First Coffee for 20 March 2006

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

First Coffee for 20 March 2006

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark… nah, save that for the white wine with the wife after the kids are in bed tonight, the working music is Ike and Tina Turner’s 18 Classic Tracks:

Clearing off the news from last week, First CoffeeSM would like to note the release of Bridgedexchange Version 3.6, web-based CRM.

There’s a pretty good, detailed description the company sent along of what the product does, and as it sounds like it serves as a good primer for how these kinds of products tend to work, there are differences, but basically it’s a good example of how on-demand CRM works, so we’ll go over it in a bit more detail in case you’ve never seen one explained and frankly wonder what it’s like, and don’t want to appear more ignorant than you have to at cocktail parties and in front of consultants who might then get dollar signs in their eyes when they realize you don’t know stuff like this:

Users of the system can manage the layout, customize web based forms, search for contacts in the system, manage documents, and tracking e-mails with a customized template. The information’s stored on another server not in your building, you simply access it via browser the way you hit Google and the Victoria’s Secret site.

The system lets users track their own sales progress, and lets managers track it as well. The sale cycle can be customized in the MYpreferences area. The CRM administrators can add or remove sales steps to help manage the sales cycle. This additional feature also allows the managers of the CRM to evaluate the sales representatives progress through the sales cycle by reports generated in the MYreports section of the application.

Each user within the system has the ability to upload and store documents only if they have a valid e-mail address within the system. The folders and directories on the server are built to separate documents based on the employees’ group identification and the e-mail address of the user in the system. If the users’ information is adjusted in the system and the e-mail address changes, the folder name will be automatically updated and therefore the documents stored in that folder will remain.

The MYLayout area allows each employee to customize the location of different blocks that appear within the application. The first step is to select the section to customize using the drop down menu with the provided sections. Once the section has been selected, the new page will allow you to pick from the assigned locations of each block.

Quick Views are the upper left side of the application, which include the Calendar, Events, Contacts, and Clients. The lower left portion is for the Add Events, Add Contacts, and Add Clients. The right half of the page shows only one block with the exception of the MYhome tab.

Each drop down menu assigns a default tab to be displayed every time the selected block loads. So if the selected block is turned off by default, the block will not load in that particular tab. This setup is good for users with a dial up connections or slower connections, which would otherwise spend too much time loading the components all onto the page at one time.

The layout, or appearance, can be adjusted as many times as you like but won’t affect the functionality.

The “generate code” icon is + symbol, that allows users to create the HTML code to cut and paste into a web HTML document. This code will have all the required information to submit the data properly into the application and will store the information into the database as a contact. And during the building phase of the form, you can pick the categories, status, and assigned employee to be automatically be assigned every time the form is used.

Even if the same form is used on many different web pages across different domains, the information will still be collected and assigned to the designated places within the application.

First you assign the basic required information to the form you’re building. This information is presented to the user when entering this part of the application. A form has title, lead description, phone, e-mail, status, and categories, and you can assign it by any of those criteria in the system. When this information is filled out in its entirety, you click the “create form” button which adds the newly-created form to the main list of forms.

To add or create fields within the new form simply click on the “edit” icon. The form fields are created to collect the information from the web page, in the same order in which the user selected the form fields.

For example, usually the first field assigned to the form is the person or company name. This is represented as a textbox field and can be selected from the drop down menu and then clicking the “Add Form Field” button. This action will reload the page and ask the user to describe the text placed as a question before the textbox when presented to the user on the page. In this case you can use a sentence or just one word. When the word or sentence has been finished, click the “Create Textbox Question” button to save and add it to the end of the form list.

Each field type has instructions on building and selecting different types of form elements. Once the form is completed the generated code can be cut and pasted into the HTML document. Once the form is located inside an HTML document, the order can then be changed by an experienced HTML designer or programmer.

Oh sure, the form will work right out of the generate code page, but for further customization the code may be changed, the vendor can help you with that part.

Once leads or contacts enter the system using the online form generated through the MYforms area, the leads are then saved in at the bottom of the each contact page as an original version. Customized versions of forms can actually drop the data into specific fields based on the requirements of the client.

Advanced searches include the date range search mentioned above, but also allows users to search by additional parameters such as the status of the contact, keywords that match the contacts data, the assignment to a specific employee, multiple subcategory assignments, and even the number of contacts per page. Basically it’s just ways to find a contact quickly. You can click on the link “check all” or “un-check all” and automatically check every contact on the page and select actions from drop-down lists.

This is helpful for re-assigning leads to an employee, converting all the contacts over to clients, or simply re-assigning the leads to a specific status.

If properly set up, this can show returns on investment using Pay Per Click engines and link advertisements. The tracking file is provided in the MYdocuments section of the application. When placed in the top level of each directory of the site, the tracking script will track the users coming into the site and will save the keyword and search engine data used. The data is then stored and related back to the incoming contact as a stats report.

Forms can be set up on the system using the MYforms section. This allows users to build forms for website(s) to collect leads. The tracking script is used for external websites, not the internal use of the CRM application.

Shared documents are displayed to the every user on the system and cannot be deleted once shared. All users can view documents at the same time. Downloaded documents cannot be changed and updated on the system without uploading a new version. All documents must be downloaded onto the local computer system and then re-uploaded to the server in order to make changes.

All documents can be stored in a secure directory to allow each document uploaded to the system to be separate from other users. All documents uploaded to the account can be deleted from the directory using the delete link.

Contacts that have an e-mail address within the system can be sent a custom HTML template e-mail by clicking on the e-mail icon located in the E-mail column of the MYcontacts listings page. Users can provide a custom built HTML header and HTML footer to within the e-mail. Attached files can be sent to help in the sales process. The e-mails are then logged to show the current e-mail list that has been sent out.

That’s the basic plumbing of how these things work. This is Bridgedexchange’s particular version, but the idea’s not too different across vendors.

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