4 min read

Cloud vs On Premise CRM: Which one is for you?

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Cloud vs On Premise CRM: A definition

If you’ve been involved in meetings discussing technology solutions there is a good chance that you’ve heard the terms “Cloud” or “On-Premise” mentioned. So firstly, let’s put this post into context by describing what a cloud based solution is and what an On premise solution is.

On-demand CRM

(or “Cloud CRM”) is shorthand for a remote CRM system that is hosted away from your offices, on the internet (or ‘the cloud’) and not on your own computing system. Because it’s hosted remotely, it means that your information can be accessed anywhere, any time and any place (assuming the user has access to the web). They’ve been around for a while, but really took off as internet download speeds improved and made accessing large amounts of data easier to do. Paying for on-demand CRM is usually done via a licensing system – you pay an annual fee based on the number of people who will use the system.

On-premise CRM

(or “In-house CRM”) on the other hand, is a software that you manage from your own company’s premises which allows you to have absolute control over your data. You typically purchase your licences only once and after that the whole system management stays with your IT department.

The problem in teasing out the advantages and disadvantages of on-demand against on-premises CRM solutions is that almost all the information out there is put together by someone who wants to sell you one or the other.

However, there are some generally agreed challenges and opportunities that can be looked at objectively. On-demand seems to grow in popularity, and small businesses are in the vanguard of those taking it up. It’s no surprise really, cloud storage and cloud applications are mushrooming in every area of computing, so why should CRM be any different?

What’s important?

On-demand CRM should now offer you very nearly as much customisation as an on-premise solution, certainly if you’re using an established system with a wide user base. However, they are designed to be used – and tailored to – a variety of organisations, and if your business is going to need something completely unique then on-premise solutions may be better suited to add extra pages, tabs and so on. Against this it should be noted that on-demand CRMs are usually designed so that they can be customised with no programming expertise by users.

On-demand will come with remote access as a standard, almost certainly via the web. It’s worth checking, though, that you won’t be completely cut off from your new CRM system if you lose the internet for an afternoon. Also check which devices can use the system.

Price is a major decision maker for any small business and it’s something you should research carefully when you consider your CRM system. And don’t just look at upfront costs, bear in mind that you might be using this system for five years or more and weigh the initial layout against licensing fees and extra user costs. However, in the short term in particular, on-demand CRM is almost always better value.

Go for the long-term strategy

With on-demand systems you are putting a lot of your data over the wires, so ensure that you check out security carefully. That said, for small businesses, the costs of hosting their own data in-house with the levels of security most CRM solutions will offer can be prohibitively expensive in any case. In fact, outsourcing this function can often offer increased levels of security.

One of the key selling points of an on-demand solution is that you get an IT team for free (or, for less than it costs to employ your own). If you’re struggling to find IT support in any case, you might not wish to add a complex new software system to their responsibilities. However, do check that your on-demand supplier can offer you all the support you’re going to need, including if possible user training and help lines – outsourcing CRM admin to the end of a phone that is never answered is no answer.

Some experts warn that on-demand solutions don’t offer the same level of integration into existing systems that can be found with on-premise systems. This may be true if your organisation is complex, however, for many small businesses on-demand will be perfectly adequate. However, do check out what you’ll be getting.

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3 min read

Simple CRM: Starting your CRM from Grass Roots


Before you embark in investing your hard-earned capital into a complex CRM project, you first need to make sure that your infrastructure, culture and business procedures are ready for it. And what better way to start with an easy to navigate, simple CRM?

All businesses are to some extent reliant on technology these days, but CRM can be more than that. It can be a philosophy that can be applied to all customer interactions with the aim of getting the most out of every customer contact.

C for Customer

The first rule of good CRM is the first letter of the abbreviation: C stands for customer, and to make the most of CRM in its simplest form you need to put the customer at the centre of everything you do. This might sound obvious – patronising even – but it’s certainly something that’s worth examining in your business.

A strategy here can trump any number of software solutions – customer needs must come first. This strategy must come from the top of your organisation, but be adopted from the bottom up to succeed. The first step in any successful relationship – and that’s what this is all about – is caring about the other party.

Measure your relationships

You should also be prepared to measure the way your relationships are working (or not). So, even if you decide you don’t need a complex CRM system, you should have some processes in place that will evaluate how customer interactions are working for you – are you logging leads? Are you evaluating leads to find the best prospects?

