customer relationship management : Top 5 Sales Trends to Follow in 2020

Buyers now have the power to go online and research products and services on-demand that can be made available to them in a matter of a few clicks. That is why businesses, be it big or small, have a unique opportunity to sell more in less time. But with budget and time constraints added onto your sales team, it becomes practically impossible to assess every tool in the toolbox to find the right solution to help your business grow. Take a look at these sales trends that entrepreneurs are following in 2020 to accelerate your sales cycle.

Personalized Emails
By now, most major businesses out there have relevant data on their customers. These data points can include simple facts such as the customer’s name, number and birthday while also having information about their buying behaviour. For instance, if your customers frequently order a product from your inventory, you can send them a personalized email with an exclusive offer on that product. This will not only show that you cherish the relationship your brand has built with the customer but also reward customers for their loyalty.

Email marketing, database marketing
Mobile Apps
As of now, there are more than a billion people on this planet with a smartphone. In fact, it won’t be surprising if you’re reading this on your android or iPhone. Consider building a mobile app for your business to reach your consumers directly and on the go. A mobile app gives you full access to promote the products and services that match your buyer’s profile without a middle man getting in the way. You can enable push notifications to send personalized messages and offers right into the hands of your customers, quite literally.

Mobile applications, android, iphone, playstore, appstore
Social Selling
According to Forbes, 92% of B2B business is influenced by social media channels. It’s no coincidence that sales professionals are actively engaging with customers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. The reason behind this approach to sales is that high-value prospects are much easier to talk to on these fun social channels. By placing yourself in the prospect’s radar, you can reach out to them with relevant and relatable content that helps your customers purchase your products faster.

Social Selling
Micro-influencer Marketing
Micro-influencers are the farthest picks from your celebrities and social media moguls who have millions of followers. Micro-influencers are passionate people who really want to explore the product and give their honest opinion about it. Their content is seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of people who take their advice as a peer consult rather than blindly following them like star-struck millennials. They are easy and fun to collaborate with and do a neat job of promoting products and services without burning a hole in your pocket. With micro-influencer marketing, you can offer your products at an exclusive price and for a niche audience. Instagram is your best bet to find the most happening micro-influencers and push your product to a new market, week-on-week.

Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram
Customer Relationship Management
A Customer Relationship Management or CRM is a software solution that centralizes all your customer information on a single, unified and powerful platform. It can come in handy when you have more than one salesperson handling a customer or an account by helping you coordinate with your teammates without leaving your desk. Most CRMs come bundled with robust features such as contact management, sales pipeline, quote builder, workflow automation and invoicing to name a few. Fortunately, a lot of CRM vendors offer a free trial for about two weeks to help you and your sales team evaluate it further to see if it’s the right fit for your organization.

Sales Managers, CRM
Be proactive and empower your salesforce with these trends in the coming year. You can implement these trends as part of your sales strategy in 2020 and keep us updated about the results in the comments below.

customer relationship management : 7 easy ways to stay on top of work this holiday season

The holiday season is here again, and for some it is the busiest time of the year! And in a few days, you will be right in the middle of it – selecting the right tree, buying presents, getting family and friends together…some of you may even be packing bags for that long-awaited vacation.

Caught up as you will be in the chaos of planning, it will be easy to get lost and perhaps miss out on a thing or two at work. So how do you ensure that you have covered all your bases? Feel like you could use a few avatars to help spread yourself around right now? We do too! Workplace stress during the holidays is real! While we can’t gift you avatars, we can share a few useful tips that will help you manage your tasks and boost your productivity. (Pssst… look closely, you can use some of these to manage your personal tasks too.)

This holiday season, focus on the work at hand and ensure you don’t slip up.
Create the to-do list
To do or not to do! That is the question that will plague you every time you need to get something done. So, create a list. In fact, create a few… for work, for home, for shopping, etc. Lists will help declutter your thoughts and tackle confusion. Creating a list will also help you remember what needs to get done.

When you create a list, be specific. Identify tasks that need to be completed before the start of the holidays. With your tasks sorted out, you will be able to prioritize and allocate time. You will also be able to assign or delegate tasks to your co-workers and team members in case you cannot do them yourself.
Add details to your tasks
What, When, Where, Why, and How! Wanting to bake a cake is not as simple as putting in the batter and sticking the tray in the oven. It is the details that matter. Once you have identified the tasks, break them down into details, as minute as possible. Add all available information that includes timelines, dates, phone numbers, email IDs, etc. You should be able to tell what needs to be done and how, at a glance.
Deadlines need not be set in stone
You have now prioritized your tasks and prepared a list, but will you able to complete them though. Did you consider approaching holidays? Did you factor in the time spent on personal tasks like holiday shopping? Take a hard look at the timelines you have set. Calculate the time required for these tasks. Give yourself a break in between each task and relax. If you think you need to postpone some of those tasks, then talk to your manager. If you think you need to require more time on the task, see if your teammates can share some of your work.
Be flexible – other people’s time is not yours
You need to be doubly careful if you are a team lead or a manager. If your timelines include contributions from your teammates or subordinates, discuss and consider their commitments as well. Remember, everyone is busy during the holidays. And no one wants to be stuck in the office doing work when they had no say in the planning.
Use your calendar to mark those dates
Once you have made your list, reach out to your co-workers and clients. Use your calendar to set up meetings with stakeholders. Inform them about your holidays and the status of your tasks. Discuss what needs to be done on priority before the holidays and what can be rescheduled. Use alerts to tell you when a task is due to be completed.
Don’t be distracted
Did your co-worker say there is a sale at your favorite store? Is your floor excited about playing Secret Santa? And if you work in one of those companies that have celebratory year-end parties, then there will be a constant buzz around you. With multiple tasks at hand, there will be distractions galore. It is ok to refuse – to volunteer, to handle, or contribute to these activities. Politely decline and concentrate on work. Explain to your co-workers and inform your manager that you need to focus on work.
Prepare your auto-response message
While you may be sitting back and enjoying that eggnog, not everyone will be closed for the holidays. There will always be some companies that will be open for business, if not in your part of the world, then elsewhere. Prepare an auto-response message well in advance. If you expect colleagues and clients to get in touch with you during the holidays, let them know you won’t be able to answer your emails or take phone calls until you return. Mention the date of return. If you have assigned your responsibilities to a co-worker, mention their email ID and phone number in your message.
Lastly, be generous with yourself and your co-workers.
No matter how much work needs to get done, everyone deserves some time off. Take small breaks, drink that coffee, go for a walk… come back refreshed and pick up a new task. Don’t create stress at your workplace. Perhaps your co-worker will be inspired to bring holiday-themed cookies to work, they are always bragging about. This holiday season, go for a well-deserved holiday without stressing about unfinished tasks at work.

