Ticket Automation Key to Quality Customer Service

Let’s face it in today’s competitive environment the difference between someone buying from you or your competition will often be their buying experience.  CRM systems with ticket integration enable sales, administrative and service personnel to view the entire buying and service history of the customer.  This is great because it enables your staff to react quickly and efficiently to customer inquiries. But interacting with customers during normal working hours is simply not good enough anymore. Customers have an expectation that they can get their questions resolved 24/7 and if you want to get a leg up on your competition you need to provide this level of support.

Commence Corporation, makers of Commence CRM, has introduced some advanced functionality that incorporates automated workflow processes into their customer support software.  Commence CRM offers a customer service portal that enables your customers to submit service tickets or inquiries during or after your normal business hours. An automated response system automatically acknowledges receipt of the ticket. Additionally, it can offer some suggestions on where the customer may find the information they need.  It may direct them to an FAQ section or a knowledge base that are both built into the Customer Support system, or simply inform them that a staff member will be in touch shortly.  The objective here is to enable you to provide a world class level of service to customers or potential customers before, during and after the sale.  This automation also can schedule follow-up communication to ensure that the customer has gotten their questions addressed and that they are completely satisfied. For additional information or for a product demonstration contact Commence Sales at 1-877-Commence.

Commence Corporation: Delivering Top-Notch Solutions to Businesses Around The Globe

The CRM software sector has become a mature market, and the presence of hundreds of the CRM solutions providers has made the market a commodity today.  The majority of companies offer products that are specifically targeted at improving internal productivity, such as the ability to capture, manage and share account and contact information, keep track of sales opportunities and deliver outstanding customer services through the automated ticket management.

Incepted in 1990, Commence Corporation has coupled a robust set of business applications with a set of best practices that ensure the proper implementation, training and utilization of the company’s products. An experienced team of sales, marketing and customer service professionals help customers define and implement a structured sales methodology, build brand recognition via social and drip marketing programs and implement a customer portal that enables the customers to offer web based self service programs to their customers. Very few companies that service the SMB sector can offer the scope of functionality and the value added services that Commence provides.

Based in New Jersey, USA, Commence has been in the CRM sector for more than two decades and targets the mid-sized businesses.

Calling the Shots at Commence

Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation has more than 30 years of experience in the computer software industry and is responsible for the company’s global business operations. Larry began his professional journey with Shared Medical System, a division of Seimens Healthcare and has also held executive level positions in several enterprise software companies including McKesson HBOC, Cognos and Synon Corporation.

His sincere efforts and dedication to work has fruitfully resulted in Commence Corporation becoming one of the top rated software companies in the CRM sector. He is also considered an expert in the CRM industry and has written numerous articles about the proper use of CRM software to improve sales execution and customer service and authored an e-book. Larry is currently creating a series of CRM industry podcasts designed to help SMRs use CRM software to help automate and streamline their internal business processes.

CEO’s Expert Views on the Future of CRM Sector

Sharing his views on the future developments in the CRM sector, Larry asserts, “Over the coming years, I think we will see a significant shift towards solutions which are targeted at enabling customers to grow their business by being more proactive with prospects and customers. This will require a different type and level of automation such as artificial intelligence (AI) programs that analyze customer buying habits and trends, create automatic responses to customer inquiries and optimize the power of social networks via tighter integration. Future CRM solutions will enable companies to immediately engage with customers so that they can improve their buying or service experience.”

Source of Inspiration behind Commence

The company was established on the founders belief that small to mid-size businesses (SMB’s) wanted to take advantage of the same technology that big enterprises were utilizing to grow their business. However, the products available at the time were very expensive and difficult to operate. The management of Commence Corporation saw a wonderful opportunity to exploit the SMB space by creating an easy to use, affordable solution for capturing, tracking, managing and sharing customer information within an organization.

Challenges & Pitfalls During the Initial Days

The biggest challenge faced by the team was how to cost effectively introduce the products to the targeted market. The low cost of the product did not support a professional sales team. Furthermore, there was no internet at that time or social sites to build brand recognition. Traditional marketing channels such as public relations firms, trade shows and print ads were expensive too. Therefore, the decision makers of Commence decided to recruit consultants and third party resellers, and started exploiting their business experience and customer relationships as a distribution channel. The program was very successful and enabled Commence to attain a large customer base serving  30 industries in more than a dozen countries around the world.

