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July 05, 2012

Avidian CEO: CRM Focus is Becoming More External

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

TMC (News - Alert) this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding and retooling our customer experience effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with James Wong, CEO and co-founder of Avidian Technologies. The 10-year-old company offers customer relationship management and contact management software built inside of Microsoft (News - Alert) Outlook that helps small-to medium-sized companies increase and manage their sales leads.

How is CRM changing?

The core issue with the CRM industry is not whether it is hosted or on-premises, as some might say it is. The reality is that it’s still related to whether people will use it or not. People are tired of spending a lot of time, money and effort on rolling out a CRM that will sit on the shelf or on a website and rarely get used to its potential. They want a CRM that will help them serve their customers better and help them close more deals. People are starting to understand that successful CRM needs to happen in a way that makes it easy for employees to leverage. Thus, there is a shift toward CRM adapting to work the way people are already working rather than forcing people to adapt to a new system or way of doing things altogether.

In addition, traditionally CRM has focused on the process and functions of managing a customer throughout a company. It has been more about how a company can work more efficiently and effectively when interacting with a customer. Today, there is a shift toward managing a customer’s experience when dealing with a company’s processes as well. In short, traditionally CRM has been more internally focused with a goal of increasing efficiency, whereas the current direction is also externally focused on the customer’s experience.

How is the rise of cloud computing impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer?

Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, especially for SMBs. One of my clients who uses a hosted offering recently told me the low initial entry cost and simple set up and maintenance of going hosted made a big difference for his company. This client has a limited technology budget and limited in-house IT personnel, so not having to deal with all the IT backend associated with an on-premises CRM has allowed them to focus on what’s really important – sales and customer service.

Many SMBs also do not have top-of-the-line security and back-up functionality that vendor companies offering hosted services usually do, so going with a hosted solution can be safer. Additionally, security and technology updates are maintained by the hosting company, thus further easing the burden on the customer. Perhaps most important, the cloud product or service vendor has to earn the customer’s business time and time again since it’s a rental service rather than a buy-and-forget solution. This helps to ensure great customer service and technical support.

How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?

What we’re seeing with our customers and potential customers regarding mobile is that they want a CRM solution that has a mobile component. In some cases this is a deal breaker, and we’re gaining some customers simply because we do offer a mobile version of our flagship CRM product. These customers don’t always know why they want mobile CRM or how they will use it, but they know they want it. My estimation is that approximately 30 percent of our customers are requesting mobile CRM, but roughly only 10 percent are actually taking advantage of it.

I think about half of this increased demand for mobile CRM is because both the quality and usability of the mobile CRM applications themselves and the devices have increased dramatically. The other half is simply because salespeople aren’t spending as much time tied to their desks as they used to. In most instances, it still makes sense for them to return to base – I don’t know of any professionals who are working solely from a smartphone yet, but the ability to access detailed customer data while remote, perhaps just before walking into a sales pitch, is a powerful thing.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein
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