customer relationship management : The Potential Pitfalls of Data-Driven Decision Making

Data is a huge driving force behind many strategic changes within modern businesses. With the growing availability and surplus of data, it is becoming easier for companies to analyze and make changes based on insights derived from the information they have gathered. This concept, data-driven decision making, is not a new one. Companies have been using these practices in several ways over the years, whether it be through gathering qualitative data on a new product or perfecting their sales team’s performance. I am hoping to break down just a few common pitfalls companies can face using data for decision making.

Leading Questions

The process of gathering data can be a time-consuming and often expensive process. The inexpensive side of the spectrum will be gathering internal data while the more expensive side would be leading qualitative focus groups revolving around a new or existing product. The medium I am going to focus on for data gathering falls roughly between these two, Surveys.

A number of issues can arise from the creation of surveys. One of the most prominent ones is writing questions that lead to an answer. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally, but doing so has enormous potential to skew the results of the survey.

Here is a good example of a leading question in action:

How do you feel about the negative impact deforestation has on the environment?

Of course, there are multiple studies backing up the claim that deforestation is negative, but implying that deforestation is negative in the question will predispose responders to that line of thought. This will lead to most responders answering the question already thinking that deforestation is negative.

For an unbiased response, these two questions would be better:

-What impact has deforestation had on the environment?

-On a scale of 1 through 7, with 1 being very negative and 7 being very positive, how would you describe the impact of deforestation on the environment?

Now, these two questions still aren’t perfect, but the second question removes the leading nature of the first question. It can help to break a question into two in order to get a full, unbiased look, at responses.

Data is not infallible

I cannot stress this point enough. Research studies all have an acceptable margin of error set by the company, generally between 4% and 8% with a 95% confidence level. This ultimately means that the sample and results derived from the research are not perfectly indicative of the total population. The cost to achieve such a result would be astronomical. Knowing this, it is important to realize that although using data to drive business decisions is an excellent way to reduce risk, there will still be a risk with every decision that is made. This leads me to another common mistake when taking part in research studies and analyzing data, bias.

Be careful of Bias

I could spend an entire blog and more on the concept of bias in research. It can exist in every aspect of the research process, from early design to analysis. I would like to talk primarily about the bias that can exist in data analysis. A practice, known as data dredging, can be extremely harmful to a company and a product and is oftentimes unintentionally done by the researcher and company. Data dredging, roughly put, is analyzing data by parsing out the data such that certain relationships can be shown as statistically significant. This can be extremely harmful as it has a very high risk of forming false positives.

A company, FiveThirtyEight, performed a study where they sent out a survey in which 54 people completed. They then performed roughly 27,716 regressions on that data. Some of the results were hilarious.

Here are just a few of the many correlations they found to be statistically significant:

-Drinking lemonade has a positive correlation between the belief that “Crash” deserved to win best picture

-Eating shellfish is positively correlated to being right-handed

-Eating table salt is positively correlated to having a positive relationship with your internet service provider

Now clearly, these are ridiculous correlations but what is even more important to take into account is that some of these might be real correlations. However, correlation does not equal causation. With these examples, it is easy to notice an issue exists with the analysis performed on the data. It can be more difficult to notice that issue when analyzing data related to your business or a new product your company is working on.

It is important to take a step back when reviewing or analyzing data and understand when a bias, intentional or unintentional, may exist and be wary of that.

Data is Beneficial

I know I have spent most of this blog talking about different ways data can be misused or misunderstood, but I want to add that data analysis, overall, is an excellent backbone for decision making. It can help greatly reduce risk and can keep employees better informed and more productive. I would highly recommend using data to drive business decisions, but it is also important that data is not the only deciding factor.

customer relationship management : How to Support Your Support Team During Social Distancing

With many companies having their employees work from home to combat COVID-19, their support teams are in the tough spot of answering their clients’ queries without the counsel of managers and colleagues. If your organization is in this position, it is essential to offer your support team the tools they need to overcome these challenges. While practicing safe social distancing, maintaining accuracy and speed while resolving issues remotely is a vital part of the new realities we are all facing. Difficult questions arise with complicated solutions and sometimes our support teams need a little support themselves.