Maintaining Client Relationships

Commence boasts one of the highest levels of customer retention in the CRM sector with numerous customers using the product for over a decade. The reason behind this customer loyalty is the level of engagement the company delivers with every installation, which ensures that the customers receive maximum value from the Commence’s solutions. This interaction also provides the product management with additional requirements for their future product releases based on the customer demands. Larry and his team share that their customers play a vital role in the success and growth of the company.

Innovative & Experienced Team Behind Commence

Commence has an experienced staff of  sales, marketing and customer service personnel, who have been working with the company for an average 16 years. They possess two qualities, a high degree of expertise in these disciplines as well as a high level of commitment to ensure that the customers will be successful with their softwares. Larry and his team employ only the experienced professionals with prior sales, marketing and customer service experience. Excellent testimonials from Commence’s customers support this position.

Staying Ahead of the Competition

Commence targets the companies that need more than just a basic one size CRM solution. The CRM solutions provider offers a comprehensive range of solutions with functionality that is only found in high end, expensive solutions. Moreover, Commence delivers feature rich solutions, supported by professional sales executives, marketing and service personnel, thereby rendering value added services to its customers. While the robust functionality often differentiates Commence, the professional services the team provides is the real differentiator.

Future Strategies & Mileposts for Commence

The SMB sector continues to be the fastest growing market for CRM software and Commence is very well positioned to enjoy the continued success for more than two decades. Larry asserts, “With regard to technological adoptions, it is critical that the team continues to launch new features and capabilities to its customers in order to maintain their competitive advantage.”  Since, the introduction of new technology often requires the need for additional services, the leading CRM solutions provider expects continued revenue growth, as numerous companies are likely to seek assistance with the implementation and utilization of new technology in the future.

Commence CRM Filling the Gap for Middle Market Companies

The CRM sector is one of the most competitive environments in the software industry.  At last count there were several hundred software programs to choose from ranging from very basic free offerings to those costing more than $300 per user per month.   Despite this, middle market companies often have difficulty finding the right solution for their business.

Here’s why.  Midsize firms often require a broader array of functionality and system administration than is provided by the basic low-cost solutions.

Broader functional requirements often include an integrated marketing system; a help desk or ticketing system; managing documents and attachments; group calendaring capability; seamless e-mail integration; advanced analytical reporting; and project management. They may also need administrative tools that enable them to quickly and efficiently manage user permissions and security. Also needed is the flexibility to tailor the product to address changing business requirements.

The problem is that even a subset of this broader functionality rules out roughly 90% of the CRM systems on the market.  Of course, there are always the enterprise level companies that can address the above and much more, but these systems while rich in functionality are often too expensive and are known to be difficult to use.

Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM, has specifically targeted the middle market with a robust product offering that rivals enterprise level products costing much more.  The company offer a comprehensive suite of functionality coupled with a user interface that is clean, simple and easy to use.  Commence CRM’s price points are a fraction of the cost of enterprise product offerings.

One of the compelling reasons why customers select Commence CRM is the modular design of the product.  It allows you to select only those applications that you need today and the flexibility to add additional modules later.  In addition, the robust application suite ensures that you will not outgrow Commence and be forced to migrate to another CRM solution in the future.

The administrative functions for managing and customizing Commence CRM is another strong point and there are no limitations to the number of accounts, contacts, e-mails or reports you can run as there traditionally are with competitive products at Commence CRM’s price point. Customer support is another strength of Commence. The company has an experienced team of sales, marketing and customer service professionals that have been engaged with several hundred implementations of the product and customer references are outstanding.  If you are a mid-size company of 10 to 200 users, take a look at Commence CRM before making your decision.  I think you will be quite happy that you did.  Visit www.commence.com  for more information or call 1-877-COMMENCE.

