Accelerate your business processes with a 360-degree view

No piece of data stands alone – you know that for sure. When you are looking at a Customer, you want to know how many times you’ve spoke to her, what she’s bought from you, maybe even the details of the actual collections you’ve made. When you’re looking at an invoice, maybe you want to see payments and the product batches that were delivered against it. Armed with that holistic view of everything, you can make decisions faster, easier. Impel’s 360-degree view does exactly that, making it easy for you to manage all your data the way you want it. So on one page, you could integrate Account details, Contact details, Activity details, Opportunity details, Emails, Attachments and other operational info. Supporting your users on different modes like mobile, SMS and Web, Impel therefore offers a single platform to manage the entire Business process. Imagine what you could do with, say, check-ins by your field personnel showing up against each dealer, with sales to that dealer, possibly even secondary dales to consumers, all in one place. Getting such a 360-degree view brings real strategic value to organizations that want to deliver high quality customer service and support, to optimize marketing and product development.

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Some of the major things you could include in a 360View are:

  • Sales Automation: Opportunities |Quotation | CTI Integration | Invoices| Activities
  • Support : Alert |Tickets |Email to Ticket |Ticket escalation | Ticket Status
  • Operations: Multi Branch Inventory | Orders| Coupons |
  • Marketing : Mailers | Campaigns |

On the customer front-end, when a customer interacts with your organization, it is vital that the richness of that interaction become available to people in various teams. And the availability of past information can make that interaction itself very effective and efficient.
Beginning from a customer interaction to analyzing payment patterns,; the 360 View makes a huge impact. In a call-center situation, for example, some of the most obvious advantages are:

  • Improved customer service and Sales productivity
  •  Significant Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Potential during interactions
  •  Constructive and profitable relationships with customers
  • Easy and efficient collaboration among internal teams via a comprehensive view
  • Time saved by reducing response-time without having to switch between screens
  • A consistent and satisfying service experience for customers
  • Increased call quality, reduced call duration
  • Money saved on long conversations and customers being on Hold

A 360 degree or a complete view of the Customer brings in a win-win situation for both the customer as well your organization. Better service and efficiency helps you drive higher customer loyalty and thereafter, more repeat business from existing customers.

Come talk to us about how you can make this work for your company!

6 questions to help you make that software decision

If you’re like most of our prospects,  you’re probably saying: “Yes, I want a software solution, but WHICH ONE? And how do I decide anyway?” Now, there’s tomes and tomes written about how to choose your CRM solution (1.89 MN entries!). There are even BOOKS written about making this choice, for Pete’s sake. The funny thing is, you will probably have read all this and STILL have the questions. IMHO, this is because most writing out there is consultative (some even with phrases like “organizational commitment” and “operational efficiencies” sprinkled liberally) and that’s not nearly specific enough. In a metaphorical sense, you probably already know where you want to go – you only need to figure out if you’ll take the bus or train or drive on your own. And my intent here is to help you do just that – figure out things at a very prosaic level, by asking questions that should be fairly straightforward to answer.

I’m going to assume that turn-of-the-Century items like Cloud vs. In-premise are no longer issues in your mind, so let’s move forward with my questions.

How many people do you want to pay for?

The answer to this question will tell you fairly clearly if you’re looking for a heavy-duty mass-transit solution or a car to drive in. With 15 people or less, any “car” will do – and buses and trains may be overkill. Meaning, at that level, you probably have a no need for complex configuration, custom reports, workflows and the like. So you can safely leave out all the “platforms” out there. On the other hand, if you have a larger number of people you want to enable, then you’ll consequently also have a larger number of things you want to accomplish with the solution. Head for the platforms.

How important is vendor brand?

This issue has two dimensions: how important is Brand in your decision? And, how big should that Brand be for you to consider it? The latter, actually, is the bigger issue, since larger brands automatically mean bigger price points. I am not implying that the price is the only thing that rises with brand – salespeople wear better suits and take you to better restaurants… No, seriously, if a big brand is very important, then you’re in the Enterprise league – stick to $FDC, M$FT or $AP. If a brand is important, but not necessarily that of a big one, there are a number of other players out there – Sage, Sugar,  Zoho and so on. if brand is not an issue, talk to people like us (who’re all working hard to get into that second tier up there).

How long will you live with your decision?

Think carefully before you answer: the usual answer, “For a long time”, is usually wrong. One of the biggest advantages with SaaS is that you can move from one system to another – not necessarily with all your data, but enough to be effective – fairly easily. Most systems will have ways to export to Excel or CSV, so you can work with a sales force automation system for a few months and then move to a sales+marketing system, then on to sales+marketing+billing and so on. Particularly if you are a small team and your definition of “system” today is spelt E-X-C-E-L, work with a good sales automation system or billing system or whatever makes sense for you in the short term.

How important is “best of breed”?

