As an accounting professional, I tend to believe that financial integrity is the most important discipline in the world of small business. However, life has taught me that the most important aspect of running a business is the customer relationship.
Without paying customers, there is no business. The enormous task of recording phone conversations, emails, in-person interactions, service recalls, follow-ups, and keeping up with all of the info could be daunting if it is not managed via a strong system. This tends to fail when there is duplication of data entry, especially with your basic customer contact info.
What you’ll want is a customer relationship management (CRM) program, a simple system to input who your clients are, their contact info, when they called, what they requested, how they liked their product or service, and how they would like to work with you in the future. Having this information handy in real time makes it much easier to sell more to current clients, as well as recruit prospects and convert those prospects to clients.
There are three very popular QuickBooks Online apps that do most of the customer management functions you’ll need in a CRM: Method CRM, Intuit Demandforce, and Batchbook CRM.
All three bring a different flavor of the CRM aspect to the small business. I will share with you three different cases in which I had clients reaching out to me for advice on which QuickBooks Online-compatible CRM solution would best fit their needs. Each time, their needs fit perfectly into one of these three apps.
First, there was Mary, who owns an advertising agency in Miami. She is the CEO and controller of the business. Because she does not want any of her salespeople to have access to QuickBooks, she made them fill out a form that said they’d fill in new orders when they go on the road and visit their clients and prospects.
At the end of the day, all new orders come in; the next morning, Mary inputs the invoices into QuickBooks. She also keeps a separate spreadsheet of how many prospects her staff goes to visit every day and how many come back with an order, a system she calls her “New Business Close Rate.” She asked me, “Hector, can I automate this system? I spent half my day entering orders and tracking this spreadsheet.”
The solution was Method CRM. With Method CRM, we were able to give all the sales staff access to creating Invoices on the road from their laptops or tablets; immediately, the paper forms were eliminated. Mary simply logged into Method CRM and chose which invoices were going to sync into QuickBooks with a single click, including all the customer contact info. Since all the sales staff loaded this information on the road, her new one-click solution freed up two hours every morning … plus, she keeps control of the books because no one else has access to QuickBooks.
Mary also used Method CRM to load all the prospects as “leads” and assigned them to each salesperson within the app. When the salesperson got a sale, she simply converted the lead to a customer, enabling a close rate with instant reporting.
The second client who came to me for help was Daniel, who owns a landscaping company in West Palm Beach. His company is known for placing high attention to quality and details, so customer satisfaction was not really a problem. However, since he was doing tons of advertising on radio and TV, he was getting a bevy of new appointments.
The office manager practically became an appointment setter! Now, 75% of her day was tied up in confirming appointments and calling clients to make sure their service was performed to their satisfaction. In addition, he wanted to reduce the direct advertising costs and start using his growing client base as a word-of-mouth sales force. Daniel also wanted a solution that was saleable; as his company grows, he would be adding new products and service offerings every month, so he really needed the client base to know what else he could do for them.
The solution was Demandforce. The client entered all future appointments as Sales Orders using Ship Date as the expected service date when the appointment was set, then actually printed a daily sales order report based on the expected service date every day at 7 am. The customer list is already integrated with QuickBooks; all the client had to do was enter the appointment confirmations every morning manually.
With Demandforce, Daniel can stay top of mind with active and lost customers when they need a service. Demandforce provides an email marketing tool that enables a business to send targeted and fully customized promotions on services to a specific group of customers in their database. Daniel has the ability to add an incentive or a special offer to encourage appointments. In fact, a customer can request a service right though the email, 24/7.
Daniel was also able to leverage the loyal customers with good surveys and requested them to post a review on Facebook, CitySearch, and Google Local. In addition, his entire client base, synchronized from QuickBooks, received email newsletters that featured all the new services and products through an automated process. As a result, Daniel’s new office manager now spends less than 10% of her time concerned with appointments and survey calls, allowing her to focus more on growing other segments of the business.
If he wants to, Daniel can also leverage social media. After each service, Demandforce automatically sends an email thanking customers for their business and inviting them to share their experience with an online review. Demandforce then takes that review and shares it across the web on Facebook, Daniel’s website, CitySearch, Bing, and other sites. Next time prospective customers are looking for landscaping services, Daniel’s business will get positive online exposure.
The third client looking for help in CRM was Miguel, a web designer in Chicago who was already very heavily involved in social media. However, he was just starting up his business and he wanted to make sure that his exciting new venture was known to everyone he had ever interacted with on the web.
Miguel was already working with QuickBooks Online and was looking to maintain his cloud-based operation. He also had two main employees, one who worked overseas and the other one locally, but was always on the road working from his phone. Miguel wanted a way to collaborate with clients and staff about the active projects from any device. Occasionally, he would have some outside contractors help with the overflow of the work. Miguel was also a stickler for avoiding unnecessary data entry, so he wanted as much synchronization of platform as possible, specifically in the social media world of Twitter and Facebook.
The solution was Batchbook CRM. First, he was able to integrate his social contacts from HootSuite (which integrates Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn), letting him bring new clients from his existing database of contacts without having to enter their contact information in QuickBooks because Batchbook CRM integrated all contacts back and forth. In addition, since Miguel offered free monthly seminars on web design tips and tricks, he was able to import his attendee list from Eventbrite, which made it easy to follow up with prospects to convert them to clients.
Miguel’s two employees and seldom-used contractors logged into Batchbook CRM to collaborate and communicate about current projects. And since Batchbook is a single price for unlimited users, he did not need to worry about scalability or paying for additional users. The best part, according to Miguel, was being able to preview a “customer’s social snapshot” all in one place. In other words, he could see the latest tweets, Facebook updates and other information within the customer’s profile in Batchbook CRM. This made it easier to start a conversation or connect with the customer in a highly relative way because Miguel could break the ice by alluding to the customer’s postings before ever discussing business.
Make your choice
The value of managing customer relationships and communications is huge. Yet how you approach it depends on your business, customer base, and how these communications will be delivered. In order to do this efficiently and constantly record interactions with discipline, information has to be synchronized with QuickBooks Online to avoid double data entry.
Choosing the right CRM solution is the first step!
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