The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is The Buddy Rich Big Band's Mercy Mercy, one of the more interesting jazz albums you've probably never heard. Why not? Because it came out in 1968. Let's face it; trying to sell big band music in 1968 was like trying to sell a three-day old newspaper. Obviously aware of this, Rich had the freedom on stage -- it's a live album -- to do just pretty much whatever the heck he felt like doing, including giving his take on such pieces outside of the traditional jazz repertoire as "Ode To Billie Joe." He kept things upbeat and bopping, threw in some electric guitar, and there's his incomparable drumming throughout to remind everyone that no matter what you thought of his musical genre he was still, in fact, the best drummer working in 1968:
Salesforce.com has announced the 28th generation release of its product, Salesforce Spring '09, described by company as "a cloud computing product for customer service and sales." Built on the Force.com platform, Salesforce CRM has "more than 50 new features," according to the Salesenforcers.
"This is the year of cloud computing for the CRM industry," declared Salesforce.com's CEO Marc Benioff. Rebecca Wettemann, Vice President of Research, Nucleus Research, said the cloud computing model gives customers "a low-cost, low-risk way to run their business without incurring significant upfront costs."
In the past year alone, Salesforce.com officials say, more than 200 new features have been delivered to Salesforce.com customers, including the over fifty new features in Salesforce CRM Spring '09. These new technologies are described as intended to increase the value of customers' CRM deployments, becoming a more widely-used tool for thousands of companies around the world. In fact, a recent customer satisfaction survey of more than 3,000 global Salesforce.com customers found a reported 52 percent increase in lead volume, 27 percent increase in win rates, and 30 percent increase in customer retention among those surveyed.
None of this is a new thing for Salesforce.com, they certainly aren't among the Johnny-Come-Lately crowd. Salesforce.com has long evangelized the benefits of cloud computing for the enterprise, and has racked up 6,500 clients for Salesforce CRM and the Service Cloud for their customer service operations.
Announced in mid-January of this year, the Service Cloud is the vendor's product for customer service. Built on the Force.com platform, the Service Cloud brings together cloud computing platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.com to capture every conversation and use the community experts in the cloud. "By capturing these conversations," Salesforce.com execs say in explaining the rationale for the service, "the Service Cloud helps companies deliver the expertise of the community to customers, agents and partners regardless of location or device."
Salesforce.com thinks they're on the cutting edge of another trend with Service Cloud, too, asserting that in the future, more than two-thirds of all service conversations will take place in the cloud. "Customers are already sharing knowledge and having meaningful support conversations in the cloud with their community of friends and experts. Salesforce.com and the Service Cloud will allow us to join the conversation with this expert community to improve the way we serve our customers," said Bill Hoban, CIO of Extra Space Storage.
Charging that "complex, multi-faceted Customer Relationship Management software has proved too unwieldy and costly for most Small to Medium Enterprises," CRM vendor SalesPush is offering its product free of charge. "Once registered," Mark Donkin, CEO of SalesPush says, "SalesPush customers are able to access the product and get started almost immediately at no cost."
The unavailability of CRM to SMEs is "worrying," Donkin says, "as without CRM software to aid customer retention, SME's are having to rely on the more costly alternative of continually generating new customers."
Donkin isn't the first to note this lack. A new breed of slimmed-down, low-cost CRM products is emerging to fill this gap in the market, and in fact has been for some time now. Designed to meet the business needs and IT structure of SME's, on-demand CRM software is generally well-placed to provide SMEs with at least basic CRM functionality.
Although automated CRM capabilities are commonplace among larger companies, only around ten percent of SME's have any kind of provision, according to recent research by Microsoft cited by Donkin. Instead, they are making do with basic databases held on Excel, Outlook or Act. "As the competition for customers becomes more and more fierce, SME's have been crying out for a CRM product designed with them in mind," Donkin says, explaining where he saw a market niche.
Donkin, in explaining the reasoning behind this free offer, said "we have made the application freely available because we want to create a large community of SalesPush users. This will benefit us and the users, as SalesPush becomes the standard CRM software for SME's."