The top 4 unique problems faced by remote support agents in these times are:

  1. More queries per agent.
    Many support organizations are operating with limited staff for various reasons and others who can work have to bear an increased load. This means that they cannot afford to lose time.
  2. Finding customer context quickly.
    The easiest way to make a customer frustrated is by asking the customer to repeat their problem a second time. If a customer called or sent an email yesterday and has now come on to chat, you need to quickly check on the last conversation. The tool should provide your agents with recent engagements, as well as the products purchased, or deals that are open, all in one view without leaving the chat, case, or call window.
  3. Lack of quick assistance from managers or colleagues when you don’t have the answer.
    When you are working side by side at your office, you can quickly put yourself on mute while on a call, or simply lean over and ask your co-worker or manager questions while responding to emails and chats. When you are at home, you don’t have this luxury.
  4. Getting answers quickly to respond to customers asking questions on a live chat, phone call, or email.
    When you are working alone, it is more worrisome and stressful if time is lost while finding answers. Valuable time that could be spent resolving other issues is wasted searching for solutions.
    Vtiger CRM can address the above challenges, whether your support team is handling phone calls, chats, or cases, with features such as FAQs, Articles, Internal Comments, and One View. Having these powerful tools available for your support team will help to provide seamless communication between colleagues regardless of what department they work in. The end goal is to delight your customers and reassure them that even during these times, you are there for them. With the power of Vtiger CRM, this goal can be accomplished with confidence and ease.

Find Relevant Information with Vtiger’s One View

Vtiger’s One View is a powerful tool to help your support team get the full picture of a customer’s previous interactions with your team. When a customer reaches out to your support team, all related records for that contact are conveniently located on the right-hand side of the screen including valuable contact information.

Help Desk Summary View (1)
Your support team will have all the content they need to get a 360-degree view using One View. Check out some of the features of One View, below:
While working on a case, your support team will be able to use One View to see previous chats, phone calls, and cases related to that contact.
Support agents can easily create cases from chats, allowing them and other team members to follow up while having easy access to all chat transcripts related to the case.
Expedite solutions for recurring issues and help to educate your team as they browse through relevant records.
Streamline searches for related information and records, reducing time spent searching through records in other apps.
Review key fields from related records with the ability to dive deep into records right from One View.
View all previous interactions a contact has had with your team and quickly identify which teammate has been working on previous records for quick collaboration.
One View provides most of the relevant information about a contact and is truly a great way to support your support team during times of isolated work.

Built-in Solutions with FAQs and Articles

Vtiger’s FAQs and Articles are valuable resources for your support team while working remotely. FAQs act as a hub for all questions coming from your customers or internally from your team, while Articles holds detailed documents that your team can review, learn from, and share with your customers. While practicing safe social distancing, your support team will also be able to update the FAQs module to highlight their own solutions. This is a great way to build trust within your team, encourage teamwork, and contribute valuable content to your FAQs module. When new questions arise and new solutions have been discovered, your team can count on FAQs and Articles to guide them through.

Additional ways FAQs and Articles will benefit your support team and increase productivity include:
Your support team will swiftly find the answers and solutions they are looking for when conversing with customers in live environments such as chats and phone calls.
Find detailed documents without leaving the CRM that can be reviewed by your team and shared with your customers for more clarity and transparency.
Resolve more cases in less time, improving overall productivity.
New FAQs and solutions can be entered into the CRM manually.
Resolved cases and tickets can be converted into a FAQ with just a couple of clicks.
FAQs and Articles empower your support representatives with a wealth of information at their fingertips before having to escalate issues or reach out to their leads for help.
One of the best aspects of FAQs and Articles is their ability to grow to the needs of your support team as your company grows.

Get Help from Colleagues Instantly with Internal Comments

No matter how seasoned your support agents may be, there are going to be times when they simply won’t have the right answer to a customer’s inquiry and are unable to find the solution on their own. Working from home also creates dynamically different work environments which many team members are not used to and may not feel extremely comfortable in. Support members might be more hesitant to reach out for help through channels that could interrupt their colleague’s daily routines and schedules, which will cause unnecessary delays in resolving problems. Vtiger’s internal comments can play a huge role in the overall process of agents reaching out for help and team members giving valuable solutions.

In Vtiger, cases, chat transcripts, and phone call records all have an internal comments feature where agents can post questions, solutions, or conversations on specific records. Here are just some of the ways internal comments will help your support team collaborate to answer questions quickly:
Agents can mention specific users or groups to seek help from or provide answers to other agents who may be seeking help.
Mentioned users will receive a notification on their desktop and an email containing the content of the comment so they can quickly respond.
Increase the precision of your agents’ replies to customers, which will increase the overall satisfaction customers will feel after getting accurate answers to their inquiries quickly.
Easily attach files and share links all from within a comment with the ability to edit a comment for revision after it has posted.
Toggle the ‘roll-up’ button to view all comments from records with which the customer is associated to get a more complete picture of the internal discussions related to that contact.
With the help of Vtiger comments, your team can communicate seamlessly and confidently regardless of where they are working.

customer relationship management : Four SEO Best Practices to Increase Your Organic Traffic

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful marketing tool that many companies overlook when first creating their website and content. An ideal scenario for many companies would be to have an automated lead generation system. Well, one of the primary methods for lead generation is through organic website traffic through SEO. Having a prospect look through your website, interact with your white pages, or even reach out directly for more information are all excellent talking points for progressing the sale. Having a user click on your website from a Google search shows genuine interest and a belief that your service or product could be the solution they are looking for.

