Customer Service Failure by Canada’s Telco Giant Rogers During National Wireless Outage (and why I won’t be signing up for their Loyalty Credit Card)

Rogers Store Chatham Ontario

Rogers Communications will make a great case study of what not to do in a crisis, like the many hours long wireless outage that effected millions of people and businesses across Canada tonight. I can summarize the outcome of that study for you right now: ‘Do nothing, say nothing’ is not a good strategy for customer retention.  Rogers Wireless  reported Operating Profit Margin grew to 49.2% and an overall Revenue increase to the tune of $3.2 Billion in Q2 2013 reports. As a customer of their services, and an analyst who monitors their behaviours on-line closely, I recommend they pour some of those big profits in proper communications and customer service strategies for their approximately 9,400,000+ wireless subscribers to ensure their satisfaction with services before the pending Rogers Credit Loyalty Card Launch in 2014.

The company announced a loyalty program in early July in a bid to improve customer retention, noting at the time that it hoped to change the perception of how it treats existing customers compared to new subscribers, who are often aggressively wooed.

Points in the program, which is being rolled out in stages across the country throughout this year, can be redeemed for rewards such as roaming packages, Internet package upgrades and long distance for home phones.”

rogers outage heatmap oct 9 2013

Rogers does very little to inspire customer loyalty. In fact, they frequently create more frustration for their customers than not via social channels. The incongruity of this considering they are in the telco business never ceases to astound industry watchers like myself.  For example, tonight Rogers initially reported issues with voice and some SMS wireless outages effecting subscribers in only Ontario and Quebec around 7:00 pm ET.  The Rogers.com corporate web site also went down around that time.  Shortly afterwards the Toronto Police took to twitter to advise people to use a landline to call 911 in case of emergency, long before Rogers finally updated customers via twitter that the outage was in fact, effecting their own customers nationally. As well, customers on both Fido and Chatr networks were experiencing the same issues. Services like taxi companies reported that they would not be able to process credit and debit cards as payments for rides.  This was not a small issue effecting only a few customers, nor is it the first time that Rogers has all but ignored their customers during an outage.

Rogers update on wireless outage

toronto police advice during rogers outage

It might seem premature to write a post about Rogers Communications abysmal public response and lack of updates while this major wireless outage is still going on, the irony is just too rich for me. You do notice that they have ‘Communications’ as part of their trademarked brand? Rogers seems to think ‘communications’ is only something important when they can bill someone for it.  And its never been more evident than it is right now during the outage effecting customers throughout Canada.  Sadly, this is a consistent reflection of their day-to-day approach towards Customer Service on public channels. It is also entirely the same as their behaviour during another major Rogers outage in January 2013 that effected both cellular and Internet users.  Rogers hasn’t learned anything at all, or merely doesn’t care enough to alter their horrible customer relations. As BlogTO writer Chris Bateman noted during that outage, the customers anger was magnified by Rogers poor response.

Much of the rage stemmed from the lack of information from the company, possibly because it was having problems getting online itself. Messages on Twitter and Facebook explaining that customers should stop dialing its tech support lines were unlikely to have been seen by those endlessly rebooting their computers in search of a solution.”

It’s inexcusable for Canada’s largest telco to take the ‘do nothing’ approach during customer service interruptions.  Surely some of those $3.2 billion in profits could be spent on a PR Crisis Management plan? How about Customer Service training for the Community Managers?  It is a long running joke with fellow Canadian customers that their corporate twitter handle is @RogersHelps, but rarely does.  I’ve had a few responses from them myself a day or two after a few of my frequent complaints about their NextBox PVR in the wee hours when mine consistently freezes, requiring a full unplug and hard reset to fix.  But, I am pretty sure the only reason I’ve been one of those rare few to get any responses is due to the fact that I’m vocal on twitter about customer service, and not because they care about me as one of the millions of customers.  Although I outlined symptoms and issues very clearly, it was quite clear that the person behind the handle did not care enough to read carefully, and didn’t carry through with a solution, nor follow-up recommendation for further contact.  There was a very weak attempt to contact me, with a goal to shut me up, not get me help. When things like that happen with a corporate account like@RogersHelps, it simply provides more fodder for witty parody accounts like @RogersNoHelp.

  • How bad does your customer service have to been to warrant your own brand parody account?
  • And if there is a parody account about your customer service why isn’t there a concentrated effort by the organization to improve their service?

