of selling, and after sales operations.
  • Reporting of sales in real-time and forecasting.

What Next?

Here are some aspects of a CRM system you may be interested in :

  • Contact management
  • Sales Quotation
  • Invoicing
  • Customer service/technical support ticking system
  • Task management/job scheduling
  • Appointment bookings

If you want to know more, or are interested in getting started on any aspect of a Customer Database system (CRM) then why not get in touch, see if we can help you to achieve success, email, or contact us.

Advantages of Web Applications Over Traditional Desktop Software – AppScope

Many companies now develop and deploy applications for their employees using Web based technologies, this is now the default position compared to the traditional desktop application. I’m not saying this is the only way companies deploy applications, but from my experience it’s now mainstream. Lets explore some of the advantages and benefits of Web applications.

No Installation

Web applications don’t require installation, browsers already exist on the desktop which can access either internally hosted web based application, or access externally hosted by a third party or in the cloud.

Support

Any changes to Web applications can be made easily without worrying about deployment, compatibility with other applications on the desktop. Location This has another benefit, mobile workforce being able to access applications from anywhere. Access the web application from anywhere, be they for your employees, clients or business partners.

Desktop Experience

Web technologies in recent years have meant that it’s possible to deliver near desktop experience, just look at some of the popular web email service providers. In particular Ajax and html5 allow similar desktop look, feel and performance.

Access from Mobiles and Tablets

Being browser based, web applications can be accessed from smart phones and tablets regardless of which make or model. If the web application is designed properly, for example a responsive design, this can be a huge advantage, and can cover most devices the workforce will have.

Easier to Adopt

Introducing a new application requires training; helpdesk will need knowledge base, and remote access to the desktop. Let’s face it, there is always a resistance to change from some, so a new item on the desktop needs to be carefully planned. Using the browser is familiar to everyone.

Leverage Third Party Services

Using third party services hosted in the cloud can be easily adopted, although strictly speaking this doesn’t have to be web based, but it’s more readily implemented using web technologies.

Thinking of Web Application

If you are considering a bespoke web application for your business, contact us for a consultation, see if we can help you. We can help with custom (bespoke) application development services or standard web design or ecommerce site.

Our New Website

Welcome to the new AppScope website. We’re really pleased to have launched it. It’s long overdue, mainly because we’ve been so busy helping clients with projects of their own, but it’s finally here and we very much hope you find it useful.

As you’ll see, the new-look site explains our various capabilities in four key sections – custom application development, database development, website development and Microsoft Office apps and integration. In reality, of course, projects don’t always fall neatly into one of those categories. There’s often a fair amount of cross-over between them, but that’s the great advantage of working with a specialist in customised solutions – you’re not bound by conventional restrictions or definitions. You explain what you need and then leave it to us to deliver the solution.

That’s certainly the key message we want to get across on this site and we’ll be seeking to prove our capabilities through regular news items and frequently updated case studies and client testimonials.

We believe that one of our big strengths, besides our technical expertise, is our ability to communicate. With that in mind, we’d welcome your feedback, so if you have any comments or questions, please get in touch. Whether you feel we could be clearer about a particular issue or whether you need help with a current project, we’ll always be glad to hear from you.