Simple CRM processes are easier and more rewarding when it comes to interacting. Therefore, optimise your customer interactions as far as you can and your staff and your customers will get more out of them. Work out which sort of customer interactions are the most valuable and focus on those for your sales and marketing teams.

Good training encourages adoption

Training and knowledge is a key factor in good customer relationships, and thus in getting more out of interactions. Well-informed staff with strong ‘soft skills’ will make the most of their customers naturally. That means investing in training and giving people the time to talk if necessary, but it’s something that should pay off. Retail businesses who tried this approach found an unexpected benefit in a massive decrease in shop lifting.

You should also be prepared to learn from others and to look at your own practices as a customer. See what works for your competitors and try to mystery shop your own customer experience too. If in doubt, ask the people who really know – the customers themselves.

CRM should be part of everything you do if it is to succeed, it is much more than just a piece of technology.

simple crm


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2 min read

Mobile CRM: 10 Reasons to Say Yes

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If there has been a trend that was very evident in 2013, it’s been the fact that almost everything has gone mobile. Mobile business was a great challenge for professionals in 2012, so it’s nice to look back on 2013 and see how the technology has advanced to enable businessmen to boost their work experience.

Since today’s topic is mobile CRM, we’ll focus on how mobile CRM can leverage your business while making life easier for you. Some CRM providers have already integrated the mobile technology into their CRM systems. One of these is Microsoft Dynamics CRM, who have launched their 2013 version only a few weeks ago.


Benefits of mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

The early adopters of mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM are already enjoying the innovations it brings. So, how can this mobile CRM speed up your work and improve your working experience?

  1. Mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM detaches you from your desktop computer and allows you to access your customer database anywhere – online or offline.
  2. You can access your mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM from a Windows 8 tablet, an iPad or as a smartphone application on your Windows 8 phone, an Android or your iPhone.
  3. Your data is always safe: it’s automatically cached so you can access it later offline and maintain your peace of mind if you suddenly get disconnected.
  4. You can enter any new data in your system as soon as they emerge – while they’re still fresh in your mind without having to wait untill you get to your office.
  5. On your tablet, everything important stays the same as in your web client with a slightly different, very touch-friendly layout.
  6. If you configure your CRM web interface, the changes will also appear on your tablet – no need to hire a mobile developer!
  7. You can work on your selected leads by pinning them straight to your dashboard to access all their data or call them within one or two clicks.
  8. Your phone application is slightly less complex than the tablet one, but you can still manage almost all your data and arrange your custom entities as you wish.
  9. You can stay in touch with your team members as well as your clients with a seamlessly integrated Skype calling function.
  10. And finally, you’ll be able to keep track of all your leads no matter where you are – commuting, hiking, at home, and even abroad – to see where you are in the sales process and what other challenges are ahead of you.


Want to see an on-screen demonstration of the mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 on an iPad? 

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2 min read

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Launch

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The new Microsoft Dynamics was launched on October 31, but this new CRM platform (customer relationship management) shouldn’t be a Halloween horror story for the software giant, which is promising much better social CRM, a great experience on mobile and tablet devices and integration with a host of other company-owned apps.

Already there are apps that fine-tune this new CRM platform to tablet use with a dashboard and easy tap-entry for customer data. Versions for iPhone and Android are on their way.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013: Highlights

Microsoft are committed to exploring ways to improve communication across teams and people. Analysts say that Microsoft has started well with its integration with the enterprise network it owns, Yammer, the widely-used internet call programme, Skype, and Lync, their own instant messaging system.

Users of the cloud version of Dynamics can use a powerful tool called Social Insights which harvests contact information from 30,000 sources. The app is the work of Dynamics partner InsideView and they say the link-up is the first time such comprehensive – contacts include number of employees, financial reports and products and so on – and constantly updated information has been available within a CRM platform. Both they and Microsoft are talking about a new era of CRM in the cloud. Customers based in the US who buy the premises version of Dynamics also have some access to Social Insights, those in the rest of the world will be able to access it in 2014.


The New Interface

Microsoft Dynamics 2013
The look is designed to reflect this, with an “immersive layout” that puts everything on a single screen. Microsoft says that this means their CRM platform will make the sales cycle shorter, close more deals and be easier to use for new employees – this is vital with so many CRM users reporting staff uptake as a key problem with their software.

They are certainly talking this one up. Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Dynamics CRM, said: “We will be exploring how the sales process has changed and why companies need a new type of solution in order to be successful in this new age.”


microsoft dynamics crm 2013 webinar


Would you like to watch Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 in action? Take your pick!

