Published on: January 12, 2010
The president of Mindover Software has a picture in his office of the Berlin Wall. I can still remember where I was when I heard that the Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago, and I remember what it symbolized to the world before and after it fell. Lately, I’ve been thinking that businesses have walls inside them, too. Granted, “business walls” are not imposing and threatening edifices along the lines of the infamous Berlin Wall, but they nevertheless are walls that can keep apart the free exchange of ideas and information inside an individual company.
CRM is the only application I know of that effectively breaks down walls separating departments, strategic initiatives and well-meaning employees in a business.
CRM products from Sage like Internet-based SageCRM, with its standard and customizable work flows, bring together many diverse functions like finance, sales, customer service, management and operations into a seamless flow of business processes. Gone are the guard stations where the flow of information had to stop for inspection before getting waved through to the “other” side. SageCRM is more akin to a bridge bringing together previously isolated parts of a city rather than a wall providing separation and traffic regulation.
So what are some real world examples of how Sage CRM breaks down walls inside a business? Credit limit requests and approvals are a perfect example of dysfunctional behavior hindering the free flow of information. Think of when a salesperson has a customer who wants to place a larger order on account than is currently allowed by its credit limit. The procedure most companies employ requires the salesperson to send an email to an accounts receivable clerk in the finance department in hopes of getting the request processed and approved before the customer loses patience, or worse, walks away.
Here’s how it works. First, the salesperson sends an email to the accounts receivable clerk, which as we know takes time to write, send, be read then acted upon. If additional information is needed, the AR clerk sends an email back to the salesperson, starting the cycle all over again. Once approved, the AR clerk has to go into the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system to change the credit limit in accordance with the new terms. Finally, the AR clerk sends an email back to the salesperson letting him or her know about the new credit limit.
Here’s the bottom-line: as business procedures go, credit approvals for new and existing customers are extremely manual, subject to error and time consuming. Plus you run the risk of angering customers if you can’t turnaround the approval fast enough, which sometimes result in customer defections and lost sales. Sounds like a pretty risky way to run a business, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised at how many companies still run their business just like so much patchwork of unconnected and independent processes, still living with a personal Berlin Wall smack dab inside their business.
How SageCRM breaks down the communication and procedural walls that divide a business transaction like credit approval is a study in operational efficiency. When a salesperson needs credit approval for a new or existing customer, the whole process takes place in SageCRM. The salesperson simply fills out the credit request fields in CRM, submits the information, then waits for a response from AR. The clerk in AR then receives a task assigned in CRM to review the credit request, which can be reviewed and approved in short order because of integration to the ERP system. Once the AR clerk sets the new credit limit, the approval is submitted and the salesperson is alerted, again all within in SageCRM.
The entire process from start to finish takes very little time, eliminates the risk of angering or losing a customer because of a slow approval process, and improves the productivity of the company.
Sage CRM integrates multiple departmental functions into one platform.
Indeed, highly customizable work flow processes literally facilitate the flow of data throughout a company, cutting out manual tasks and reducing the chance for costly mistakes. For instance, a call center handling customer complaints and product returns can utilize SageCRM’s CTI phone integration to recognize in-bound customer calls, opening customer records automatically as soon as the phone call is received. The ability to receive inventory back, notify the warehouse to send out return packaging and postage to the customer, set up a credit memo or arrange for a new product shipment results in a vastly accelerated problem-resolution cycle, saving the company time, preserving customer loyalty and preventing lost revenue.
Because of the flexibility of CRM, many companies now see it as the most important investment they will make in business software technology. CRM is pushing decisions on which ERP applications a company must implement, not the other way around. Once CRM customization breaks the bonds of manual processes there is no desire on the part of the company to undo those liberating changes. That’s not to say that ERP systems are irrelevant or unimportant, quite the contrary. Organizations simply recognize that to operate with hyper efficiency and keep customers happy in today’s competitive world, more business processes have to be automated and integrated across multiple systems.
And nothing breaks down walls, automating previously manual transactions, like a well-designed CRM application, particularly one from Sage CRM!