Another way to ask this question is “How important is it that it all be ONE system?” Some companies by definition want the best possible solutions in each category and are willing to pay for their integration. With SaaS, integration does not imply delayed deployment – a number of vendors are on mechanisms like Zapier, giving you the ability to move data among various best-of-breed solutions automatically. The “comprehensive” systems - like WorkEtc for project-based companies, for example – are cheaper overall, but may not have all the bells and whistles in all the functions that you want to use. As another example, I can tell you that Impel’s Inventory Management does not have a lot of things that an Inventory-specific system like Lettuce or Stitch Labs would have – at least not out of the box.

How important is “vertical”?

Depending on how small or large your industry is, you may want to find a solution that is very specific to what you do and a vendor who’s worked with other companies in your industry. We’ll all tell you that we work with specific industries, but the reality is, there are some vendors that focus on just one or two industries and that may be important for you. For example, if you’re in banking or financial services, you’re probably best served by a solution that works well in your industry and works in very few others. The more “vertical” your needs are, the more you will depend on the vendor, not just to bring good software but to bring things like beast practices in your industry – something that “horizontal” players like us aren’t great at.

How quickly do you want to go Live?

This is a big one: the quicker you think you want go live, the simpler your solution needs to be. Yes, you could choose a “platform” solution and tell yourself that you’ll use its plain-vanilla version to begin with. But the reality is, that rarely works, particularly in larger teams. The moment you trot out your selected “platform” to ten of your key users, you’ll get sixteen  opinions (two people didn’t talk in the meeting!) on how to configure things. With a simple solution, the options to configure are limited, so you can honestly tell your users: “No, we can’t do that” and get straight into deployment. So your target go-Live date will drive your selection, too: consider a “platform” vendor only if you have at least six weeks before you open the doors to other users.

Are there other questions you’ve asked or been asked in making a software decision? Let us know!

 

 

The 3 P’s of the SaaS Business

Watching the $FDC juggernaut over the last few years makes one wonder: HOW? How is it that, when CRM is considered such a been-there-done-that segment, this one company continues to grow faster than the market, adding millions of dollars to its top line (note: not to the bottom line, but that’s Competitor Carping!)? Much has been written about how $FDC operates, how it positions itself, how it spends more on marketing than on engineering and so on, but really, at the core of it all, there’s obviously a value-proposition that’s beyond anything competitors (including us) have today. The way I see it, $FDC has built three Product Platform Partnerscomponents that, taken together, are very compelling for customers who can afford them. And these components are core pieces of any good SaaS offering.

Product

This is the core product that any SaaS vendor offers, including the advantages of configurability but without extensibility. I separate the two because of the tremendous degree of extensibility that some products have, making that its own pillar (more below). IMHO, the $FDC product itself is fairly puerile. A Nineties (or, possibly, Enterprise) look, a fairly short list of Standard Objects (Orders were introduced only recently) – I could go on. In comparison with anything from the neat peeling-a-small-onion approach of Highrise to the so-sparse-you-have-to-find-me look of M$FT CRM, $FDC is certainly not the best looker, not the most comprehensive, in its basic subscription form. I say this with no disrespect – after all, Impel is not that good to look at, either, when you sign up (oh, but please do – sign up, I mean!). We do have a fancy JSON-based user interface, but the default app looks “industrial”, to put it nicely, without the bells and whistles that you see in the smaller apps. On the other hand, we have everything from accounts and contacts to quotes, orders, invoices and collections – even basic financial transactions – so that should count for something.

Platform

Some SaaS players have added a comprehensive layer of extensibility, where someone external to the product development team can go into the product and turn into something that the original designers neither expected nor intended. M$FT offers this via their developer-oriented IDEs, $AP with their ABAP and other tools, $FDC with what is now called force.com.  There’s a distinct difference in the appraoch each of these players takes: M$FT squarely targets its legion of ASP.NET developers, $AP the “consultants” and $FDC the “administrators”. $FDC’s platform is by far the easiest to access and use, with a great set of tools to build and deploy, completely on the Cloud. Other players like Zoho have add-ons that provide some of these capabilities, too, as do we. Between Workflows, Front-End Business Rules, Data Views and the like, our own extensibility, I dare say, is as functional as the best in the market. But we don’t have the complete front-end that $FDC has for setting up everything from picklists to workflows. Nor do we have the license management capabilities that $FDC gives its partners – more about that later. Net effect, making Impel do interesting new things takes a deeper level of technical knowledge than does $FDC – for now.

Partners

You’re probably thinking: “OK, now he’s going to say M$FT has the best partner network”. Nope, sorry. M$FT’s partner network is certainly a strong one but (like the $FDC UI) is so Nineties. M$FT partners either sell product or are developers implementing them. $FDC partners, on the other hand, LIVE in $FDC. Companies have used force.com to build complete apps that have nothing to do with CRM – a complete financial accounting package, for example. Unlike most other platforms (BUT, like we do!), force.com offers complete customization of everything including Custom Objects – upto 2000 of them (if you have the money to buy a Performance edition). So partners have built their companies on the $FDC Platform, taking the idea of Partnerships to a whole new level. Add the fact that they can sell on the App Exchange – an innovation no other competitor has replicated yet – and you now have a way for customers to truly buy best-of-the-breed in each segment, without worrying about hassles like integration. Of course, such a strong Partner model is as much a result of their success with Product and Platform as of their thinking along these lines. So having the latter without the former (as in the case of smaller companies like us) or vice versa (as for M$FT and $AP) is not as good.

