Improving customer relations through technology

Photo by Headway

Ascent Solutions Pte Ltd is a Singaporean industrial Internet of Things (IoT) track-and-trace solutions provider established in 2010. Today it has expanded to help businesses across the world attain accountability and traceability over valuable cargoes in the forms of assets, persons, and vehicles.

While traditional methods for managing sales data and its processes have worked in the past, the increasing volumes of products and customers soon led the team to the realisation that they needed a more automated and integrated way of working. This led them to work with Zoho, allowing for better Customer Service interactions in a greatly reduced response time.

SMEhorizon speaks with Daniel Chan, Director of Professional Services, Ascent Solutions on Ascent’s development of its customer relations capabilities. Gibu Mathew, VP & GM APAC at Zoho Corp also shares on the trends in the CRM space, and advice for other SMEs seeking to improve in this regard.

Delivering service that goes beyond excellence

As a system integrator, Ascent works with customers around the globe in a wide variety of fields, such as financial institutes, supply chain, logistics and construction. This diversity and scope added complexity to the already challenging scope of customer relations.

“Before deploying Zoho CRM, the majority of Ascent’s staff were still generating quotations on Excel spreadsheets, because it was the most flexible option available to us for drafting terms and conditions,” recalls Chan.

“However, this was very much a manual endeavour that entrenched silos. Information was curated and processed in a manner that hindered collaboration and there was no single source of truth which made it difficult to identify errors. This had significant repercussions for the business, as the system hindered the organisation’s ability to understand what drove lead conversions.”

“With such evident information gaps, pipeline tracking was almost non-existent. There was just no standardised way for project management members, field service engineers, sales, and business development teams to document and review data. Lacking the real-time access to data needed to engage potential and existing customers effectively, a lot of decision-making was based on gut feeling.”

Realising the limitations of their process, shares Chan, the company sought a central repository of all customer leads, contacts, accounts, deals, as well as product master data, and price books.

Employing technology to fill the gaps

The CRM software space is one that is constantly innovating. Mathew notes that developments in the CRM software space “are increasingly geared towards meeting consumer demand for hyper-personalised experiences.”

“There are also new opportunities to drive digital transformation in businesses further, on the back of the maturing digitalisation of sales, marketing, and customer-related processes. Newer technologies can empower analytics and business intelligence to leverage data effectively in these areas,” he adds.

“This allows them to extract and summarise customer records to turn them into actionable insights. This can then enable businesses to anticipate customer needs or find new opportunities and niches to tap into.”

Ascent has leveraged these capabilities to allow their sales and business development teams to operate in unison across two separate pipelines, without missing important visibility of their own version of the sales processes.

“For instance,” shares Chan, “standardisation has simplified the process of generating quotations, while enabling the company to personalise said quotations for each customer.”

“Meanwhile, the integration between Zoho CRM and Zoho SalesIQ – a live chat agent – has allowed Ascent to free up bandwidth and generate even more value from customer-facing activities. This has also enabled offline avenues for lead generation, and has empowered Ascent to set up a automation process that assesses and ranks leads.

“This has enabled Ascent to engage every web visitor and qualify them, while avoiding spam,” he adds. “By combining integration and automation, the team now has sufficient knowledge on the interest level of prospects, and that potential can be efficiently nurtured.”

This improvement in the quality of their customer relations processes has also come with an improvement in response time. “Where this used to take anywhere from three to 13 days,” shares Chan, “responses now occur as rapidly as half a day to three days tops.”

Bringing better capabilities to more companies

Zoho considers customer education important, organising events and maintaining a library to inform with users on the developments and potential in CRM.

“In addition,” says Mathew,  “there are a number of organisations working to raise awareness among local SMEs such as IMDA and Enterprise Singapore. Offering a variety of resources and training programs directly targeted at SMEs, these initiatives are a godsend for dispelling the notion that CRMs are solely for large corporations.”

Reflecting on Ascent’s journey towards better customer relations capabilities, Chan recognises that keeping pace with changing market demands amid digital transformation can be especially difficult for smaller businesses. Onboarding CRM solutions has removed bottlenecks in the customer management process and “positioned Ascent to free teams from tedious tasks and, instead, focus on higher value activities.”

Mathew agrees, recommending that after a business has achieved its first priority—getting its fundamentals right and mapping out sales and marketing processes—it should integrate tools by aligning the chosen CRM tools with established processes.

“It is critical to ensure that teams actively participate in the implementation of these tools, and to provide training and on-the-job learning opportunities as much as possible. After integration, naturally comes unification. SMEs must look to create a unified interface that optimises employee experience and delivers the right information at the right time, contextually to their work.”

“Finally,” says Mathew, “automation is proving itself to be a key differentiator between businesses that thrive and those that are stuck in a state of arrested development. Automating repetitive tasks boosts team efficiency, which reduces the burden of routine work and motivates staff by demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to investing in technology.”