Cleaner, easier to navigate user interface
Intuitive business processes and workflows
Access CRM on the go
Enterprise wide collaboration
Dynamics CRM 2013 Platform Enhancements


3 min read

CRM Training: Do you Need it?

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So, you’ve forked out for a customer relationship management (CRM) system, the last thing you want to do now is hand over more cash for training. But, is this investment the only way to get the best out of your new CRM system, saving money in the long run?

There are certainly those (some of them in the business of selling the training) who would argue that it is absolutely essential. And they have the figures to back their thesis up – of the 77% of British businesses that use a CRM system around 40% weren’t getting the results that they wanted. Similar results have been found in other surveys and any reading on CRM will soon lead you to complaints about limited staff uptake of the system and over-complexity.

The people behind the research concluded that it wasn’t bad software to blame, it was human interaction with it.

The benefits of CRM training

CRM simply won’t work if your team don’t believe it will help them provide a better service and if they don’t buy in to what can initially be a potentially complex set of new processes. People are naturally resistant to change and anything that seems to make life harder is going to have your staff’s back up from the start. As CRM systems are typically designed to be organisation-wide and require different staff to chip in at different points to provide a complete picture you need to win a lot of people over. This lack of a defined beginning middle and end to what your staff have to do is just another barrier to successful CRM uptake.

If you’ve got your head screwed on, you’ll have researched your CRM decision in depth before you buy, possibly making use of trial periods before you committed. You may even want to bring in CRM consultants to guide the process and, if you do, they should give you the advice you need on training.

But be warned. This is an investment to save time and money in the long run, but it requires a fair amount of time and money in the short term, and that scares some companies off.

The process of CRM training

In an ideal world your trainers will take the time to learn about your business in order to deliver a programme that will really work for your staff and won’t waste time just sharing their comprehensive knowledge of a system parts of which your staff will never use. You should also look for a rigid focus on processes – what am I going to do? – rather than technical details. Training to the book on a system that will be heavily customised by the time your staff use it will also be a waste and this may be a particular problem if you engage the software company themselves to train your team, it may be better to go independent.

CRM training is a benefit, if you can afford it. Those users who report problems with their systems almost invariably point to human rather than technical failings. However, it’s a cost, possibly a large cost, and in the final analysis that will be the key decision, but you must remember to properly assess how much money you could waste if you fail to make a go of CRM.

3 min read

CRM Pricing: Don’t Pay for What You Won’t Use

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Customer Relationship Management or CRM is all about the bottom line – converting browsers into buyers and occasional customers into regular spenders – so make sure you don’t waste money when you actually shell out for your system.

The problem is that CRM is a broad term and, particularly for the small business, the temptation to spend more than you need on systems that do more than you or your staff will ever need them to do is strong.

You shouldn’t let complexity and cost frighten you away from CRM. Whether it’s something you want to include in your organisation’s DNA or a system you need to invest in, CRM can provide a valuable service that will reap real commercial benefits.

However, you need to take care when you make decisions about CRM purchases. It’s an important choice and deserving of very serious consideration. Perhaps cheap and cheerful is all you need, but to know that you need to make a decent assessment of what CRM can do for your business and at what cost (and you should beware of hidden and long-term operating costs).

To get the best deal you need to think ahead. What should your system be doing in each department? Customise your system so that’s all that it does. This means that the CRM purchasing decision should be a collaborative one, involving people who are going to be using it.

A CRM that isn’t used is a waste of money and you need to insure that the process of moving to use a CRM system involves more than just installing some software – your staff need to understand and believe in the system. There is no point in taking an expensive system designed to give you sophisticated customer information if your staff are going to ignore it in order to make cold calls with no preparation.

A system that isn’t used is a complete waste, one that isn’t used properly is a waste of potential. CRM can bring a more complex understanding than a simple record of transactions – your staff need to understand that networking, prospecting and follow-up should be the fundamentals of your CRM-based sales processes.

Let the CRM pricing tables guide you

Look out for free trials on CRM systems that you’re considering using and make sure you can customise the programme that you buy and that that will mean cost savings. Be savvy about how and when you are going to pay – look for per-user costs, how much support or licensing will cost and so on.

CRM has and is being extensively marketed. Technology is at the heart of most businesses these days and a magic bullet solution to turning customers into more money is attractive to say the least. However, you should consider whether or not you actually need a CRM system at all.

