Managing Customer Relationships with CRM Software

Customer relationships are more important than ever in this business climate, but while even small companies save computerised their order books, far fewer are using the tools available to help manage what they know about their customers.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is what a company does to keep its customers happy, to learn what they need and how they have, so the company can meet those needs, keep the customers coming back and in the process make more money. Every company does CRM, to a greater or lesser degree; it’s what keeps them in business and obviously you can do it without using special software – but the right software should take it easier to see your business prospects and pipeline. CRM packages bring together information about customers and market trends so the company can sell and market their products and services. If your customers have a good CRM strategy, they should be able to streamline the products and services they offer so they offer exactly what their own customers want. CRM software will let them improve their customer service and do more cross selling
of products. If you have customers who aren’t sophisticated technology users but are ready to move their business forward through IT, CRM is the first step.

The right size
The problem with some CRM systems is their sheer scale; products designed for enterprises can be overwhelming for smaller companies, both in their complexity, their IT requirements, the range of facilities they offer that aren’t needed, and their considerable price tags. Small business CRM packages give your customers the essentials of CRM, without overloading them with features designed for multi-national giants. In a large organisation, you’d expect to find formalised sales, marketing and support strategies, with large departments devoted to each element; in a smaller company, sales and marketing may well be the same couple of people, who probably manage customer support in their spare time too. A CRM package can give structure to these roles and help the sales, marketing and support staff work in a more organised way. CRM for smaller companies concentrates on the essential contact management capabilities: these are first and foremost contact management solutions that let sales, marketing and service teams track both existing and potential customers. In addition to the basic contact management, the packages we’ve picked out come with basic reporting options so your customers can track what’s happening to a particular contact across multiple staff members. If your customers want to move on to more sophisticated options such as order processing and tracking, help desk automation, sales forecasting and analysis and marketing campaign management, you can usually offer them the exact options they want as separate add-ons. The products in this category are designed for use by less than 100 users, working over a LAN or in a browser rather than using the multiple distributed servers you’d find in an enterprise.

Access CRM
If your customers will want only the basics, and already have Microsoft Office, they can stay with Office applications for their CRM. For very small businesses you can suggest the Business Contact Manager version of Outlook, but given that CRM is based on a database there’s also the option of using Access. There’s a template for Contact Management on Office Online, which you can find from the list of templates inside Access. It creates a contact table and form, and will import contacts from Microsoft Outlook. You could then customise it for your customers by adding a contact tracking
table to hold details of when phonecalls were made or received, visits to the contact, and what services or products the contact has. If your customers have Access 2007, you can also automate the gathering of data from Outlook 2007 into the Access database, as Access 2007 can work with Outlook to share information. From Access, you can generate and send an email message to a contact that includes a data entry form. When the person receiving the message fills out the form and returns it, the reply can be processed automatically and the information in the form added to the relevant table in the database. Set this up using Access 2007’s Collect data through email messages Wizard. You can set a similar process up using
earlier versions of Outlook and Access, but it does require some knowledge of Access and Outlook automation.

Key mobile CRM tools
If your customers want to take their CRM application with them and don’t want to carry a laptop or netbook, they’ll get the widest choice of application if they carry a BlackBerry. The RIM devices have ruled the mobile CRM roost for years now, though the Apple iPhone has entered this market and may be an alternative. CRM products that run on the BlackBerry include Maximizer, Salesforce, Sage and Goldmine. Typically, the software provides mobile dashboards that give users direct access to the same data they would see on a desktop PC. Maximizer can also be used on iPhone, Palm and Windows Mobile; Salesforce has software for iPhone and Windows Mobile as well as BlackBerry, andSage supports Windows Mobile too.

The best-known cloud service, Salesforce has CRM software that is great for large enterprises, but overkill for smaller companies. However, it does have options for smaller companies so you should at least know what’s on offer. Salesforce is integrated with Google Apps and is moving strongly into the platform-as-a-service market. Group Edition offers basic CRM for one, three or five users and is reasonably priced at £5 per user per month. It comes with contact management, integration with Gmail, Outlook and Lotus Notes, and features for managing leads and opportunities. If your customers want to go further and make use of reports and analytics, custom dashboards, sales forecasting, campaign management and mass email, they’ll need Salesforce Professional, in which case the price jumps to £45 per user per month.