Although Rogers systemic communications failures are a much bigger issue that won’t be solved without a major cultural shift in thinking by leadership, Rogers could at very least take a baby step and start with putting better people behind their social accounts, or provide better training for the existing employees responsible for public updates and responses.  Or maybe they simply need to hire people for community management who know how to walk that fine line between being snarky and being savvy. Bell Mobility won much more than just a slew of new subscribers tonight because of this outage; their Community Managers also win the battle of customer loyalty on a daily basis.

Bell Mobility Community Managers during Rogers Outage

Even before the outage this evening the @Bell_Mobility social team showed a deft hand in highlighting differentials as competitors as Rogers was forced by consumer pressure earlier today to reverse their initial decision not to carry the Blackberry Z30. Then later during the outage, these wise CMs merely highlighted their own customer loyalty with a touch of humour.  This is the usual ‘corporate voice’ of Bell Mobility, and Rogers could and should learn much from their #1 competitor in this regard.  I’d have pity for the Rogers social team who will have to get up in the morning to catch up on the thousands of angry tweets sent their way, but I am doubtful that any attempt will be made to reach out effectively to the millions of effected users.  Even now as full service has been restored, this was the best they could do:

“Wireless voice and SMS services are fully restored. We continue to investigate the root cause. We apologize to our customers and thank them for their patience. We recommend customers power their devices off and on again should they continue to experience difficulties.”

Rogers has a lot of work ahead of them if they are truly committed to changing the perception about how they treat new customers versus existing clients.  They should start with a better apology for the millions of Canadians effected by the service outage tonight, and then work on hiring a top notch Communications firm. Whoever is creating plans and policies now certainly doesn’t understand the basic tenets of customer service.

Were you effected by the outage? What’s your perception of Rogers response?

(Update post publication:  Globe and Mail reporting that Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed issued an apology early Thursday, October 10, 2013  to customers effected by the outage. Prepaid customers are to receive a day’s credit in billing. 

“I recognize this service interruption was unacceptable for our customers,” Mr. Mohamed said. “We worked as quickly as possible to restore service and it was gradually restored over the course of the evening.”

Well, that’s a start Rogers. Now about the overall uncommunicative approach to communications during crisis…)

Why you should attend the Kitchener-Waterloo ‘Knowledge IS Power’ Social Media Summit

Companies have to get in synch with how social/mobile is shaping customer behaviors and expectations in order to provide them with experiences that keep them around longer. Whether you are a business that has been involved in social media efforts already, or just starting to explore the opportunity, the Social Media Summit Knowledge Is Power has something to offer for everyone.  Join the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre on Monday, February 25, 2013 to learn the basics and beyond from community experts. This full-day conference is being held at the Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener.

The summit theme is focused on helping SMBs evolve from using social media to becoming a social business. The session tracks are centered on a solid learning track for small and medium businesses, including subjects on strategies, engagement, tools, content, and how-to. Session topics include:

  • Social Business Strategy – create a framework of goals, policies, processes, practices, and measurement.
  • Social Analytics -  it takes more than saying “Like Us” or “Follow Us” to create meaningful relationships. Learn how to define and measure meaningful metrics.
  • Writing Content to Attract & Engage Your Audience -Discovering your genuine voice and knowing who your target market is crucial to developing your brand.
  • Effectively Using Video in Your Content Marketing - (Expert Panel)
  • Twitter for Community and Relationship Building - move beyond simply broadcasting information to use this platform to engage supporters and build relationships with them
  • Master the Fundamentals of Social Media - Effectively using social media requires understanding how it is different from traditional ways to reach your target audience.
  • Hands-on How-To – A day in the life of a Community Manager. Best practices, community and content management, and the tools the CM uses.

Also featured is a special luncheon keynote by PR expert and industry guiding force Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis and 76design: “Who’s the Boss Here?  Make Social Media Work for You!”

Speakers include:

  • Joseph Thornley  (@thornley): Keynote. Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. Senior Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research.
  • Kelly Craft (@krcraft): Director of Product and Business Development, Dash Digital Group
  • James Howe (@communic8nhowe): Director of Strategic Communications Initiatives, Communicate & Howe
  • Jackie Ranahan (@thinkmachone): CEO and Creative Director, Mach Oe Communications
  • Carla Bowes (@carlabowes) – Business Analyst, Dash Digital Group
  • Effective Video Panel: Von Darnell of Huckleberry Film Studios (@HuckFilms), Dwight Storring (@dwightstorring), Nelson Dunk, Skylight Productions, Duncan Finnigan, Multicultural Cinema Club,Peter Shannon, Memorytree

Thanks to event sponsors (Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Communicate & Howe, Social Media Breakfast Waterloo, and the Government of Ontario) we are able to make Social Media Summit affordable investment in your growth – but you must register online in advance to reserve your seat as seating is limited.

