For years Microsoft has dominated the corporate market with Microsoft Exchange and Office, but more recently alternatives like Google Apps have made inroads. The fundamental reason for this shift is the mobilization of everything and everyone. Companies are more distributed now than ever and since the speed of the Internet and the capabilities of web technologies have improved so much, the “Cloud” has become the most efficient way to communicate, store stuff, and collaborate with co-workers, customers, and partners.
The Big Three
- Gmail – Simply the best, most reliable email service around, includes up to 25GB of storage
- Google Calendar – also the best web calendar, includes tools for sharing, scheduling, and resource management
- Google Drive – your hard drive in the Cloud allowing you to store and view almost any document, includes access to collaborative web applications for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more!
This is particularly important for Sales & Marketing departments who are increasingly required to collaborate electronically in order to grow their business. Customers are doing their own research and pulling the information they need to make a decision from the seller, the web, third parties, and their own personal networks. Sales reps and marketers must respond to customer needs via the media that the customer prefers which is increasingly electronic, primarily email and now social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
The practical side is also important. Google Apps is cheap compared to traditional Microsoft options. In many cases the tools can be used for free, but even the paid version is less than $4.50 per user per month. The Google Apps ecosystem is also growing rapidly. Businesses that commit to Google Apps can easily integrate with third party web applications like MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, and SmartSheet. Tools like our own Salestwig and Salestree enable this integration, making your prospects and customers easily available within Google Apps (and other third party integrations). As soon as you start using Google Apps you realize very quickly that if seamless integration with your CRM was possible, the benefits to Sales & Marketing would be enormous. That is why we are making Google Apps integration a top priority for Ntree.
For over a decade now the gurus have been touting customer-centricity, and almost every business will tell you that they are customer-centric, but in reality they are not even close. I don’t blame them because true customer-centricity is difficult to achieve. It requires a strategic and operational pivot in how businesses act every day in all of their dealings with prospects and customers. The example you always hear about is the “360-degree view” or “unified view” of a customer. In other words, the business has a CRM database that tracks all customer interactions across all of its business units and makes that information available to all of its business units. This is definitely a pre-requisite for customer-centricity but it is not a sign that it has been achieved.
Customer interactions and the CRM products that manage them almost always reflect the structure of the business’s selling & service processes as opposed to the customer’s buying & using processes. Companies have offloaded the complexity of an integrated experience to the customer, making them wade through multiple touch points, departments, and representatives in order to satisfy their needs. For example, how many of us have literally spent hours trying to find the right person at a bank or telecommunications provider to answer our question? How about dealing with a technical issue with a software or hardware product?
Truly customer-centric businesses let the customer decide how they get the answers they want. Customers of these businesses know the name of an actual person (the “customer advocate”) that they can contact for all of their needs. They can also contact the advocate by email, phone (call or text), or via social networking. The advocate brokers the request to the specialists within the company and gets the customer the answers they require. Traditionally, this level of service was only cost-effective for expensive and complex products like B2B sales and big-ticket B2C items like cars, appliances, or financial products. However, new technologies, like Ntree’s CRM products, are making this possible and scalable for more and more businesses.