Customer Relationship Management software has been one of the fastest growing segments of the computer software industry and for good reason. CRM has shown to help automate and streamline the internal business processes that impact how companies market, sell and provide service to their customers. Those that have invested in CRM systems are using them to capture, track, manage and share vital customer information with the people and departments that need it to efficiently do their jobs. CRM has enabled companies to get a competitive edge by generating automated marketing programs that build brand awareness and create new business opportunities, manage staff activities, qualify new leads based on specific criteria so that the sales force is focused on the most qualified opportunities, manage the sales cycle from introduction to closure enabling management to get engaged during the sales process, keep track of customer service history and inquiries and efficiently manage projects, time slips and tasks. The successful implementation and utilization of CRM programs have improved operational efficiency, but not without a significant investment in time and resources and while larger corporations have experienced a positive outcome with CRM, many small to mid-size businesses have not. We wanted to find out why small to mid-size businesses are not realizing the same benefits of CRM software that larger companies are so we interviewed CRM industry veteran Larry Caretsky about this.
Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation a leading provider of CRM solutions for small to mid-size companies in the United States, Canada and Europe. He has written numerous articles on the subject of CRM, an e-book, titled “Practices That Pay” and was nominated as Most Inspiring Leader in Sales Management, by the Sales & Lead Management Association.
“Many SMB’s are realizing benefits from CRM software says Caretsky, but there are some challenges that they must overcome. First, is the realization that the successful implementation and utilization of these systems requires a willingness to promote and manage change within their organization.
Here’s what I am referring to. Every company regardless of size has internal policies and procedures in place that they use to conduct business and in most cases these policies have been in place for a long time. Changing and automating these processes requires strong leadership, a commitment to change and experienced sales, marketing and service personnel to implement and reinforce this change. While larger organizations have the resources and experience to manage this, smaller businesses often do not.
In fact, in many cases we see that once the CRM decision has been made it’s turned over to an office administrator or someone else in the organization that is not prepared to manage the implementation or has the authority to make policy decisions or enforce the use of the new software. As a result, the implementation simply fails.”
Below is our recent interview with Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation:
Q: You have indicated that Commence Corporation is helping small to mid-size businesses address these challenges and harness the power of CRM. Can you describe how?
A: Yes. “We are fortunate to have a highly skilled team of sales, marketing and customer service professionals on board who average more than 20 years of experience in the industry and have been engaged in hundreds of CRM implementations. We have coupled our software with these professional resources and created a set of best practices called S.T.E.P – the System and Technology Enablement Program. S.T.E.P is a proven implementation methodology that helps fill the gaps that customers may have before, during and after the system implementation. Here is an example. Most small businesses cannot afford to recruit and hire senior sales or marketing professionals. They are just too costly, yet these resources are critical to the successful implementation and return on investment customers will get with the software. Commence is filling this gap by providing this expertise to our customers. Most small businesses looking for a CRM solution invest most of their time trying to find the best product which is often the one with the most features at the lowest cost, and this is why they fail. It’s not about who has the most features and functions. For example. What good is having the best sales or marketing solution if you have no sales or marketing expertise on board to use it? Our staff has helped customers design and run marketing campaigns for lead generation, implement proven sales methodologies, generate specific (KPI’s) key performance indicators and establish a work flow for managing customer inquiries and service tickets. It’s the value added services we provide that has enabled our customers to be successful with CRM. It’s also what differentiates us in the small to mid-size business sector.
We have a great product says Caretsky, but what we bring to the table is the expertise to ensure that our customers realize the maximum value from our solution. We have become as much of a service company as a software manufacturer. If you were to ask our customers what they like most about Commence CRM they will say the professional support they have received that has ensured the proper implementation, training and use of the software. Here are just two examples.”
Dennis Kasper, Managing Director, Hartland Financial
“Commence has been an excellent partner. Their team has done an amazing job supporting our business requirements. Terrific staff of professionals.”
Bob Schubert – President, The Comtel Group
“The Commence team did a fantastic job implementing the program and providing advice and counsel along the way. We realized immediate value. Their service and expertise has been nothing short of great.”
Q: Can you talk about your plans for the future and where you see CRM software in the years ahead?
A: “CRM software has always focused on operational efficiency and while this is great it really does not do much to ensure customer retention. Customers expect your organization to be efficient and provide high quality service so today there is a lot of discussion about newer technologies to better engage customers and provide sales, marketing and support metrics about their business and customer buying trends. These include artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, business intelligence and machine learning. While we are engaging more and more with these type of technologies I do not see small to mid-sized companies embracing these offerings in the next 12 to 18 months as they are already challenged by facilitating the alignment of sales, marketing and customer service and getting rid of the silos of information they have within their organization.
With regard to Commence Corporation I am confident in our positioning and our path forward. We have already taken a leadership position in providing value added services to customers that are simply unavailable from CRM competitors servicing this space. This requirement will grow substantially as these new technologies get introduced into the market. We plan to continue delivering new products and the value added services that will enable the SMB community to harness the power of CRM.”