So how is it going? The rate of take up "has exceeded our expectations," Donkin says, adding that our conception of SalesPush as a free to use, simple and effective CRM system has clearly struck a chord because it adds value immediately without the need for costly consultants and the paraphernalia that comes with more complex products."
Maximizer Software has debuted Maximizer CRM 10.5 Freedom for BlackBerry smartphones from Research In Motion at the GSMA Mobile World Congress.
The product is being billed by the Maximizerians as a tool to "position small to medium-sized businesses one step closer to a smartphone-only workforce." The latest mobile CRM offering is pitched as something to "free" executives and managers from laptops, and "reduce downtime in the field for sales and service professionals."
The product allows real-time wireless access to business intelligence data through mobile dashboards, letting users monitor sales performance and services activities from their mobile devices. Additionally, the new release provides IT administrators with the ability to wirelessly deploy mobile CRM to business users, Maximizer officials say, "offering simple one-click installation." It's also available for the BlackBerry Storm, a clickable touch-screen smartphone. Other new features exclusive to BlackBerry include one-click e-mail integration between BlackBerry e-mail and Maximizer Mobile CRM enabling users to take quick action on e-mail in the CRM system.
William Anderson, executive vice president of technology at Maximizer Software, said the product lets users "decrease maintenance and total cost of ownership with a mobile CRM workforce."
"Small to medium-sized businesses often seek competitive advantage through mobile technology and this segment represents an excellent opportunity for mobile CRM deployments," said Jeff McDowell, Vice President, Global Alliances at Research In Motion.
The Econsultancy and Speed-Trap CRM 2.0 Report has been launched, claiming "new insight into the reality of multi-channel strategies." Speed-Trap, which sells customer insight software, says that while 16 percent of organizations today are able to combine online and offline marketing activity, "the vast majority of organizations are now actively looking to capture and integrate the information required into an effective cross-channel marketing integration strategy."
The research was undertaken by Econsultancy during November and December 2008. The firm asked over 500 companies and agencies to what extent they had implemented a CRM 2.0 strategy. They found that while 83 percent of organizations either "definitely" or "somewhat" put their customers at the heart of their decision-making, 64 percent would like to link online and offline data to "optimize the user experience."
Fully 72 percent would like to link real time and historical data, and the same number want to carry out real-time personalization based on behavior.
The Econsultancy and Speed-Trap CRM 2.0 report concludes that the online market is maturing; that organizations "are no longer treating the Web as a separate channel but an integral component of overall strategy, and want to fulfill a cross-channel marketing integration" strategy.
The report's authors say that while organizations have been content to deliver marketing strategies based on siloed channel data, growing numbers are looking to achieve more cross-channel marketing integration. Bear in mind that today only about twenty percent of all companies can link online and offline data at all, and you can see why this is a stated objective of almost two thirds of organizations studied in the report.
"Traditional Web analytics products over-promised and under-delivered, leaving too many organizations complacently accepting inadequate Web information," the report's sponsors say, adding that the Econsultancy research reveals that organizations "are keen to achieve the multi-channel vision and improve personalization, especially now that the technology required to do so is available."
Netezza Corporation, a vendor of data warehouse and analytic appliances, has announced its continued growth and momentum in the telecommunications industry, expanded and strengthened telecommunications partner ecosystem with other vendors.
The Netezzians say they're working with partners to implement applications for telecommunications operators, including Network Assurance & Optimization, where the company's communications firm clients can report on massive volumes of call and session detail records quickly, "allowing them to spot and solve quality problems as well as optimize network traffic within the data."
This ability to identify and track anomalies in real-time is intended to help reduce network costs and customer churn and enhance quality. The company's products are also intended to help process data, enabling a more granular customer segmentation for targeted marketing campaigns, improved customer retention and increased average revenue per user. Granular segmentation increases ARPU and is widely seen as one way to reduce marketing costs.
Firms can also use the Netezza product to analyze CDRs and other data to ensure that revenue and cost figures are accurately captured. Netezza verifies that suppliers are billing the operator correctly and that the operator is billing their customers correctly.
"A huge challenge facing telecommunications providers is being able to convert the explosion of customer usage data into actionable intelligence and business value in real-time. Those that master this process will be the dominant industry providers of the future," said John Gillespie, vice president and general manager, Global Telecommunications, Netezza.