Particularly if you are a small business and you can introduce CRM thinking into existing systems you may feel spending money on software is redundant. It’s also possible to get CRM for free, even if you don’t end up with that system a trial period can introduce you to what CRM can do for your company.

And, remember one of the surest ways to waste money through CRM is by getting fined by breaking the data protection act – security should be an important part of any CRM system.

It’s a big choice and an important choice so give it the time it deserves in order to avoid wasting money. There’s lots of information out there, but be aware of who’s behind it, many sites that claim to offer reviews are making money from sales.

3 min read

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013: What Can We Expect

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Microsoft have been in the customer relations management (CRM) game for a decade, and on July 28th their latest product, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, went into closed beta testing in preparation for a release sometime before the end of the year.

So, what can CRM users expect from the software giant? So far, of course, we only have Microsoft’s view, which is – as you’d expect – that this is going to be a fantastic product. Their last release was in 2011, and that system did indeed get good reviews in general.

Microsoft promise a ‘reimagined’ user experience that will put practical, useful information easily at hand and even claim that MS Dynamics CRM will ‘reignite the passion’ sales, marketing and customer services workers feel for their jobs.

Microsoft says Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 release has been based around five themes:

  • A cleaner, faster interface;
  • Processes that allow quick responses to changing circumstances;
  • On the go access;
  • Collaborative processes between departments;
  • Improvements to the user platform.

The upshot of all this should be that, “users recognise value, opportunity and insight immediately — either on the road or in the office,” says Microsoft.

The user interface should offer a single point of access to all information, with no pop ups or screen switching. Data entry and record creation is said to be super simple and customer records can be made more personal with images and map locations.

Users can now design processes and are guided through them with lists of options and with a clear idea of where you are going. Microsoft claims this is a breakthrough in CRM; a change from focusing on transactions to making outcomes the centre of the system.

You’ll get just one process already installed when you buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 along with samples, but new ones can be downloaded online. (See picture below, you can find more pictures here or here .

microsoft dynamics crm 2013

Everyone is going mobile these days and Microsoft have made sure this edition of Dynamics CRM is accessible from tablets and smart phones. There will be a slight lag between the release of the Dynamics CRM and its availability on phones.

Microsoft’s purchase of enterprise social network Yammer and Skype make sense now, as the use of both is integrated within Dynamics CRM 2013. Communications are a big part of this new release, which has (or soon will) email connectivity, the ability to Skype of phone call from within the CRM as well as chat and instant messaging. Webmail like Gmail and Hotmail will also be supported.

Microsoft also continue their shift towards cloud computing with regular updates which can be scheduled to suit users. Actions in the CRM can be created and edited even by non-developers.

Naturally, there is full compatibility with Microsoft’s office products with which the new interface shares many superficial similarities judging by the screen shots made available.

A release date for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 is yet to be confirmed, with two updates to complete some of the integration with email and phone systems due sometime in 2014.

As few people have actually got their hands on this new release, we shall have to trust what Microsoft is saying for now, but things sound promising and the interface shots look great. You can find out more and take a test drive here.

2 min read

What is the Effect of CRM on Customer Relationships?


Customer Relationship Management is now considered something of a proven success. It’s all about making the right offer to the right person at the right time and if a system can help you do that, then you’d be a fool not to sign up surely.

Or would you? What about luck, what about learning from mistakes? Their role in forming strong, lasting relationships with customers could be being sacrificed at the automated altar of CRM.

Just over 59 years ago, Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing, tragically took his own life. His name lives on, not just in a shameful story of how a national hero was all but killed because of his sexuality but also in the Turing test.

The experiment is still the ultimate test of artificial intelligence. It basically involves a blind conversation between a machine and a person. If the computer can convince the person they are a human being then the holy grail of artificial intelligence will said to have been reached.

That, in an ideal world, is what our CRM systems should be doing. People like dealing with people.

No machine has ever passed the Turing Test.

Computer CRM works on a relatively simple model. What a customer did in the past, they are likely to do in the future. There’s logic – of course, these are computers – in that, but what about the flash of inspiration and the happy accident that a human can bring to these transactions? They are sadly lacking, and the way they work also limits the opportunities of customers to chance upon things they may really want.

Already, experts in education and philosophy worry that we’re living in a world where predictions rule the day. Google autocompletes your search query based on what you’ve already looked for. Will we end up going down the same well-trodden paths?

Marketing research from the University of Maryland’s Professor Rebecca Ratner confirms that humans remain reassuringly human. That is, infuriatingly unpredictable to the extent that subjects in her study often choose to do things they had no particular wish to, even when offered an alternative which they knew they preferred. We’ve all probably got memories of doing something out of duty or because we feel we ought to.

