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CRM in the Cloud: The future of customer relationship management

Casually flicking through the latest tech magazines (as you do in this industry) I was struck with one thought – every publication mentions cloud computing at least twice per feature.

Casually flicking through the latest tech magazines (as you do in this industry) I was struck with one thought – every publication mentions cloud computing at least twice per feature. Now calculating how many magazines I read and how many articles there were in each, it seems the research companies are right – cloud computing has firmly integrated itself into our world and is here to stay.

“Cloud computing heralds an evolution of business – no less influential than the era of e-business – in positive and negative ways.” Gartner.

According to Gartner, by 2012, 80 percent of Fortune 1,000 enterprises will be using some cloud computing services, and 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets.

An organisation not owning IT assets is a huge change for the industry and the driving force behind this is the increased need to think globally. Expansion into new markets can be supported faster, and often more cheaply, by utilising cloud-based software solutions. This, along with shorter implementation time, lower upfront costs and access to the latest technology, makes cloud computing the way of the future.

In a nutshell, cloud computing is Internet-delivered communication, collaboration and productivity services, managed by a ‘host’ (whichever datacentre or company you decide to go with). It is independent of location and can be accessed remotely, allowing you to work wherever and whenever you please. The services are often web-based tools that users can access through a web browser as if they were desktop applications. This is also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Many business relationships today begin on the Internet, as customers increasingly find businesses through web searches, Facebook fan pages and other sites on the web. It makes perfect sense to track and build these relationships using cloud CRM services, especially if they offer social network monitoring. It is important to note though that Cloud CRM differs from social CRM in that the cloud is used to ‘host’ your customer relationship management data, while social CRM incorporates social media and networking into relationship management. The best results come when these things are integrated with the right tools.

Cloud CRM allows your team access to data at anytime, with the best tools giving you access via your web browser, email system and phone. This leads to improved collaboration within the team, as data is updated in real-time, so everyone can work off the same page ’on the go’.

Keeping clientele engaged and coming back for more requires flexibility, creative thinking and a great memory. CRM tools are a must-have to track these relationships and help businesses broaden their understanding of customers’ interests, needs and concerns. Due to being hosted, cloud solutions are often much cheaper and easier to use for small businesses as they can be scaled up or down as required. It is quicker and easier to implement and use, and you don’t need to worry about maintenance and data storage as this is handled by the ‘host’.

Despite lower costs with cloud CRM tools than with traditional on-premise CRM solutions, security and reliability is increased. Software is automatically upgraded rather than waiting for you to install new programmes – so you always have access to the latest software.

If you are a small business that has never tried a CRM system before and are thinking about investing in this, your best bet is to start by experimenting with some free online tools, then upgrading when you need more data storage and functionality.

Benefits of cloud-based tools for CRM

  • Lower and predictable costs – pay only for what you use
  • Reliability and fault-tolerance
  • Agility and flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Multi-layered, robust security
  • Anywhere access
  • Latest software for users
  • Internet collaboration
  • Faster deployment
  • No patching or maintenance
  • Less infrastructure resources
  • Efficiency

Join the Customer Relationship Management discussion in the NZ CRM Forum on LinkedIn, or check out the Microsoft Dynamics website to find out more about CRM and Cloud CRM.

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