Sales Q & A – Creating Change

Stimulate the change you want

By Dave Kahle

Question:

My new sales manager is having a difficult time creating change — getting our experienced sales force to execute a number of the changes we have implemented in the past year. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Change is always difficult. Particularly with an experienced sales force. I’m reminded of a quote I sometimes use in my seminars:

“In times of rapid change, experience can be your worst enemy.” J. Paul Getty

It seems that when it comes to change, the more experienced you are in a certain job or position, the more difficult it is for you to change.

However, while it may be difficult, that in no way excuses the need to change. Lots of things in life are hard, and lots of things in your job are hard. So what? Your salespeople need to get with the program.

So, let’s rule out any negotiating, any exceptions, any backing down from your position.

Let’s not tolerate any whining, complaining, undermining or excuses. Let’s accept that you have mandated some changes, and a good percentage of the sales people are not making them. Time to take some action.

I’ve always found it helpful to think in specific terms as opposed to general statements. So, “the sales force isn’t executing the changes” is too vague a proposition to offer any clear solutions. Let’s get specific. Step one, let’s go from the “sales force” to specific sales people. One by one, who is not executing which changes, specifically.

Let’s get methodical. Create a spreadsheet with each sales person’s name down the first column, and each specific change you expected him/her to make in each column to the right.

Now, think specifically about each sales person. If that person has successfully implemented that change, put an X in the box under that column. Proceed this way, thinking specifically about each person and each change.

This little exercise may be enough to uncover the obvious solution. For example, if you find that no sales person is implementing a specific change, that leads you to a certain course of action. If you find that most sales people are implementing most changes, but that only one is not implementing any, that then leads you to a different course of action.

Going from the general to the specific is a great way to uncover the details of a problem, and often points out a very obvious solution. (By the way, this is one of the techniques I use in my consulting practice to uncover the root causes of sales problems.)

But let’s say that the solution isn’t obvious, but this exercise has given you a clearer picture of the problem. Now what?

Think of two general kinds of solutions, and realize that the ultimate is probably going to be some combination of the two.

One kind of solution is to work on the structure of the change.

This would be indicated when you find that most, or all of the sales people, are not implementing some specific change. The problem may be with the change, not the people. So, look at what you are asking them to do. Is it beyond their capabilities? If so, reduce the complexity. Has it been thoroughly communicated? If not, hold a remedial training session. Does it conflict with what you are paying them to do? For example, you may be paying them 100% commission, and then asking them to bring in new accounts. That’s a conflict. If that’s the case, change the compensation plan.

Each of these solutions has to do with you changing some aspect of the structure in order to stimulate the change that you want.

The other kind of solution has to do with the people.

Are some people resisting the change and others not? If so, the problem isn’t with the structure, it’s with the people.

Identify the individuals who are guilty. Then, one by one, articulate your best insight into why this person is not coming on board. I like to make this real simple. Is it a “can do” issue? In other words, they just don’t have the ability? Or is it a “will do” issue? They can, they just won’t.

The answer’s obvious if they don’t have the ability. You have the wrong person in the job. Change that.

If they won’t, then you have to make the pain of not changing more intense than the pain of changing. Individually, one-on-one, make it clear to the sales person what the consequences of not changing will be. Then stick to it.

Work one-on-one with each offending sales person, as opposed to working with a group of them. It’s too easy for them to gather negative energy from one another.

One more thought. If you are going to have heart-to-heart conversations with a group of sales people, you may be better off picking your battles, and winning one before you start the other. Start with the most likely person for you to win the battle with, and execute your strategy with him/her. When that person is in line, move on to another one.

I have a number of resources you may want to review to shed additional light on this. My book, Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century articulates this issue of “structure” and “people.”

A couple of articles on my website will also help. Read “Taking your sales performance up a notch,” and “How to deal with the salesperson who has plateaued.”

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

5 CRM Buying Tips for Serious Shoppers

5 CRM Buying Tips for Serious Shoppers

By Larry Caretsky

If you are a small to mid-size business looking for a CRM solution I have a few tips that will help you stay focused on making a good decision.

Skip the Free Trial

Free trials are almost worthless because it takes too much time to dig into each system and fully test the functionality, how the administration works, what level of customization the product offers and how strong the reporting capabilities are.  Of course, if you are a very small business looking to simply manage contacts, keep notes and generate a sales forecast there are several free offerings that will meet your requirements and you can get immediate access.  You will find that they are all the same so just pick the one you like the best.  