Search Engine Optimization helps increase the organic traffic you receive and creates more responsive leads. The State of Inbound Marketing, a report generated by Hubspot has two meaningful statistics listed that that help solidify the importance of Search Engine Optimization:
SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound sourced leads have a 1.7% close rate.
Leads from inbound links (referrals) are five times more likely to become customers than outbound leads.
The report offers many additional insights into inbound marketing. I recommend reading through the full report when you have the time. Hopefully, you are now eager to dive into Search Engine Optimization and I have four main starting points for you to focus on.

  1. Content

Content has become the king of Search Engine Optimization. It is now necessary to create unique, engaging, and curated content for your website. This starts with the landing pages. Both the number of landing pages and the content of each can have an effect on the SEO for your website. You want to make sure that you have enough landing pages for the content required for your business without duplicating the content between landing pages.

I know it is tempting to start creating a vast number of landing pages, but this will create issues with visibility. It is unlikely for search engines to show similar or identical landing pages. The search engine chooses only one of the duplicate landing pages when a search takes place.

For the content itself, you will want to focus on one primary factor, meaningful content. The content you compose should all be focused on the value or solution offered to the viewer.

Here are a few examples of unique landing pages:
The About Page: This is a concise summary of your company’s history and value statement. This allows a lead to quickly understand your company and the value they can gain.
The Home Page: This will be the first page many viewers will see coming to your website. Add meaningful graphics, links, and short descriptions of your company and product. This will serve to draw the readers’ interest and progress further into your website.
The Products and Solutions pages: These will be the majority of your website and will detail the features, benefits, and different varieties of products or solutions you offer.
There are many different pages you could create. The landing pages can differ based on the product you are offering and the industry you are selling into. Like all marketing content, it is important to understand your demographic when creating your website content.

  1. Keywords

Keywords are a notoriously difficult aspect of SEO to configure. It can often seem like a game of constant A/B testing until finding Keywords that have the greatest impact on your organic traffic.

I recommend carefully selecting keywords for your content. Don’t leave them out entirely, but don’t stuff your content full of keywords either. It is essential to curate the keywords being used to maximize your SEO. A good way to avoid keyword stuffing is by using keyword synonyms and secondary keywords rather than using the same keywords over and over again.

Suppose you are writing a blog post on cooking a pizza from scratch. You will want to have pizza as one of the keywords, but the others should be related concepts or products such as dough, cooking, how-to, and pizzeria. The keywords should all be related to the topic at hand and aimed at the correct demographic. Arguably, the keywords I used as examples may not be the best options. You also will want to research the popularity of the keywords you have chosen. Those that are commonly searched for will end up having a lot of competing web pages vying for the top spot of the search engine.

  1. Backlinks

Backlinks are another integral component of SEO. Backlinks are links to your website and published content that has come from other websites, whether that is from community forums or professional blogs.

Backlinks are heavily reliant on both your keyword use and the content you create. To gain backlinks you need strong brand recognition, popularity, and value. You will also need content that is easy to navigate, read, and is highly referenceable.

When first starting out you may not have the brand recognition and content to gain backlinks. In this case, you will want to participate in community forums and other platforms for discussion such as Quora. You can also post articles on Medium. These marketing methods will help you reach a broader audience and offer a natural approach to build and share backlinks to your website.

  1. Google Search Updates

Google has an algorithm they created to handle how content is shown to a user upon a search. The algorithm is constantly being modified officially and unofficially. These changes are often minor, but they can affect the keywords that give the best results, the parameters for what qualifies as a reputable backlink, and can even change what type of content is given priority when searching. If you are wanting to take an active role in maximizing your SEO, you will need to stay up to date on changes happening with the Google algorithm.

In general, as long as you have created a meaningful user experience for your website these changes will not affect your SEO. Even so, you will want to keep an active eye on the Google Search Console and your Google Analytics. If you notice a drop in traffic, it may be time to check what has changed with the algorithm and make adjustments as needed.

I will be recommending Moz as a resource. They have a thorough list of all Google algorithm updates from 2000 to the Present.

Moz also has a full Beginner’s Guide to SEO that I have found to be extremely helpful in continuing my education in SEO.

Now that you have a good foundation set, I recommend beginning to work on SEO for your website. Start testing out keywords and optimizing your landing pages. You will be surprised that even small changes can have an effect on the organic traffic you receive.

customer relationship management : Why Do Retail Industries Need CRM?

Thanks to technology, our lives have evolved in more ways than one. It has changed the way we eat, shop, communicate, and learn. From buying goods on the street to visiting a store, shopping for one has made great strides.
Now we have a more convenient form of shopping – online purchasing. A survey in 2018 showed that around 63% of customers prefer making online purchases; especially now, due to the COVID outbreak, online shopping has hit the roof.

It means a digital presence, regardless of what they sell, is now a must for retailers of all sizes.

As the consumer database expands, retailers from across the world face many but similar challenges like keeping up with customer experiences, retaining customer loyalty, etc. So how do you, as a business, solve these problems? Well, you can opt for a CRM solution that suits your business needs.
If you are trying to set up a distribution network, an online retail website, a brick and mortar store, or a shopping mall kiosk, then a CRM software is a must for your retail company to succeed.

What makes CRM software an excellent tool for making your retail operations successful?
We will eventually address this question in the blog, but it’s essential to understand what CRM is first.

What is CRM?
CRM or Customer Relationship Management is a process that helps you manage and analyze customer needs and improve customer relationships.

