Capsule – the acceptable and useful face of CRM

capsulecrm‘CRM’ or customer relationship management is one of those IT phrases that can put the fear of God into people, and with good reason.

There aren’t many people who have managed to avoid the organisational carnage that attempts to deploy CRM can cause. Careers have been left in ruins, consultants missing in action, businesses killed along the way.

But it really doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, using a small scale, lightweight CRM have been incredibly helpful in getting all manner of projects done.

My favourite is CapsuleCRM. It enables you to very simply keep contact records and assign various bits of information to them. It also helps you keep a database of the emails you send them, and helps you to organise your workload by attaching tasks to people.

You can also create cases, where tasks, people, notes and files can all be held together in one place. These can be used as a case management system relating to an organisation or person you are working with, or can even be used as a rudimentary but effective internal project management tool.

Finally, there is a free app that you can use on your smartphone so your contacts, notes and tasks are never far away.

Of course this is a CRM so there are some sales pipeline features in there as well. They may not be of use to you. But that’s ok – either don’t use them at all, or think up some other way that those features might be helpful to you.

With pretty much any project where you need to keep a track of people and your interactions with them, having a lightweight database like CapsuleCRM around can be super helpful. CapsuleCRM has a free tier, so you don’t even need to pay for it, or it’s just £8 per month per user if you want to unlock extra storage and so on.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Could a customer service centre be a source of social media content?

Just a quick thought: could local authority customer service centres be sources of content for their social media channels?

Most customer service departments in councils these days have CRMs of varying sophistication and they must be able to report on what the issues are that most people are calling about at any one time.

Perhaps this could be a great source of stuff to create content about on social media channels, whether Facebook pages or perhaps on Twitter, with links to web pages with more information.

After all, it’s by definition content that people would want, and might be a good way of channel shifting people away from the phone, if they are getting that information from elsewhere.

Anyone doing this already?

Bookmarks for April 30th through May 14th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • Should the Public Sector pay for Content Management Systems? « Carl’s Notepad – [with open source] "You will still need to consider the integration aspects but open source products are far more likely to integrate (openness is key) then the big supplier products (no motivation to integrate)."
  • Office 2010: the SharePoint factor – "The simple conclusion then is that to make sense of Office 2010 you need SharePoint 2010. The snag is that SharePoint is not something to roll out casually. Although it has a huge number of interesting features, it is also complex and easy to break. "
  • No Overall Control – a Future State of ICT – "To really address the gap between people in ICT and people who work in the Business (people outside of ICT) you actually need to start moving the competencies that IT Professionals have into the Business."
  • The Fate of the Semantic Web – "While many survey participants noted that current and emerging technologies are being leveraged toward positive web evolution in regard to linking data, there was no consensus on the technical mechanisms and human actions that might lead to the next wave of improvements – nor how extensive the changes might be."
  • tecosystems » I Love WordPress But… – "the reasons we self-host our WordPress instances are being eliminated at an accelerating rate"
  • Meatball Wiki – "Meatball is a community of active practitioners striving to teach each other how to organize people using online tools."
  • Amazon Pursues The Feds and the Potential Billions in Cloud Computing Services – ReadWriteCloud – "Amazon is quietly pursuing the multi-billion dollar federal cloud computing market, intensifying an already fast accelerating sales and marketing effort by Google, Microsoft and a host of others."
  • What’s Wrong With CSS – "Most of all, what I've learned from this exercise in site theming is that CSS is kind of painful. I fully support CSS as a (mostly) functional user interface Model-View-Controller. But even if you have extreme HTML hygiene and Austrian levels of discipline, CSS has some serious limitations in practice."
  • WordPress-to-lead for Salesforce CRM – "People can enter a contact form on your site, and the lead goes straight into Salesforce CRM: no more copy pasting lead info, no more missing leads: each and every one of them is in Salesforce.com for you to follow up."
  • A Collection of 50+ Enterprise 2.0 Case Studies and Examples – Nice resource. Some great examples in here.
  • Headshift Projects: Projects by Sector – Nice collection of social software case studies.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Social CRM

An interesting development is the way social (in other words, anything ‘2.0’) technology is influencing traditional corporate IT. Despite not having an IT background myself, I find this stuff fascinating.

CRM (Customer relationship management) systems are no different, and an awful lot of talking, writing and developing is going on around the idea of ‘social CRM’.

The Altimeter Group have published a report including several case studies about social CRM, which is rather a good, thought-provoking read. Jeremiah Owyang, in his blog post announcing the report, says:

We know that customers are using these social technologies to share their voices, and companies are having a very difficult time to keep up.

I think the same could probably be said of citizens and governments.

From the report’s exeutive summary:

Social CRM does not replace existing CRM efforts – instead it adds more value. In fact, Social CRM augments social networking to serve as a new channel within existing end-to-end CRM processes and investments. Social CRM enhances the relationship aspect of CRM and builds on improving the relationships with more meaningful interactions. As the ‘Godfather of CRM’, Paul Greenberg notes, “We’ve moved from the transaction to the interaction with customers, though we haven’t eliminated the transaction – or the data associated with it… Social CRM focuses on engaging the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s (i.e. Social CRM is) the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

The report is embedded below. If you can’t see it for whatever reason, you can download it here: Social CRM report from Altimeter.

Zoho’s CRM

Zoho CRM

I have been looking for a cheap, quick to implement and eay to use CRM (customer relationship management) system to use while a long term solution is identified. This led me to have a play with Zoho’s offering, which is a real gem. Not only is it pretty fully featured, but there is also the ability to customise fields, and add your own. This is invaluable as the service is pretty heavily sales-focused.

Add to this that the system is free for the first 3 users, and only $12 (about £6) a month for any additional users, it’s a real bargain.

Another option within this space is 37 Signals’ Highrise, which isn’t as fully featured as the Zoho effort.

There are downsides of course – I’m not sure, for example, what the data protection issues are for holding large amounts of other people’s personal data online are, especially for a public body. But in terms of features, ease of use, customisability and price, this is a real winner.