Viewing open tasks in Salesforce.
Viewing open tasks in Salesforce.

Group Edition

This is a product designed for small and mid-sized businesses by people who’ve built and run their own companies here in the UK. Workbooks is Web-based, and is part of a suite of online products designed to go from finding potential prospects to getting the cash in. There’s a free trial available, so your customers can test the water and see if it fulfils their needs. Workbooks CRM and Workbooks Business include modules for sales, marketing, sales order management, invoicing, customer service and purchasing and supplier management. Sales force automation (SFA) in Workbooks CRM is designed to measure the performance of the sales team, and to improve productivity by streamlining sales processes, including quoting for new business. Sales teams work with real-time dashboards, and can use Workbooks CRM’s quoting tool to automatically create quotes from templates based on existing company stationery. Once created, the quotes are converted to PDF format and emailed to the prospects. There’s an similar invoice creator that turns quotes or sales orders into invoices, converts them to PDFs and emails them directly from Workbooks. A related product, Workbooks Business, adds back-office accounting features to Workbooks CRM, so automating sales ordering and accounting functions. Workbooks Financials is due for launch later this year to give companies the means to manage other aspects of accounting and reporting including ‘multidivisional’ and company structures. The software is designed to be very flexible, with some unusual options such as the ability to map matrix-style relationships between people and organisations.
The RRP for Workbooks is from £30 per user per month, depending on configuration chosen.

Maximizer is probably the biggest name in the SME CRM market. It focuses specifically on this market, it’s easy to use, provides integrated sales, marketing and customer service and support, has strong support for mobile devices, and is very affordable. In addition to the basics of CRM, it offers good analysis options and add-ins for options such as workflow automation. One possible drawback is the fact that it currently doesn't have a hosted software-as-a-service option, though the company says one is under development. If your customer is reasonably sophisticated and likely to want a good mobile option, Maximizer is a great choice. Maximizer is designed to be simple to deploy and use. Users can work from a desktop interface, a Web browser, or from mobile devices including Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm, and Symbian.
There are four editions and a number of add-on modules and options you can offer.Maximizer Entrepreneur Edition is the entry level version, providing contact management, integration with Microsoft Office and QuickBooks accounting software, opportunity management for potential customers, and sales tools. It has basic reports with the ability to export the data to Excel.
The Group, Professional and Enterprise Editions add more features including marketing automation, customer service and support, workflow automation, e-commerce and payment processing, and partner relationship management. For example your customers could use the automated, Web-based marketing templates in Maximizer’s marketing automation tools to send email mass mailings and faxes to prospects. The marketing material can include incentives that can then be tracked for effectiveness in other parts of Maximizer, including its Web-based online store.
Maximizer is a good choice for smaller companies, with all the basic facilities, strong mobile tools and integration with Office and QuickBooks.

Checking marketing progress in Maximizer.
Checking marketing progress in Maximizer.

Maximizer Enterpreneur £130

Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a suite of CRM-related products designed for various industry sectors. Some options are only suitable for larger organisations, but the basic CRM works well for smaller companies, and hasf the advantage that as a Microsoft product, it integrates well with other Microsoft software such as Office. The interface is also familiar; it looks like Outlook, with the addition of a reporting engine that is used to share information between users in a variety of formats, including Excel, HTML, PDF, XML and CSV.
Dynamics is extremely customisable and most customers buy a solution implemented by a Microsoft partner. Options include versions for field service; sales and marketing; and service management. Because Microsoft has bought a number of CRM companies, different versions of most of these exist from their previous incarnations as NAVision and Great Plains. This emphasis on larger organisations is the main drawback to Dynamics CRM, along with the substantial price tag. However, if your customer is large enough to benefit from both the emphasis and the customisability, Dynamics CRM can be a good choice.