Why do you need CRM?
Today, consumers are more conscious of products and also demanding. They know what they want and where to buy it. Retaining their loyalty is a significant challenge for retailers. Marketing, social media platforms, and better accessibility play a crucial role in deciding customer behavior.
This is where CRM comes into the picture. A retail CRM solution:

Provides insight into consumer behavior and sales patterns by collecting and evaluating sales data.
Helps store customer information, enabling you to predict future trends, formulate better strategies, and make critical decisions.
Allows you to develop customer programs to provide personalized services and retain customers in the long run.
In short, CRM solutions for the retail sector help increase customer loyalty, reduce expenditure, and boost company performance.

How is CRM beneficial to retailers?
Have we convinced you about the value of a CRM system in the retail sector? If you are thinking ‘no,’ then read on… We are sure this segment will work its magic.
Here we have listed five perks of using a CRM that can be beneficial to your retail business:

Categorize your customers
categorizing customers
CRM software helps you to store information about all your customers. It gives you valuable insight into their interests, shopping history, and trends as per demography. You can segment your market, create categories of the most desired customers, and assign them to professional account managers for better service. By providing customized solutions to your clients, you will enhance their experience.

When you build segments, you know where your consumers belong and what their expectations are, and thus you will create strategies to serve them best. For example, if your CRM data indicates you have many seniors amongst your clientele, you can develop strategies to target only them.

Do targeted promotions
do targeted promotions
Have you ever searched for a product on Amazon, and surprisingly, you received a promotional email related to the same?
In the initial days of online shopping, many customers would have attributed this to some supernatural force. Now we all know this force is nothing but a targeted promotion.

A CRM solution helps you collect necessary customer information. With this data, you can plan your promotions in a more focused and systematic manner. For example, when you know that a particular customer has looked at a specific product on your website, you can send promotional elements of that item to them.

That means your clients, who are not interested in the item, will not see any irrelevant emails. This keeps your customers’ interest in your business alive and kicking, thereby improving your revenue.

Store purchase information
storing information
CRM software allows you to record your customers’ purchases and service calls.
With customer purchases, you can track product movement and whether the purchase posed warranty or dissatisfaction concerns. Based on this information, you can notify them about individual sales and send special offers to your customers.

Such strategies place your products in front of the customers with an offer just when they need them. For example, you can provide them the benefit of lower prices if they buy from you again. The cost of such a targeted campaign, on your side, is less than marketing to a broad audience and getting only a few responses.

Provide better customer service
Good customer service
Customers can be demanding, and you have to be on your toes to keep them happy. One bad experience may put a question mark on brand loyalty. Your loyal customer may end up choosing your competitor in search of a better experience.
With a CRM solution in place, you will be able to:

Promptly address your customer’s complaints
Establish positive, long-term relationships with all your customers
If you know your client’s lifecycle, you could make them ‘returning customers,’ and they will recommend your business to others.

Retain your current customers
retaining existing customers
A CRM software’s primary purpose is to help you and your team members establish powerful customer-centric strategies. If you look after your customers well, retaining them is not that big a challenge.

For instance, loyalty programs are an effective way to maintain and retain your existing customers. With the help of a CRM system, you can run a loyalty program by monitoring transactions, distributing discount coupons, and adding reward points for your valued customers. Acquiring new customers is very expensive in the long run than discounting returning customers. Thus, loyalty programs help reduce your expenses.

If you liked this blog and gained some knowledge about how a CRM benefits retail industries, you will be glad to know this is the first in the series of blogs we will be publishing.
In the upcoming blogs, we will talk about CRM for online and offline stores, omnichannel marketing, social media impact in marketing, etc.

If you have a retail business but not using a CRM yet, then it is time you checked out Vtiger CRM. Vtiger CRM is a cloud-based software that will boost your business operations and help you manage customer data efficiently.

customer relationship management : 15 ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help Sales

If you think AI is a recent phenomenon, then this nugget might amuse you. While the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was first coined in 1955, the concept of AI was first discussed in ‘Ars generalis ultima’ (The Ultimate General Art) by Ramon Lull in 1308 CE*.

Now that was a very long time ago! Today, AI has touched many aspects of our lives. It seems to be everywhere. Whether it is video recommendations on YouTube, product recommendations on Amazon, or traffic predictions on Google Maps, AI-based algorithms are helping us every day. We are all benefiting from it in one way or another in our personal lives.

AI has made inroads at work too – in improving business functions. In factories, AI is improving safety and productivity. In HR, AI helps employees get real-time help on leaves and payroll questions. In marketing, AI can help target the right audience for a campaign. In customer service, AI provides real-time responses for FAQs via chatbots and frees up agents’ time to work on complex queries.

AI in Sales
Once we demystify AI, it is easy to see why it can be effective in the sales process too. AI reads patterns in historical data with great accuracy. Specifically, patterns, where certain early-stage behavior along with the profile might lead to a specific future behavior or outcome.
Consider the following instances:
Email status: Whether an email will be opened or not when it is sent at a specific time.
Document: Whether a document has helped or not in advancing to a later stage, etc.

Now each individual and each client is different. When you have thousands of them, and possibly hundreds of data points for each one, patterns will emerge. AI was built to read patterns and has advanced to a level where little or no manual intervention is required. AI systems can comb through vast amounts of data and repeat the process thousands of times to find patterns leading to specific outcomes (for example, deal won or lost). Some AI models have inbuilt mechanisms to improve accuracy by predicting on historical data and verifying whether predictions are matching to their actual results, and iterating it over and over with adjustments until the accuracy rate is high.

Sales teams have already started to gain from AI-based applications that ultimately help them win more deals, and close deals faster.

