Manually keeping track of customer details is messy, inaccurate and difficult to share with fellow employees. SANDRA SWANEPOEL, Vice President, Mid-Market Africa & Middle East at Sage, gives some advice on when to invest in CRM.
As a startup, you may have had a ‘little black book’ where you noted the names of your most important customers and their key details, like what sort of products / services they usually buy from you and the last interaction you had with them.
As your business began to grow, you may have started to capture you client’s contact details and other account information on spreadsheets to track them.
Manually keeping track of your customers – who they are, what they buy, and when last a company rep from your company spoke to them – makes it difficult for people in your business to share information across the team.
You also can’t be sure that everyone is keeping customer records up-to-date or that everyone has access to a uniform set of information. Or you might have a situation where your sales and service team keep a lot of customer information in their heads rather than recorded in an electronic database.
This is where customer relationship management (CRM) can help – it is a must-have tool for any business with a growing customer base in a market where your customer experience is what sets you apart from the competition.
What is CRM, actually?
CRM is software that you can use track your customer relationships over their lifecycle. It provides you with a single, central place to store your customer data as well as the tools to analyse your relationships with each customer.
You get CRM software designed for businesses of all sizes and specific industries. Some of the basic features you will find in a good solution include the following:
- Customer data: the ability to manage basic customer details such contact details.
- Contact management: the ability to track and plan interactions with customers, such as a site visit by a sales rep or a routine maintenance call from your service team.
- Marketing: tools to segment your customer base and manage and automate multichannel marketing campaigns across social media, mail, email and the telephone.
- Sales: lead generation and tracking, quotation management, territory management, and other features to empower the salesforce and track their performance.
- Service: functionality to manage service interactions such as helpdesk support, service tickets, service level agreements and service planning.
- Analytics and reports: these help you to analyse customer behaviour and profitability, the sales funnel, salesforce performance, sales opportunities, and so on, so that you can maximise profitability and customer satisfaction.
When to consider investing in CRM
Many Small & Medium Businesses think of CRM software as a complex product that only large companies require. However, as customers become more demanding across all industries, businesses of all sizes can benefit from using CRM to offer slicker, more automated experience to their customers.
Some signs that your business might benefit from CRM include the following:
- Your marketing, sales and service teams don’t have access to a single, up-to-date repository of customer information.
- You can’t get a clear view of your sales pipeline without asking each salesperson what they’re working on.
- You’re not able to track the leads you generate and how your team is following up on them.
- Your sales team keep important account information in their heads or stored locally on their computers.
- You are not sure about the day-to-day service issues your important customers have encountered in recent weeks.
- Your sales and marketing teams are spending too much time capturing information and not enough time selling.
- Your salespeople can’t access and capture customer information while they’re in the road—they need to phone someone or come into the office.
CRM is a great investment in your business
Customers are the lifeblood of any successful business. Nurturing customers and providing them with an excellent customer experience will improve your retention rate and drive growth. This starts with having the right information at your fingertips to understand what relationship your company has with them as well as how it can respond to their changing needs and desires.
AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world
A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
It is early afternoon and hundreds of bees are returning to a hive somewhere near Reading in England. They are no different to millions of bees anywhere else in the world, bringing the nectar of flowers back to their queen.
But the hive to which they bring their tribute is no ordinary apiary.
Look closer, and one spots a network of wires leading into the structure. They connect up to a cluster of sensors, and run into a box beneath the hive carrying the logo of a company called Arnia: a name synonymous with hive monitoring systems for the past decade. The Arnia sensors monitor colony acoustics, brood temperature, humidity, hive weight, bee counts and weather conditions around the apiary.
On the back of the hive, a second box is emblazoned with the logo of BuzzBox. It is a solar-powered, Wi-Fi device that transmits audio, temperature, and humidity signals, includes a theft alarm, and acts as a mini weather station.
In combination, the cluster of instruments provides an instant picture of the health of the bee hive. But that is only the beginning.
What we are looking at is a beehive connected to the Internet of Things: connected devices and sensors that collect data from the environment and send it into the cloud, where it can be analysed and used to monitor that environment or help improve biodiversity, which in turn improves crop and food production.
The hives are integrated into the World Bee Project, a global honey bee monitoring initiative. Its mission is to “inform and implement actions to improve pollinator habitats, create more sustainable ecosystems, and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods by establishing a globally-coordinated monitoring programme for honeybees and eventually for key pollinator groups”.
The World Bee Project is working with database software leader Oracle to transmit massive volume of data collected from its hives into the Oracle Cloud. Here it is combined with numerous other data sources, from weather patterns to pollen counts across the ecosystem in which the bees collect the nectar they turn into honey. Then, artificial intelligence software – with the assistance of human analysts – is used to interpret the behaviour of the hive, and patterns of flight, and from there assess the ecosystem.
Click here to read more about how the Internet of Things is used to interpret the language of bees.
Download speeds ramp up in SA
All four South African mobile network operators have improved their average download speed experience by at least 1 Mbps in the past six months.
This is one of the main findings in the latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience report by Opensignal, the mobile analytics company. It has analysed the mobile experience in the country, updating a study last conducted in February 2019. While a quick look at its South Africa awards table suggests not much has changed since the last report, it’s far from stagnating.
Opensignal reports the following improvements across its measurements:
- MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom’s users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points.
- All four operators improved their Download Speed Experience scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores has stagnated, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.
- MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).
- MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa’s biggest cities and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each.
A quick look at the awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since the last report in February. MTN won the 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.
But far from stagnating, we’re seeing improvements across most of the measurements. All four of South Africa’s national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators’ networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.
In this report, Open Signal has analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all their metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa’s five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane.
MTN has been top of Open Signal’s South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was users on Telkom’s network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points.
This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.
While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, Open Signal fully expects to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in its next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market.
MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in the Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.
The increase in MTN and Vodacom’s Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with the users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C’s score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning users watching video on Telkom’s network, in particular, will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.
In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C’s score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — now featuring three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, the overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people’s lives.
Read more from Open Signal’s report here.