What if your business requirements are a bit more robust, and you need a solution to:

+ manage the sales cycle from introduction to closure;

+ produce detailed sales reports with KPI’s such as how many calls or appointments were made;

+ generate marketing campaigns based on where new opportunities are in the selling cycle;

+ track service tickets and customer inquiries;

+ manage projects, time slips and billing;

+ integrate the CRM software with an internal system already in use.

It does not matter how many free trials you get, because it would take weeks to evaluate each one and, in most instances, you will need to engage the solution provider to clarify what the product does and doesn’t do.

Tip #1: Get the guided tour

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the functionality your company needs, then select three or four solution providers. Have them walk you through how the product would address your specific requirements.  If the vendor suggests they will only offer you a free trial, walk away because it is clear they do not want to invest the time to ensure their product will meet your needs. After the walk through, if you are still not comfortable then ask for a one to two-week trial so that you can revisit the product’s functionality and workflow.

Don’t Make the Evaluation Process a Beauty Contest

Everyone wants a CRM solution that is cosmetically appealing and easy to use. Vendors know this, so they often fill their home page with images that attract the novice buyer or evaluator. But this is not a beauty contest.  I have heard people say they like the cosmetic appeal of a specific product over the others, but what I did not hear them say is that the product best meets the functionality requirements of our business. If the product does not meet the business requirements it does not matter how pretty it is to look at.

Tip #2: Put functionality over ‘look and feel’

Stay focused on how effectively the CRM system can meet your specific requirements. If the product you select is also cosmetically appealing that’s a plus.

Where is my Data?

The security and protection of your company’s data should be a major component in the decision process.  Despite this, I have not had a single prospect ever ask me where my firm stores their data, or how can they access it in case of an emergency. “It’s in the cloud” seems to be a good enough response, but it’s not.  Where your data is stored and managed can be a significant differentiator between vendors and should be an important part of your decision criteria.

Tip #3: Make data security a top priority for vendor selection

Ask the solution provider where your data is being stored and managed, how often is it backed up and what process is in place that will enable you to access your data in case of an emergency.

Support Services

The implementation and utilization of CRM software requires planning and can be resource intensive.  Despite what some people think, CRM is not like an appliance that you plug-in the wall and “Voila!” it magically works.  The CRM system does nothing unless there are dedicated people behind it.  Most smaller businesses are resource constrained and do not have highly experienced sales, marketing and customer service professionals on board to manage the implementation, customization, proper training and utilization of the system; so, it is vitally important that you select a solution provider that can provide this level of service to your business.  Many of the CRM solution providers that service the small business community are small businesses themselves and like you, they do not have these resources either.

Tip #4: Get the support you need to succeed

Make sure you select a CRM solution provider that doesn’t just sell you their product and reply to questions via e-mail. Make sure they are part of the complete installation process (including training, customization, and data migration) and can provide the professional expertise you need to ensure that your company will realize the maximum value from their product.

Price

Price always plays an important role in the decision process, but it should not be the sole driver for selecting a CRM solution. Unfortunately for many small businesses it is, and this has led to false expectations and a very high failure rate for the implementation and use of CRM software.  So, let me help set your expectations.

You are not going to get a vendor to do a demonstration for a free product or one that is just a few dollars per user per month.

You are not going to find a low-cost solution provider that uses a top tier data hosting facility for your data.

Customer service will be limited to e-mail only and the solution provider will not have experienced resources to assist you before, during and after the installation.

If you do not require this then there is no need for concern, but if you do then you need to appreciate that you are going to get exactly what you pay for.

Tip #5: Shop for the features you need at a price you can afford

There is nothing wrong with evaluating solutions based on your budget if you have realistic expectations and the good news is that there are CRM systems for every budget.  Keep in mind that low-end solutions don’t offer much functionality or customizability so if you require this, look for mid-market solutions that do.  There are several good ones that are affordably priced.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is an executive at Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software for small to mid-size businesses. He has written numerous articles on CRM and is considered an expert in the sector. His articles can be viewed at http://www.commence.com/blog/