Here are 15 critical areas in sales that can benefit from AI.

Lead & MQL Stage
Profile Enrichment
Sales reps usually spend time on LinkedIn or other resources researching prospects. Tools that can bring in useful details given an email address or company name can be very handy and save time for sales reps.
Lead scoring
Sales reps lose a lot of time chasing poorly qualified leads. By reviewing engagement behavior and profile characteristics of leads, AI applications can identify characteristics in leads that lead to higher conversion. Engagement on emails, websites, social channels, along with profile data, are all factors that can help predict the likelihood of conversion.
Show duplicates
However sophisticated your system might be, duplicate records do enter the system. Very often this is due to slight variants in the text used for the same contact or organization or deal. Programs can watch for such duplicate records and alert sales reps so that information is not scattered in different records.

SQL Stage
Best time to contact
Improve the response rate by sending emails or making calls when your contacts are most likely to be willing to engage. Based on their past engagement with your team, the system can suggest suitable time-slots to call or email.
Email assistant
When responding to an email, AI can suggest documents or templates that Sales reps can insert with a click.
Document recommendations
As the deal progresses through different stages, certain documents such as case studies, comparison documents, or ROI documents might help your prospects as they evaluate your product. AI-guided applications can look at historical data on the success rate of different documents and make timely recommendations.
Idle contact reminders
Selling is the process of building a relationship. It is important to keep engaging with your prospects, even those that do not have an immediate need. Idle contact reminders can help Sales reps keep in touch with their prospects.

Deal Stage
Deal score
Knowing the likelihood of success on a deal is important to take corrective actions ahead of time, and to generate predictable forecasts.
Deal alerts & Task recommendations
Besides document recommendations, Sales reps can also benefit from other tips that overcome hurdles. For example, the system can alert:
Sales reps if a decision-maker is not yet identified but the deal moves into the ‘Qualified’ stage.
Managers if the client profile fit is low for a deal, and they need to step in to offer guidance to sales reps.
Action-Items from emails, calls & meetings
How often have we missed follow-up tasks that we promised? By analyzing the communication in calls and emails and using NLP, AI applications can pick out the action-items to make it easier for sales reps to follow up.
Price optimization
What is the right discount to give to a client? Should a discount be given at all? AI-based systems can suggest the right discounts or price variations based on data from past sales.

Customers
Upselling & Cross-Selling
When is it the right time to upsell? Or what other products might your client benefit from? Using AI, you can identify opportunities to expand your existing client relationships.

Sales Managers

Sales leaders want to put salespersons in the best position to succeed. Besides needing accurate forecasts, they need timely alerts to assist with specific deals and find areas where salespersons need coaching. Here are some areas where AI can assist sales leaders.
AI helping sales leaders
AI-based forecast
Get more reliable forecasts by applying machine learning models that consider all the engagements related to a deal that could influence its result. Don’t just go by your hunch!
Call analysis
If you are managing a team of 10 sales reps, it is impossible to manually review calls even if each one spends 3 hours on the phone per day (that means you have to review 30 hours in your 9 hours even if that is the only thing you do). AI-based tools that apply NLP can provide stats such as Mood, Talk-to-listen, Longest monologues, etc.
Coaching
AI-based tools can flag emails and calls that fall short of best practices, to be reviewed by the sales managers (aka coaches). Coaches can find sales reps that need assistance on specific aspects of conversations (agenda setting, or discovery questions, etc).

Try Vtiger Calculus AI for free until March 31st 2021. It is time to put AI in the hands of your sales teams. Deal scoring, Deal recommendations, Email assistant, Call analysis, & Coaching features are all a part of Vtiger Calculus. Vtiger Calculus is an add-on that is available for Vtiger Sales & Vtiger One editions (Professional & Enterprise tiers).

customer relationship management : AI-based Deal Scoring with Vtiger Calculus

Does your organization use a deal scoring process where you manually assign a probability to forecast deal closures? Then you know the process can be flawed and how ‘unpredictable predictions’ can be. Every business needs a reliable way to predict the outcome of a deal. Knowing the likelihood of winning a deal is useful for two reasons:
Take corrective actions – Sales reps can take actions to increase winning chances if the likelihood is low.
Increase reliability in forecasts – Use dependable scores to build better forecasts.

Deal Scoring
While each deal is different, there are many factors like client and contact needs, behavior, and demographics that influence the outcome of a deal. For example, the industry in which your client operates is an essential factor. Then there are also dynamic factors such as engagement patterns. If client engagement is high, then it usually leads to a higher conversion rate. Just remember that while you might have a higher conversion rate in one industry, the same factors or formulae might not work for another. Based on these factors, you can calculate the likelihood of winning a deal using one of the following ways:
Traditional Scoring
AI-based Scoring

Traditional Scoring
The traditional approach uses rules (or conditions) configured in the CRM to assign scores. Consider these examples:
You can assign 5 points if a client is from the ‘Manufacturing’ industry and 7 for a client in ‘Telecom’. Similarly, you can award 3 points for each email and 6 points for each call.
You can set up a rule to directly assign a probability to the deal stage. With each advancing stage, the probability goes up. For example, a deal in the ‘Value proposition’ stage could be 50%, and in the ‘Agreement review’ stage, it could be 80%.
With traditional scoring, the responsibility of determining the scoring rules lies with the Sales leader. Besides being tedious, the process is also error-prone and usually leads to inaccurate scores. Administrators usually end up spending time reviewing the results and going back to modify the rules.

