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Not Your Average CRM

Multi-Platform CRM Solutions

 

By Amber E. Watson

 

Customer relationships are crucial for growing and sustaining a successful business. That is why customer relationship management (CRM) solutions play such an important role in the sales and marketing departments of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

 

In an increasingly digital world, CRM is no longer a matter of remembering a phone number and a face. Business professionals now rely on multi-platform CRM solutions to access data on the go. Wise business owners continue to prioritize technology investments, which help them stay connected to customers.

 

Multi-Platform CRM Products

CWR Mobility BV, independent software vendor and leading provider of mobility solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, offers CWR Mobile CRM, which enables companies to extend Microsoft Dynamics CRM to mobile devices, including those from Android, Apple Inc., Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

 

As a result of CWR and Microsoft’s partnership, the 2012 quarter two service update release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM features Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile, a mobility tool for SMBs that want to run their mobility solution in the cloud.

 

CWR also offers the CWR Exchange Connector, a server-based solution that provides bi-directional integration between Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Exchange, including synchronization of appointment, service activity, and task information between Dynamic CRM and Exchange so mobile device users can be kept up to date without having to open a laptop.

 

Sage North America provides business management software and services for over six million SMBs worldwide. Sage ACT! for contact and customer management, and Sage CRM for easy configuration and ERP integration, are the most applicable for the SMB. All Sage CRM solutions have on premise, cloud/hosted, and mobile options.

 

Sage CRM solutions provide SMBs with complete ownership and support experience including user-friendly interfaces, flexible deployment options, customization capabilities, and functionality that is purposely built with the SMB in mind, such as social media integration and advanced business analytics.

 

For the past seven years, Zoho Corporation has offered a range of business, productivity, and collaboration applications optimized for the SMB.

 

Zoho’s CRM keeps track of customers and sales opportunities, sends campaign emails, price quotes, and invoices, and manages the entire sales process. All information can be shared with other users within an organization and all data is saved in the cloud. Mobile applications keep limited data locally and synchronize everything back to the cloud; ensuring data across all devices remains consistent.

 

Access from Anywhere

Business owners and professionals require access to CRM data wherever and whenever they need it. Multi-platform or hybrid CRM solutions are becoming the norm. “The ability to access and create data from a cloud-based or from a desktop/on premise CRM system is essential for many organizations,” states Dan Wilzoch, CRM senior VP/GM, Sage. “There is high demand by sales representatives and personnel to have CRM available on mobile devices. The new generation of professionals entering the workplace simply expect these capabilities to be offered.

 

“Today, Web applications have to be available on multiple mobile platforms—preferably powered by the cloud backend and a Web application (app),” says Raju Vegesna, evangelist, Zoho. “It is important to provide information wherever the user wants it so they do not have to be tied to a desktop or laptop. It is also important to keep all the data synchronized no matter what is used,” says Vegesna.

 

The flexibility of multi-platform CRMs is important for businesses because it aids in rapid return on investment. “For some organizations it may be about quickly implementing a cloud-based CRM system that is an affordable monthly operating expense rather than a capital expenditure,” notes Wilzoch. “Other businesses may require a highly customized internally maintained system. Some may start with a hosted CRM system, and later see a need to bring all or portions of the data in house. Others may want CRM on employees’ mobile devices, regardless of the device type, so employees can work on the devices they prefer and businesses do not have to standardize.”

 

“An increasing number of solutions for extending different CRM systems have entered the market over the past year,” shares Brian Craig, VP, marketing, CWR. “Some solutions provide Web apps and others are native apps supporting one or multiple device platforms. Web apps are mobile browser-based user experiences that typically provide basic functionality across mobile platforms. Feedback suggests mobile users prefer native mobile applications for their performance and integration with mobile devices,” he adds.

 

Vendor product offerings vary in terms of on premise or online/cloud deployment. Services such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile offer SMB companies the ability to choose an on premise or online/in the cloud deployment. CWR Mobile CRM gives SMB owners looking to run on their own servers an out of the box, customized solution that delivers increased productivity for mobile employees. Since it supports connectivity independence, users always have access to CRM data, even when the device does not have connectivity.

 

Current CRM solutions provide multiple access methods. Wilzoch suggests that some SMBs may want to consider systems that allow ample customizations, so they can truly own their data even if it is in the cloud. Systems that allow migration between on premise and hosted deployments as desired is essential, as is choosing a vendor that provides support through the course of the product.

 

Overall Integration

Access to a complete view of each customer and integration with other vital business systems is a goal many SMBs have for their CRM. Sage, for example, offers a variety of business solutions for SMBs including accounting, ERP, and payments processing with which their CRM systems integrate, as well as cloud-based connected services that extend CRM systems with complementary capabilities such as email campaign services.

 

Zoho’s CRM is part of a broad suite including applications such as customer support, accounting, invoicing, mail, document management, and Web site creation.

 

Embracing Multi-Platform CRM

After implementing a multi-platform CRM, companies may be surprised to see an overall adoption curve exhibited by employees. “When companies deploy mobile CRM they often experience a dramatic increase in CRM adoption,” shares Craig. “This is because mobile CRM, now available on the employee’s own device, repositions the CRM system from being viewed as a tax to a personal productivity tool that helps the mobile employee get the job done.”

 

Increased CRM adoption leverages the initial investment in the CRM system made by the SMB owner. This inspires business owners to begin thinking of more ambitious scenarios in which mobility solutions can help increase sales, service, and marketing.

 

Jul2012, Business TechEdge

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