For quite a while after the first Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system was introduced back in the early 1990s, this type of software was considered viable only for large companies with thousands of clients. As time passed and its development intensified, it became more and more lucrative for a larger scope. The benefits for small and medium businesses soon became obvious and companies started looking into those solutions for improving their service and increasing productivity. Nowadays CRMs are an essential part of both industry leaders and aspiring startups.
So what does CRM give you?
The name gives out the main perk – you are building a stronger bond with your customers. Having a well-functioning management platform lets you automate common tasks such as order processing, sales communication, pricing etc., giving time for your sales team to attend to customers and their needs. This automation not only boosts productivity but also reduces the costs of manually handled processes and inevitable errors caused by operations – its like hitting two birds with one stone. Another big plus comes from the neat organization – you now have a unified place where you store all customer information, details and communication, sales reports – basically everything needed for a full profile. So all the data is there, making it easy for you to analyze it in order to help your marketing efforts.
Overall, there is a number of great CRM solutions but my “weapon of choice” would be vTiger. A lot of people have heard comparisons between vTiger and SugarCRM but a few know that vTiger was actually based on Sugar 1.0. Still, the two applications have chosen completely different routes and their latest versions have very little in common.
I prefer vTiger as a CRM platform for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I find it to be much more suitable for small and medium businesses. It lacks some of the functionality of SugarCRM but that is exactly the point – Sugar is heavily packed with features, many of which can be essential to bigger companies, but useless to the Average Joe LLC. Not cramming so many components in one place, vTiger is much faster than its market competitors. Then comes the actual interface. CRM systems are quite particular, so chances are your sales employees will be using such for the first time. Therefore you want to have a platform that is both intuitive and easy to learn. In this aspect, vTiger is perfect for a non-trained staff to adopt. Moreover, it is completely free of charge. Being an open-source, vTigers releases you from the burden of paying huge fees, at the same time you can rely on a large community for further development and a helping hand.
Let’s take a look at some plugins which will improve your vTiger application and add to its functionality:
– Outlook Plugin – this handy module is very simple, yet practical. It lets you synchronize customer records, calendar events and tasks from your CRM to your Outlook mail client. As it’s a two-way process you can also count on your email records to be integrated into your Customer Relations Management tool. Free, small and straightforward – what more can you ask for?
– Zopim Live Chat – you may have heard of Zopim as many companies use this chat module on their websites. You can connect this plugin to your vTiger so when a new chat comes, the customer information is retrieved from the CRM so you can have all the available info for the person. And after the chat is finished, you can attach it to the client’s profile for your records.
– SMSNotifier – with the growing number of users handling their business through mobile devices, this plugin gives you a great opportunity for a personal touch. Moreover, you expand your communication methods and add a new advertising channel. You simply choose an SMS gateway and start texting, keeping your clients always up-to-date with your deals, news, and all other important notifications.
– MailChimp Module – if you have ever been close to any form of email marketing then you already know what MailChimp is. Combine your CRM with one of the leading providers for email services for a great marketing campaign.
– GeoTools – this plugin is a great way to visualize where your leads and contacts are. Say you want to make a regional campaign but are unsure which is the best place for that. Instead of going through the tons of information, with this module you can pinpoint the regions with the highest density of clients and even draw a radius around them so you can get a better idea of the total reach. This is also a wonderful addon for visual statistics.
To be honest, it’s not all flowers and rainbows – as anything vTiger has its flaws – the installation and upgrades are somewhat tricky and wayward. This is why having a reliable hosting partner for such a project is a must. Knowing that you have a knowledgeable friend like WebHostFace along the way will definitely make you more confident in threading into the delicate field of CRM systems.
Do you have your own Customer Relations platform and has it helped your business? Share your impressions and feedback in the comments below.