In marketing terms that’s possibly interesting, but almost impossible to work with. Until you discover that Professor Ratner’s team found that these less-preferred choices reinforced the pleasure of the preferred choice and made subjects more loyal to it for longer.

So, perhaps we should turn off the CRM occasionally and throw our customers a curve ball. What is your experience with the effect of CRM on customer relationships?

2 min read

CRM Basics – Microsoft Dynamics Guide for Beginners – What is CRM Software?


This is very much a beginner’s guide to technology in customer service, often called CRM or customer relationship management systems. If you’re looking for the answer to the most basic questions (including what is crm), you’re arrived at the right place.

What is CRM?

At Redspire, we like a long yet all-embracing CRM definition as follows: CRM is “the aggregation of customer-centric strategies which drive new functional activity not only for sales, marketing and service, but often back office functions such as accounting, production, and shipping which demand reengineered work processes for everyone affected which require technology support to implement“. That’s pretty exhaustive but don’t worry – if the theory sounds overwhelming, you can look at the more practical side of CRM below.

What do you need to do when customers contact you?

  1. You need to ‘capture’ the enquiry. This now means dealing with telephone calls, email, texts, Tweets and Facebook comments and emails. Customer queries can also come in from web forums and customer self-service systems.
  2. Once the enquiry has been captured it needs to be sent to the right people to deal with it.
  3. The agents need to set up a file for the enquiry that links it to the customer’s record on your system.
  4. Now we’re on to actually answering the question, which can bring into play a whole host of other systems which hold customer data.
  5. The answer is then communicated to the customer.
  6. Finally, the file is completed with notes on the outcome of the query and closed.

In order to complete this complex process, the following technologies are used:

  1. Multichannel communication. There are a whole host of these systems today. Telephone call distributors, telephony integration, speech recognition, email response systems, chat and virtual assistants. Social media has a range of its own systems and mobile services are growing in importance too.
  2. Knowledge management. The encyclopaedias of information that customer service staff need to answer client questions are in this category. These resources can also be made available to customers directly for web self-service customer care. Databases, knowledge management software and communities and forums as well as video production systems can be considered in this class.
  3. Agent productivity solutions. The systems that allow agents to see a query through to its conclusion. This will include monitoring their performance for consistency and scheduling systems. Case management software, unified agent workspaces, workforce management, quality monitoring and process guidance systems belong here.
  4. Customer service analytics. To serve a customer well, it’s necessary to know as much as possible about them. These technologies – next best action and interaction analytics for example – facilitate this knowledge.
  5. Voice of the customer. Customers often solve their own problems and then share this advice. Voice of the customer systems keep an eye on this important information, including social listening platforms and enterprise feedback management systems.

Have you heard any other useful definitions of CRM? What is CRM for your business?

2 min read

Marketing Personas: Do your Lead Nurturing Correctly


In content marketing one-size-fits-all is not always a successful approach. Particularly in business to business marketing, clients are looking for answers to their problems and we all have our own very individual problems. You need to develop a number of ways of talking to your audience.

One way you can learn the right language is to look at so-called ‘social buyers’ who make full use of online resources as they make their purchasing decisions. The conservative estimate is that these buyers are spending six-and-a-half hours-a-week researching their choices.

This is your chance to reach them, and develop personas that will allow your content to speak more effectively to them. Here’s how:

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Social media is more revealing, so it’s more valuable to marketers and also infinitely more complex than the old age, location, income bracket way of segmenting a potential market.

    Demographics are still useful to the definition of your marketing personas, but you need to go much deeper. This can be an almost endless process if you’re not careful, so try to keep focused. The key questions include: what problem are they trying to solve, where do they find the information they trust and can they make buying decisions?

    If you have a strong relationship with some customers then don’t be afraid to ask them directly.

  3. Use your data
  4. The marketing gurus reckon you should be able to find five customer personas to match five marketing voices you can adopt in your content.

    Of course, people aren’t as simple as that, but it’s a useful exercise, and you’ll find that outside the strict lines of the five persona model you will find cross-overs of interests and problems which will allow you to tweak content slightly to speak to different groups.

  5. Expand your brief
  6. Persona development is a function of marketing, but it’s much more than that. You’ll certainly need to speak to the people in your organisation who have the most face-to-face or phone contact with customers to learn what makes them tick.