ERP for Organic Food, Zimbra For CRM, European Contact Centers Stink

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David Sims
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ERP for Organic Food, Zimbra For CRM, European Contact Centers Stink

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is The Eels' Daisies Of The Galaxy:

Zimbra has announced the availability of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) 3.2 Beta, which introduces the Zimbra Assistant and keyboard navigation, as well as beta features such as customizable skins for the ZCS.

Further, the new beta features an expanded set of Zimlets -- customizable Web mash-ups -- such as the customizable flight tracker and RSS reader, as part of the standard download.

Zimbra Assistant is an optional feature that allows users to interact with ZCS by typing requests in language which is more user-friendly than in a traditional pop-up form. For example, by launching Zimbra Assistant and typing "appointment," followed by the details of the meeting, an appointment is automatically created. Zimbra Assistant works with calendar, e-mail and any Zimlet, such as the SMS Zimlet for sending text messages or the Zimlet for adding leads to a CRM system.

Zimbra Assistant provides users with feedback as they enter their requests; for instance, Zimbra Assistant displays potential conflicts when a date is entered for an appointment.
ZCS 3.2 Beta also supports full keyboard navigation. Users can navigate the ZCS using the arrow keys and other keyboard commands that are standard on many desktop applications but not often available in Web-based applications. 

Rebecca Gill, vice-president of Technology Group International, has suggested that "ERP vendors must support organic producers in food processing and manufacturing, as well as full distribution management throughout the entire supply chain."

Indeed the record keeping required to authenticate "organic" status is significant, costly, and comprehensive. Gill detailed some of the key features technology solutions must provide to ensure organic standards, such as record keeping for organic raw material purchases, country of origin tracking of purchases, organic supplier tracking, separate organic product storage to prevent product commingling (hate when that happens), hazardous chemical tracking and reporting to prevent contact with prohibited substances as well as ERP's specialty processes -- online processing procedures to ensure adhere to compliance standards and online record keeping and audit trails for fast compliance reporting.

Organic food must be at least 95 percent organic ingredients and list which ingredients are organic to use the USDA seal and must list the certifying agent. Made with organic ingredients means at least 70 percent organic ingredients are contained in the food product and it too must list which ingredients are organic, yet is not permitted to use the USDA seal; it also must list the certifying agent.

You can imagine the record-keeping involved. Hello, ERP.

Some organic ingredients indicate the finished food product is less than 70 percent organic ingredients and cannot use the word "organic" on the package but can list organic ingredients. The product cannot use USDA seal or certifying agent's seal.

And just to keep things topical here, Popeye, "it is a common misconception that organic food (such as oh, say, spinach?) could be at greater risk of E. coli contamination because of raw manure application," Gill says, adding acidly "although conventional farmers commonly apply tons of raw manure with no regulation."

Organic standards set strict guidelines on manure use in organic farming: either it must be first composted, or it must be applied at least 90 days before harvest, which allows ample time for microbial breakdown of pathogens, Gill says.

Founded in 1990 and headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Technology Group International delivers Tier 1 application software, specializing in software for small and mid-market manufacturing and distribution companies.

Aspect Software's first "Contact Center Satisfaction Index Europe" survey, conducted by the Leo J. Shapiro and Associates market research firm, has measured consumer satisfaction in phone and internet interactions in six countries, with consumers giving the contact center industry in Europe a grade of 67 percent.

The countries surveyed were the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. A variety of industries were represented.

Aspect found that Europeans tend to like e-mail better than North Americans for customer service transactions, and, oddly, "favor efficiency much more than North Americans." Evidently they base this conclusion on the fact that in Europe, 66 percent of customers prefer telephone contact and 33 percent of customers like to use e-mail to contact companies, while in North America, 79 of customers prefer using the telephone and only 18 percent use e-mail to contact a company.

Gee, maybe because when you get a person on the phone you tend to get the problem solved a lot quicker and they know exactly what you want, instead of shooting e-mails back and forth. Gee, maybe talking to someone on the phone is more, ah, efficient.

In a completely unshocking finding, more than 20 percent of customers in Europe and North America reported that their last contact center interaction fell short of expectations, yet a small minority of contact centers feel that they fall short of meeting customer expectations -- only two percent of contact center managers in Europe and only 10 percent of North American contact centers acknowledge these shortcomings.

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