Editor’s note: Every industry undergoes constant changes and improvements, and CRM isn’t an exception. Nowadays the well-thought strategy is equally important to the tools business owners use. Today we present you an interview with an experienced consultant and guru of customer-oriented strategist Marshall Lager, who casts a new light on CRM apps and data management. He is the founder and managing principal of Third Idea Consulting LLC, and awarded author who offers critical reviews and advice in CRM running, social media integration and brand management.
In this interview, Marshall points out the value of CRM for SMBs and multi-level enterprises, dwells on the social media role in the business running and importance of strategy planning. Let’s read this interview and find out something new about CRM software.
1. Would you be so kind to uncover your personal life a little bit and tell us about your career path?
My career has always involved writing and technology. My first serious job was writing news and product reviews for a home electronics Web site. After a brief stint at a tech PR firm, I moved into print magazines. First came Home Office Computing, where I covered SOHO hardware and software, and then CRM magazine, which is exactly what it says on the cover. It’s there that I found my niche, and though I’m no longer in magazines, I’ve been all about CRM, customer experience, and social technology ever since.
2. Marshall, can you tell us what are the most widespread CRM challenges business owners face?
It’s sad to say, but it seems the biggest hurdle is still getting users to understand that CRM isn’t magic. It can do amazing things, but you only get as much out of it as you put into it. Selecting and implementing CRM apps is the start of the process, not the end. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this one simple disconnect.
3. Marshall, can you give some pieces of advice how to improve this monitoring into profitable results?
We’re all a little bit paranoid about what people say about us when we’re not there, and it’s no different for businesses. Social media empowers consumers because it lets them share thoughts and complaints about companies on a massive scale, without any corporate control. Just by monitoring social streams, businesses get an unfiltered (and uncensored) view of what their customers really think about them, and can be instantly alerted to potential PR disasters. If they take it a step further and participate in the discussion as an equal, they put a human face on their business and engender trust.
4. Is there an urgent need for personalizing company’s records or the data can be successfully captured on the standard settings?
This is one of those things that really has to be considered case-by-case. If you use a CRM system that’s tailored to your vertical, you can probably use right out of the box. The more generalized the tool, the more you need to customize it. There’s never any harm in customizing, as long as you don’t lose sight of your specific needs.
5. Marshall, in your opinion, CRM system is a remedy or a woe for a small and mid-size companies?
Every business has CRM, even if it’s not specifically CRM software. A spreadsheet that tracks your sales funnel is CRM, and so is a notebook with all your clients’ contact info. These are CRM, but bad and unsophisticated CRM. When you start from that premise, it’s clear that using better, more sophisticated CRM will be an improvement. That said, not every business needs a full suite of CRM apps—choose tools that solve problems, not ones that sound interesting.
6. What type of CRM hosting is preferred for SMBs and what for the enterprises or multi-level companies?
On-premises CRM seems to be dying out, in much the same way bookstores are fading away. Even so, the choice of Web-based versus installed software has to be made according to need. An SMB with three employees, none of whom ever leave the office, will do just fine with on-premises or hosted CRM, or a cloud app. A huge multinational enterprise with a mobile workforce might need the cloud, or it might not. The advantages in mobility, short-term cost savings, and a la carte module choice have to be weighed against deep integration, data ownership, and business services.
7. Marshall, is there a short-list of must-to-have CRM features for productive strategy employment?
If we’re talking about customer experience, then communication tools are at the top of the list. Multichannel marketing, social monitoring and engagement, and a customer record system that is available to every customer-facing employee are mission-critical. More important than any one feature, though, is integration—if different people in your company have varied, incomplete views of the same customer, that customer is not going to have a smooth and pleasant experience.
8. Can you advise our readers the sources that extend their knowledge about CRM?
There are a lot of great books out there. For general knowledge, you have to start with CRM at the Speed of Light 4th Edition, by Paul Greenberg—it’s a doorstop, but it’s also the foundation of modern CRM practice. The CRM Handbook, by Jill Dyche, is another excellent source, with more practical advice. There’s also The Social Customer, by Adam Metz. Beyond those, look for books specific to your industry, or to the CRM system you plan to use. Salesforce.com for Dummies was a great idea, and some other vendors have followed suit.
We’d like to thank Marshall for his detailed answers and sensible pieces of advice. We are confident that his unique understanding and qualified vision of CRM strategy enhance the process of choosing and efficient business running with CRM software.
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