You’re probably now thinking: OK, I get that, but why is this guy singing paeans to a competitor? Well, for the same reason that I ogle at the BMW X5, but I’m very happy with my Scorpio (although I’d love to have an LCD audio control panel). For the most part, $FDC has moved to the high end of the market, targeting large accounts that deliver thousands of users and millions in license fees every year. And their implementation partners have done the same: it is now normal for an $FDC implementation to cost more than its license, much like a $AP deployment. That leaves the mid-market open for SaaS offerings like Impel: offerings that include a very strong Product and a very flexible Platform, looking to develop Partners along the way. So I for one am very happy to see $FDC doing what it does – we can learn a lot from that, choosing the things that make sense for our market. Much like fitting this in my Scorpio!

Why configurable software is critical for your business

Your business is unique. You have specific terminologies that everyone in your company is familiar with, you have specific ways in which you track your sales pipeline, you have specific steps and escalations for dealing with trouble tickets.  And these are just a few of the ways in which you’ve made your business your own. You and others in your company have  worked hard to develop specific processes and systems that have helped you succeed.

So would you want a cookie-cutter business management software? Would you want your software tailored to the way that you run your business or would you want your team to learn a whole new terminology and paradigm?

Make your business management software work for YOU.

We understand that your software needs are different from any of our other customers.  Some features of course, would overlap. That’s why we have a base model of Impel. That’s why easy and comprehensive configurability is such a key feature in Impel. Every major object and it’s fields can be added to / renamed and modified. You can add your own Custom objects and fields for those objects. Let’s see for every product installation, you have a specific Installation Report that your service engineer needs to fill out and get the customer’s sign off. You could easily create that as a Custom Object.

Take your sales process. You probably have specific stages that you track your deals with. See how  different the standard deal stages and the customized deal stages for a custom are in Impel.

Standard Deal Stages
Default deal stages in Impel
Custom Deal stages
Custom Deal stages for a specific customer

Based on what you want to track about the companies that you deal with, your account page in Impel could look completely different. Here’s what a standard account page would look at by default.

Standard Account Add page
Standard Account Add page in Impel

Here’s what a customized Account Add page for a customer that deals exclusively with schools looks like. The Account object itself is renamed to Schools. Almost all the fields on the page are renamed / added to be completely tailored to our customer’s requirements.

Custom Account Add page

Custom Account Add page in Impel

And these are configurations that you can do very, very easily. So make your business management software work for the way that you run your business. Let it reflect your stages, your processes, your way of doing business.

 

 

 

 

Automate business processes for maximum effect.

Impel’s Alerts and Workflows Engine can automate your business processes to a great degree. Read about how one of our customers used Impel successfully through their Admission process.

Workflows Exam Example
Green blocks are Impel workflows. Light blue blocks are operations by Impel users. Dark blue blocks are external systems. Shift+Click for a larger image.

Our customer is a leading educational institution offering Degrees in various disciplines. The customer has a fairly complex process to track prospective students from the first point of contact until admission. Step 1 When a prospect first contacts our customer (via inbound phone call or email), Impel checks to see if they already exist in the system, Opportunity Sourcebased on their phone number. If they do, their contact details are presented to the agent. If not, their details are entered into Impel by the agent.  Our customer uses Impel to track prospective students from a variety of sources including print and online advertisements, hoardings, referrals, education fairs, their website and inbound calls.  Regardless of how the leads came in, they are automatically added as Leads in Impel, sometimes manually by Call Center agents, sometimes via data uploads and sometimes through workflows. All prospects are contacted by agents. The agent takes the prospect through the various course possibilities based on the prospect’s interests and prior course of study. All conversation with the prospect is recorded as notes / activities in Impel.  All contacted leads are automatically sent a welcome email and text message through a Workflow. Step 2 email for testProspects  go through a pre-defined Opportunity process. At each change in Opportunity Stage, specific events are triggered off. For example, at one specific stage change, the prospect is emailed a link to an Online Test. The test itself is hosted on a system external to Impel.  An Impel workflow generates the user-id and password for the test, update that information into the Impel opportunity record automatically.  This data is then submitted to the Online Test system through an Impel API. Another Impel workflow then automatically sends an email to the prospect with a link for the test and their credentials for logging in. Step 3 test scoresOnce the prospective student takes the test on the Online Test system, the completed Eval PDF and scores are pulled from the test server by an Impel API. The prospect’s Opportunity record is then updated with score details and the Eval PDF by another Impel workflow.  The appropriate Territory Manager (Impel user) gets a push notification that he has a Follow-up task. The details of the activity are automatically added to the User.  An email is automatically sent to the prospect via a workflow. With this level of automation, Impel enables our customer’s team to focus on their business, while ensuring that things run smoother, faster and more productively!