AI-based Deal Scoring
Vtiger has applied AI-based learning models to overcome the problems of traditional scoring. AI-based models determine scoring rules based on historical data. And the scoring process improves over time as the data used for training grows. We recommend AI-based scoring over others any day. We can start with the cliche ‘data doesn’t lie’. But, here are the actual reasons.
AI can detect patterns in the data that might not be observable by a human.
AI predictions are based on data, not emotions. Hence scoring figures are accurate. (However, we can also make the AI consider sentimental data.)
AI scoring keeps getting better with time as historical data increases.
AI scoring doesn’t need any manual intervention; hence no ‘external influences’ will disturb predictions.

Recommendations to Improve Deal Score
Deal scores are helpful to sales reps only when the system can provide recommendations to improve the score. Here are a few examples of recommendations your sales reps will see when equipped with Calculus
Reminder to perform actions such as identifying decision-makers.
Recommending documents that have previously helped move similar deals forward.
Reminder to follow up when the time is right.
Suggesting the best time to contact to improve win-rates.

Reliable Forecasts with AI-based Deal Scoring
Accurate deal scoring aids sales managers with reliable forecasts. The forecasts get better with time as the deal scoring itself keeps getting better with more data. Managers can rest easy because the forecasts are not just based on the sales rep’s ‘gut feeling’. Instead, AI-based forecasts are based on available signals that influence the deal’s outcome.

Try Vtiger Calculus – It is time to put AI in the hands of your sales team.
Deal scoring, Deal recommendations, Email assistant, Call analysis, Coaching features are all a part of Vtiger Calculus. Vtiger Calculus is an add-on available for Vtiger Sales and Vtiger One editions (Professional and Enterprise tiers).

customer relationship management : Vtiger 9 CRM – Changes, additions, and more

But change for the better is good, right? Isn’t that the basic premise on which the ‘software industry’ is built – coming up with newer and better versions of a product? Well, the same goes for us. We at Vtiger are constantly thinking about new features or making changes to the functionality in our CRM.

Sometimes it is difficult to catch up with our ideas. No, that is not an empty boast – take a quick look at the latest version of our CRM, Vtiger 9 (V9).

Is our version better than the others? Of course. The CRM space is crowded with products that promise you the moon and earth but rarely deliver. Not so with us. We have been quietly taking feedback from customers and partners for the last few years. And also picked at a few brilliant minds that work at Vtiger!

These exercises have culminated in a new version, V9, that comes with intuitive navigation, systemized screens, optimized functionality, negative space utilization, etc., etc. After I zoned out for a few seconds, the design guys (they refer to themselves with a fancy name) explained it in a language I could better understand (in layman’s terms, that is).

After a lot of hand-waving, head-nodding, wordy explanations (from them) and a massive eye-roll (from me), I deduced the changes could easily be grouped under the following three categories: Look and feel (User Interface – UI), Customization, and Functionality.

Let us see what these are.

Look and feel (User Interface – UI)
Adobe in their State of Art Content* report says,
‘66% of people would prefer to see a beautifully designed website over something bland and straightforward.’
We agree wholeheartedly. The UI design change was what we explored when we thought of revamping our CRM. And by far, it is the biggest piece of the change. So, what inspired us to make these changes? The concept of symmetry and aesthetics!

Our investment into the R&D of design principles paid off. The screen layouts are:
Pleasing to the eye
Structured yet simple
Uncluttered and have well-spaced content
Easy to use, and
Appeal to our innate sense of symmetry

Look and feel

V9 screens are predominantly white with navigational elements in complementary colors. Prominence has been given to well-spaced layouts and a practical grouping of features and modules. Icons inspired by line art now grace the screens while illustrations enliven empty spaces. Who would have thought of incorporating art into a CRM product!!
Simply put, the new screens aid the functioning of the CRM and create a pleasant immersive experience.

Customization
Do you remember wanting to write your name on your bicycle? Or scratching your name on a desk – just to mark it your own? Aren’t you tempted to do the same – add your organizational imprint on the CRM screens? Well, Vtiger 9 provides you with the option of customizing the CRM. Let us see…we do provide the mundane customization features that everyone else does, like changing logos, adding profile pictures, and custom fields.

Customization

Apart from those, here are our offerings that help make the CRM your own.
The star of the show is the Favorites feature. Simply mark frequently used modules and apps with a star, and they will appear above all other modules in the Main Menu itself.
We provide hundreds of preloaded email and print templates. Use them or customize them further. Creating emails and campaigns was never this easy.
Personalize Kanban Views in Deals and Tasks with View by & Sort by features. And hide empty columns for better clarity.
The other helpful feature is the grouping of modules and apps. Put them together as you see fit – something to help you work faster.
Then there is the competing hero of the show, the Dark mode. This is a boon to those of us who wear glasses and find that long workdays staring at computer screens often strain our eyes. Now, all you have to do is use a toggle button to change over.

Functionality
Why should browsing the product be a chore? Shouldn’t screens be easier to use and features discoverable? We agree. So instead of making your journey look like a treasure hunt in an Amazon rainforest, we have created layouts that are uncluttered and come with intuitive navigation.

Functionality
Modules and apps are grouped and displayed for easy discovery. Search, and section shortcuts are available in the expanded view and edit views at the record-level.
Record Summary screens don’t just summarize. They display everything about a record – down to the smallest details.
And the real treasure if you ask us? The Favorites feature! You can group frequently-used modules in the Main Menu and not waste time diving deep into the modules and screens.
The new version has additional components like Quick Create, sidebars, and widgets on every screen. Now you can perform actions faster with fewer clicks on the same screen instead of traversing multiple windows.

