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November 16, 2009

Customer Relationship Management: Avoiding the Top Five Pitfalls with Hosted Dynamics CRM

By Amy Tierney, TMCnet Web Editor


Managing customer relationships is no easy task. It often takes patience and a firm understanding of how to strike the right balance between meeting clients’ needs and a company’s goal to offer the best service while simultaneously driving revenue. Customer relationship management, or CRM, requires that organizations ask the appropriate questions in an attempt to get at the answers that will propel their business to greater success.
 
Some of those questions include: Who are your most profitable customers? When will the companies who bought from you last year be ready to buy again?
 
And sometimes, the answers aren’t so easy to obtain. Badly managed databases with outdated contacts or ones that have multiple sources spread across an organization don’t help matters. Companies that use Excel spreadsheets or, worse yet, stacks of business cards instead of a professional CRM tool like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, often face a number of challenges that lead to lower sales and communication problems with their clients.
 
To help companies avoid common pitfalls associated with CRM, 123Together.com, a Burlington-Mass-based provider of hosted business services, including hosted Microsoft (News - Alert) Dynamics CRM, has some answers. The company devised a list of the Top Five things businesses should refrain from practicing when it comes to customer relationship management.
 
Don’t have multiple spreadsheets. Don’t let sales teams create individual spreadsheets to store customer data. While it may seem easy, employees and senior management can lose countless of hours trying to organize and analyze the information. If an employee were to leave the company, the sales data on their computer could easily be lost or deleted. 
 
Don’t lump everyone in together. Not separating data efficiently will make it more difficult to differentiate prospective clients from existing customers and prevent you from marketing to them effectively. At a minimum, companies should instead segment customers by industry, geography, number of employees, or other criteria to better target their marketing and sales efforts to gain maximum results.
 
Don’t just look at revenue numbers. Clients that offer the most revenue now may not necessarily be the most profitable companies in the future. Companies need to understand who their most profitable customers are to better focus their efforts and maximize revenue for their business.
 
Don’t lose potentially good leads. Often sales teams don’t have time to follow-up on all leads, or require help from the marketing department to ignite old leads. When contacts are stored in multiple locations, employees will have a difficult time targeting prospects who might not have been contacted in some time. Without proper follow-up, potential clients are likely to move on to your competitors. In addition, new employees may not know if a customer is upset with the company for some reason, and may further damage the relationship or may lose an opportunity to upsell additional products or services to customers who are very happy.  
 
Don’t ignore the so-called “80/20 rule.” In most businesses about 20 percent of customers are responsible for 80 percent of their revenue. Knowing who those players are will help employees focus their sales and marketing efforts on the most profitable customers. That will help decrease time spent on ineffective activities and increase additional sales.
 
Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM from 123Together.com (News - Alert) helps companies by housing all of the necessary data in a central location where employees can access all information regarding communications with all customers or prospects. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a complete solution that gives companies a 360 degree view of their customers, officials from 123Together.com said.
 
As a Microsoft application, Dynamics CRM’s user interface is familiar to employees as they are most likely already using other Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Outlook, officials said. The seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook, Exchange, Excel and other widely used applications, allows employees to better understand their customers buying habits and when they may be ready to buy products in the future.
 
Previously inaccessible to small businesses due to the traditionally high cost, the ability to now use Dynamics CRM as a hosted service for a small monthly fee with no long term commitments or contracts enables even the smallest businesses to benefit from the leading CRM solution, company officials said. 123Together.com will also provide the first month of service for free for businesses that sign up for a trial this month.
 
Companies can try 123Together.com’s hosted Dynamics CRM service with no obligation trial for 30 days. Additional information on hosted CRM can also be found at the 123Together.com Web site at www.123Together.com

Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering business communications Her areas of focus include conferencing, SIP, Fax over IP, unified communications and telepresence. Amy also writes about education and healthcare technology, overseeing production of e-Newsletters on those topics as well as communications solutions and UC. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney



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