By: Brandi Browning
The number one reason small businesses fail is due to lack of experience. �Lack of Experience� in the industry the entrepreneur enters and in management, as well. The fact of the matter is small business owners nearly tear their hair out when attempting to coexist as the CEO, Director of Marketing & Sales, Customer Service and Office Administration. After all, wearing multiple hats is challenging, especially when there�s only 24 hours in a day.
Today�s technology supports an entrepreneur�s ability to evolve into a savvy manager by computerizing internal business processes and simplifying intra-office communications with office automation software (OAS). With 90% of the market share, Microsoft Office allows opportunists world-wide to conduct effective personal information management using Outlook, prepare professional documents with Word, present proficient Power Point presentations, manage data effectively using Excel, and more. The question is, �How can entrepreneurs fully utilize Microsoft Office for positive interaction with their business� external environment?� The solution is uniting a dynamic customer relationship manager (CRM) with the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite.
With minimal resources and personnel, entrepreneurs can use CRM for Microsoft Office to efficiently communicate with their employees, customers, and vendors. A centralized contact manager not only streamlines common business processes but saves time and increases productivity. Whether you�re a �one-man show� or have a network of a few employees, a contact manager combined with the power of Microsoft Office, can help build long-lasting relationships with company stakeholders and make it easier to clearly focus on succeeding.
A centralized database of client, employee, and vendor contact information, provided by a systematic customer relationship manager, simplifies every-day administrative duties including scheduling and messaging. Business owners and administrative assistants alike can easily use a CRM Office Add-on to pull up a contact record and schedule an appointment. By integrating with Outlook, the user can create appointments or tasks from a central location and it will automatically appear in their personal Outlook or on the company�s public calendar (if in an Exchange environment). The same goes for messaging. Locate the contact record from any desk in the office, and send a message via email using Outlook.
The everyday infrastructure of most businesses is already facilitated by Microsoft Office. Let�s take writing 15 thank you letters, for example. It�s almost commonplace to use Microsoft Word to create such a professional document. However, once the letter is complete, Word doesn�t provide a way to automatically format each letter with the customer�s name and address. In addition, what medium will be used to deliver the professional documents to its respective targets, all 15 of them to be exact! Can Outlook do this? Sure, if email is the method of choice for delivery. First copy and paste the content of the letter 15 times into 15 emails and then enter the email addresses for each letter. The process is not only time consuming, but often painstaking, as well. Not to mention, that�s only for 15 letters. What about 50, 100, 500 or even 1000?
With the added help of a customer relationship manager, repetitive tasks like letter writing, turn into routine processes. Create the letter template in Word and save it to the centralized database of the customer relationship manager. Next, pull up the 15 contact records of this week�s new clients. Select all 15 records and merge their contact information with the template into 15 letters. Besides the 10 minutes it takes to write the letter, the CRM creates 15 personalized copies in about 30 seconds. Hence, mass communicating is systematized and cost effective. The days of spending a week to do a mailing to the firm�s entire customer base can be done in just minutes through broadcast mailing, and even faxing or e-mailing, too.
Many businesses who implement CRM technology with MS Office notice benefits immediately. Once customer data is centralized and easily accessible by the sales team, the CRM becomes a great monitoring tool. The sales team is now able to conduct follow-up phone calls while having the power to view personalized, detailed notes unique to each client record or lead. Then a fortunate chain reaction is triggered. By personalizing the follow-up strategy, the customer ultimately feels more distinguished and treasured. Plus, a regular follow-up strategy helps the sales professional to build a relationship with the client, which will then increase client loyalty. To sum it all up, CRM technology makes the game of lead control a win-win situation for the firm and its clients. A CRM solution will also refine sales methods to better meet each and every need of a new prospect.
Now, add the capabilities of the CRM to Microsoft Office. From the contact record, sales professionals can add a note to their personal Outlook, write an entry in their personal Outlook journal, create an Excel spreadsheet for tracking monthly revenues or calls, email the contact through Outlook, send the contact a fax, and schedule the next follow-up call. Now the sales process is completely automated from a central point of location. Think about how much time is saved.
CRM Solutions Help Build Stronger Relationships
It�s no secret; the vast number of customer relationship managers which are currently on the market. The question is which one is right for you?
Key factors to consider when evaluating a CRM solution:
� Is the contact information you enter accurate and true?
� Is the database constantly updated and maintained?
� Can you easily retrieve and share contact information?
� Are documents such as fax cover sheets, letters, labels and lists easily constructed with the program?
� Can it communicate with Microsoft Office without complicated exporting procedures?
� Does it enable users to easily communicate with each other and the outside world?
� Does it send messages to cellular phones, PDAs, smartphones, pagers, email and two-way radios instantly?
� Can employees effectively track communication with clients and vendors?
� Does it include lead & campaign management features for prospecting?
The benefits of a CRM do not stop with just the needs of the customer -- it adds value to the business as a whole. Employees are happier and less stressed because processes and procedures are simplified, take less time and effort to execute and the details are �taken care of�. Employees become more organized and effective in achieving team goals. Management also benefits from increased employee productivity, lowered business expenses, reduced overtime hours, and goals are easier to meet. The business as a whole can run leaner because a good contact manager allows entrepreneurs and their employees to multi-task in a Microsoft Office environment, with ease.
About the author:
Brandi Browning is the Director of Marketing of Advantage International, Inc. specializing in Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Office Add-ins for calendar and contact synchronization, improved group task management, and CRM/marketing lead management solutions. Email any questions to brandib (at) diditbetter.com or for more information visit http://www.diditbetter.com
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