Improved Features
We have improved existing features like automation, integrations with social media, One View, and our mobile CRM app.
One View: Our 360-degree platform has evolved into a robust feature that connects your marketing, sales, and support teams with a unified view of customer data. So much so, it is like being in the driver’s seat – with all the controls of the CRM in front of you.
Social Media Integration: Vtiger 9 integrates seamlessly with social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn. Why should spending time on social media not be called work? With Webforms and multiple reusable templates, creating campaigns, messaging, capturing, and importing leads is now easy as pie.
Vtiger’s Mobile CRM: The theory of six degrees of separation** certainly has come true because of the internet. So why should distance or travel hold you down? Our mobile app mirrors Vtiger CRM as is. Now it is all business on the go, wherever and whenever. Internal grapevine says it is shortly going to be the jewel in our crown.
Plethora of Integrations: While global networking was the in-thing yesterday, work from home is certainly here to stay. We are adding more and more integrations to Vtiger CRM. The integrations module now looks like a delightful buffet – something for everyone.

The Icing on the Cake!

With AI/ML making rapid inroads into the CRM space, how can we be left behind!

The icing on the Cake!

Our icing on the V9 cake is our very own AIML feature, Vtiger Calculus. V9’s intelligence capabilities with Calculus is especially useful for:
Deals: Use Calculus in forecasting deal closures and status predictions.
Customer Support: You can now use AI to identify cases, suggest email content, and optimize time spent by support agents on conversations with customers. You will also be able to use features like FAQ and Chatbot to answer routine questions while support teams focus on crucial issues. Enrich customer experiences by improving support team interactions.
Touchpoints: Calculus uses data from different touchpoints, such as emails, conversations, and feedback, to identify customer expectations. You can now stay one step ahead by planning your interactions accordingly.
We have plans, and you will be seeing much more of Calculus participating in CRM in the coming days. You can not only have your cake, you can eat it too.

Amongst all this, a benefit that stood out is the responsiveness of the CRM. Hey, we are no Speedy Gonzales, but… layout changes, feature additions, and a reduced number of clicks have sure improved the speed of operations.

Why don’t you take a look at the new Vtiger 9 CRM today? Sign up and see how you can transform your business with Vtiger – Smarter, Faster & Better!

customer relationship management :The real role of AI in the contact center

AI has relentlessly attacked the contact center for several years. But it wasn’t until 2020 that its true role became clear. And – it’s not quite what you’d expect.

Contact center managers suffered ‘late’ upgrades

Artificial intelligence has been around for a while, but many contact centers have yet to integrate it. On top of that, many were also pushing back on basic hardware and stack upgrades.

“I was surprised at the number of call centers that weren’t prepared to move to work from home. I don’t want to shed light on a difficult situation, but all the managers and executives who had delayed the move to the cloud for years found themselves in a really difficult situation.
Thomas Laird, CEO, Expivia

The expense – in both time and resources – meant that upgrades were scrapped or filed under “fix in case of failure”. Lockdown broke everything. 2020 was “the sidewalk”. And many contact center managers wanted to invest earlier.

Rapid development precipitated by locking

The rapid shift to remote work how unprepared contact centers were for the future – even though they should have been.

Suddenly, experimenting with new technologies was not an obstacle; He was a life saver. Rapid technological updates have been forced on leaders like never before.

Long lines and interminable waiting times showed contact center managers the need to find more efficient and effective ways to provide customer support – leaders fully opened their eyes to the looking for a solution. And let’s be clear: the solution isn’t to fob customers with clumsy robots.

“Contact centers need to understand that the omnichannel experience is important and that AI is part of the equation. But companies that believe they are cheating their customers with AI are laughing at themselves. It is the quality of the entire service experience, and not just the technology, that will define the customer’s perception of an organization.
Tony Johnson, CX Leader, Author, Founding Speaker at Ignite Your Service

COVID has demonstrated the importance of human connection

People want a human connection, and when they are quickly looking for help with something, they’ll contact a human right away, especially when they’re already anxious.

The endless wait times showed how unprepared most contact centers are to serve their customers when they really needed help. And this is where AI’s true role in the contact center became clear.

“Artificial intelligence bridges the gap in efficiency, keeps everyone connected remotely, and provides real-time support to customer service agents and managers who monitor and evaluate call quality data. “
– Rana Gujral, CEO of Behavioral Signals

The real role is to bridge the gap

RPA & AI definitely has a role in the contact center. But it should be clear by now that AI technology cannot replace human interaction. But it can make it easier and better.

There are a few things we can – and should – use AI for:

  • Understand our data so that we can be more proactive in resolving customer issues
  • Optimize our back-end operations to eliminate friction and improve accessibility
  • Provide smarter self-service to customers
  • Facilitate better service by providing agents with better data during conversations

“Artificial intelligence-based applications help contact center staff work more efficiently by automatically transcribing and analyzing conversations to provide contextual responses to help agents resolve a customer’s request faster. The lasting impact will be a new customer service bar that surpasses pre-COVID benchmarks, which is great news for customers!
– Amit Unadkat, Manager – Digital Transformation, Logic 2020

The future of AI in the contact center

We need to use AI technology to help customers solve simple queries on their own and contact the right person when they need them, without creating a contact barrier.

Businesses at their best will use artificial intelligence to anticipate customer needs before they do. And then maybe offer an agent to contact them. Later, the AI ​​will be present behind the scenes, providing the support agent with the information they need to help that customer as much as possible during the interaction.