by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 29 November 2012
To be effective, it must integrate with other parts of your business. However, most CRM software, SaaS-based ones included, are siloed and standalone affairs, which integrate with other modules only through complex and expensive API integration.
How, then, do you derive a holistic view of your small business?
This week, we will review a solution that tackles this problem. Info@hand is a customer relationship & business management (CRBM) software that moves beyond traditional CRM software to provide you with a comprehensive and integrated view of your CRM efforts. We will look at its features, interface, and see how it can be of use to you.
Concern for small business productivity and efficient processes drove founder Michael Whitehead to design Info@hand. "We built the solution to allow small businesses to be able to react to client needs quickly, while keeping all employees informed of client status," he says.
Before designing the solution, however, Whitehead had to take into account the integrated nature of small businesses, which contrasted with the silo-centric setup in a large organization. "In large businesses, each employee has narrow responsibilities while small businesses often have staff with wide-ranging areas of responsibilities," says Whitehead. He says this can help smaller businesses become nimble. "With fewer levels of approval and less cross-departmental interaction, small businesses can meet a clients requirements faster than a large organization," says Whitehead.
However, the foremost consideration for Whitehead is getting small businesses access to the right tool, one that is fast and flexible. According to Whitehead, Info@hand is that tool.
In a first of sorts for CRM solutions, Whitehead touts the Info@hand's speed as a unique selling point for the solution. Back in April this year, Whitehead and his team performed a menu rotation of tasks and options through multiple customer relationship management solutions in the market. The tests ranged from the simple - creating and saving a record - to the complex - creating a PDF of a report based on 1000 accounts that filter by 2 factors - and timed the results. "Info@hand had the fastest time in every test but one," he says.
This fast response time is bundled with an integrated approach that is central to Info@hand's design philosophy. To implement this philosophy, Whitehead analyzed major tasks and requirements for a CRM targeted at small businesses and came up with three essential tasks: client account history, quote management, and service case management.
Because these three tasks span multiple modules and accounts, Whitehead opted for an integrated approach. "Using our solution, sales and service staff can work together and stay fully informed about the current status of an account," he says, referring to the main benefit of integrating order management modules with customer relationship management. According to Whitehead, this approach enables a small business staff to ask all the right questions including whether a client is credit-worthy or if they have serious service cases pending. The approach translates into better services, happy customers and more business wins, says Whitehead.
Info@hand provides a ground up view of your customer relationships. It works with four operational areas of your small business - Sales&Marketing, Order Management, Project Management, and Customer Service. Remember that the folks at Info@handare focused on integration; hence, each lead within the system follows a typical cycle which begins with creation of the lead within the system and carries on through the creation of quotes, invoices, credit notes and service requests.
Information from operational areas is condensed into various dashboards, which are a microcosm of the system. A dashboard is comprised of dashlets. The dashlets (or panels, in regular speak) span modules, charts, and external sources of information. There are two types of dashlets: general dashlets and module-specific dashlets. As their name implies, general dashlets provide you with generic information relating to your work. For example, you can get a snapshot of all leads assigned to you using the My Leads dashlet. Similarly, you can also configure external sources of information from news websites to stock quotes (which are delivered at a delay of 15 mins) as dashlets.
On the other hand, module-specific dashblets display information pertaining to your small business's modules, whether it is order management or sales management. In addition, you can do a deep dive into data by organizing information into chart dashlets, which are graphical informational pieces about your system.
By default, each dashboard is personal. This means that it is accessible only to its creator. However, it can be configured to global settings to share it with other team members.
I can think of several advantages to this approach. However, the most important one relates to decision support systems. For example, configuration of appropriate permission settings at the dashboard level will provide visibility and enable support personnel to make appropriate decisions regarding customers. Finally, the solution also integrates with popular accounting applications such as QuickBooks to enable faster and seamless processing of data between systems.
While the solution's ability to integrate multiple aspects of CRM with order management is fantastic, there are some, additional areas where the solution could function better. The first one is related to introducing a deeper integration between modules, such as service and sales, in the system. The second one is related to introducing greater complexity in role-based access. As a productivity and information tool, the dashboard is an excellent device, and imbuing it with greater role-based access could make it simpler and easier for managers to delegate tasks and, also, provide restricted windows to customers.
Info@hand follows a modular approach to CRM. The home page has multiple tabs, each relating to a specific module within the system. Each activity within these tabs, whether it is lead generation or invoice creation, is displayed in blocks of information. Scrolling down a particular screen displays building blocks of information for that module. I thought this was an excellent approach to interface design since it minimizes the learning curve and provides a snapshot view of missing pieces of information to complete that module. The dashboard is a repository of system information and comprises charts and dashlets, as I mentioned earlier. The overlay and juxtaposition of the visual with text and stock quotes is an excellent and less-stressful way to deal with complex information and analytics from your system.
Info@hand has an excellent support library, that comprises brief to detailed information. For example, their site contains brochures highlighting the solution's features and benefits as well as a plethora of videos that explain tasks and videos in detail. In addition, they have extensive documentation that explains concepts relating to customer relationship business management. They also have a free 24/7 customer service center.
Typical adjectives that I would associate with the solution are sturdy, effective and reliable. Whitehead adds pricing to this list. "There is only one other competitor in the market, which provides similar features and integration as us, and we are cheaper," he says. Touche.