There are three editions of CRM available. Workgroup Server for up to five user licences; Professional Server which has no limit on the number of licences, and Enterprise Server, which adds support for multiple companies.
Microsoft does not release RRPs, but a typical set of prices we were quoted, after discounts through Microsoft's Volume licensing scheme or Business Ready scheme, where:
Workgroup Server edition Server & 5 user licenses £2,149
Professional Server edition Server Module £ 1,700, then Per user license £799
Enterprise Server edition Server Module £3,999, Per user license £ 799

Microsoft Dynamics uses an Outlook-like view to display information.
Microsoft Dynamics uses an Outlook-like view to display information.

While your customers may be more familiar with the name Sage for accounting software, SageCRM is a good option for companies wanting on-demand CRM, or a locally-based version to run within Microsoft Outlook. Sage has a variety of other CRM software, including Sage ACT!, SaleLogix and the CRM elements of AccPac; if your customers are familiar with the original versions of these packages, Sage is the company that now owns the products.
ACT! is the number one contact and customer manager worldwide in terms of users, with more than 2.7 million users. It is limited to contact and customer management, but if this is all that's required, ACT! can centralise contact and appointment information for individuals and small businesses.
SageCRM comes in two versions aimed at small and medium businesses, hosted and local. The hosted version is called The two products are essentially the same, and one advantage of this is that if you have a customer who wants to test the water, they can start with, avoiding the infrastructure and installation costs; if they want an on-premise system further down the line, migrating is very easy. In addition to integration with Outlook, SageCRM can be integrated with Lotus Notes, and data can be stored in a variety of databases including DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Sybase. The basic version of SageCRM includes the core CRM functions, including sales automation, marketing automation, and customer care management. More advanced tools including an integration server, wireless PDA access, and a computer telephony integration (CTI) toolkit.

SageCRM gives your customers access to their own customer data so they can track orders, phone calls and escalation history, support and service history, and any emails and documents sent and received.

You can also add features such as automated process workflow, and there's a good range of tools for customing a Sage CRM solution to meet the customer's precise requirements. SageCRM can be integrated with accounting and ERP solutions, and has good analysis and reporting features for tasks such as measuring the success of marketing campaigns.
Viewing sales opportunities in Sage CRM.
Viewing sales opportunities in Sage CRM.

Hosted or local?
One of the first choices is whether to recommend a package that runs on premise, or a hosted option. Using a hosted service can give a smaller company access to a more expensive solution that they couldn't justify buying outright, and also means there's no need to buy a server to run the software. The hosting company also takes care of installation, management and maintenance. So long as your customers’ business models match the 'one size fits all' model, and will if necessary alter their internal procedures to fit with the standard CRM processes they're being offered, on-demand CRM can be a good choice.

On the negative side, customising hosted CRM systems is likely to be either impossible or different, and it is a lot harder to integrate the hosted products with local on-site applications. While hosted vendors claim it's child's play to set up the system and get it working, the reality is seldom quite that simple, and more in-house expertise is needed for ongoing running of CRM systems than the claims might have you believe. A final point to discuss with your customers is the sensitivity of their own customer data. While it is in the interest of hosting companies to be careful with the data handed over to their care, your customers need to make sure all the data protection legislation is being met, and that their own customers would be happy at the thought of potentially sensitive information being managed elsewhere by third parties. If they work in a regulated industry, they need to check that their customer data isn’t hosted outside country if the regulations forbid this.

Give your existing customers a little TLC
Case studies and talking points from Microsoft to help show your customers the value of CRM:

Business Link: Business benefits of CRM
A business rather than technology-focused guide to help businesses choose CRM procedures and software:

Keeping tabs on customers
Although it focuses on Dynamics, this discussion of how small businesses can benefit from the features of CRM is a good introduction to the benefits:

The CRM Coach
This Canadian CRM implementation specialist has good independent opinions on CRM in general:

The three most asked questions about CRM by small business owners
This page is a good overview of what small businesses want to know about CRM:

Marketing Donut: customer care
Tips, tools and discussions for small business marketing; Marketing Donut covers customer care along with more sales-oriented marketing techniques:

Link to a Relevant FeatureClick here to see the article BlackBerry apps for small business


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Comments (1)
Nicolo Totti
Posted: Jul, 28 2011

nice article

nice article about crm tools



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