I’m excited to be a part of this awesome group of experts speaking in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region.  It’s an opportunity to network with a connected and influential panel, and share real social and digital business knowledge. Learn insights that only experienced practitioners deliver, and develop business relationships and practices that lead to more sales and community growth for your company. We’ll help you transition from using social media to being an evolved social business.

Hope to see you there!  (Event hashtags: #socbizWR, #smbwr, SMsummitWR)

Do you have any specific questions on social strategy or analytics? Post them in the comments or bring them along to the summit. I love a good game of ‘Stump the Chump”

MUST READ: Best answer EVER to the question, “What’s the best CRM?”

If you are interested in CRM and aren’t already reading the work of Brian Vellmure, you should be.  Brian scored a home-run with this post answering the question, “What’s the best CRM?” It’s a must read for customers, and a great perspective for vendors to adopt. Without question, this post is one of the best CRM posts I have  have read in ages.

It is accurate, realistic, and practical.  More significantly, the whole psychology & practice applies to any business app selection, not just CRM.  It should be kept at hand for customers to read, and read by the rest of us as vendors and consultants to keep our focus directed correctly.

The very best part of his approach is that it is also the way that we should approach and answer prospects any time we are asked, “What’s the best X?” for technology.

You’ve all heard the term ‘solution fit’, but let me introduce you to the term ‘Situational Leadership’, which is what Brain’s demonstrated in this post. When we’re asked to guide organizations in decision-making and selections, it isn’t about walking in the door to provide answers.  Situational Leadership means that you work to help customers figure out what are the right questions they should be asking themselves. “What are we really trying to accomplish with our customers? (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives?)

There is no single, ‘best’ answer to anything, and this is most especially true when we’re asked to weigh the merits of one product or another for a client’s needs.  Fit is indeed determined by need and goals. Brian’s more accurate refinement of the question leads to a critical shift in perspective for those looking for an answer.  It’s not about the answers – it really is about the questions you’re asking:

“How can we get a deeper understanding of our prospects and customers, create a well crafted vision of how to listen and respond better, and enable people throughout our entire organization to execute in the most efficient. effective, and profitable way?”

Adjust your question slightly and adjust your outcome significantly.

ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, OR JUST TOSSING OUT ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?

——————

Note: This year’s CRM Idol lucky winner will also receive four hours of of free consultantion by phone with Brian, too! 

SCRM Vendor Challenge: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It… Craft More Compelling Social Business Narratives

GOTCHA! HOW MANY OF YOU ARE NOW HUMMING THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE THEME? 

This challenge isn’t at all impossible, plus I PROMISE that it will be both an educational and valuable exercise for any of you who pick up the thrown gauntlet. As well, likelihood is extremely high that you will have new &/or improved narratives to use in your marketing, demos, and training videos.

First a small disclaimer to frame this up: As you know, I don’t participate in either the CRM Idol contest judging or reviews. (Although I do vote on finalists at the end of the competition.)  There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that as the CRM Idol Community Manager, it is very important that I keep my focus on each of you as people, rather than vendors of solutions. Which is not to say that I don’t discuss any CRM or Enterprise 2.0 vendors with the Judges in a professional context as industry colleagues – of course I do. But during CRM Idol season, with the panelists and judges I do my best to limit discussions about contestants to pointing out their feedback on experiences gained through participation, and highlighting examples of their contributions to the competition and the entire CRM community.

But during the off-season, you’re all fair game!

I can, will, and do, test and review offerings in my professional capacity. But my approach to assessment of products is much different from how the Judges approach and evaluate it, mostly because I’m deep in the trenches servicing CRM customers daily. Perspectives are different when you are the one selling, designing, implementing, and supporting social business, CRM, and Enterprise solutions. The CRM Idol judges offer you the 10,000′ vision and strategy perspective, while I am digging around with the wiring 5′ under the hood from the consultant’s vantage point.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that is both a coaching guide and your challenge:

It doesn’t matter what CRM or SCRM product I review, I use the same scenario as my testing framework for every single offering. His, yours & the other guy’s. And this is it:

Why do I use this ‘old school, traditional’ CRM process flow as a testing framework methodology?

  • Because I have used this same trade show scenario in hundreds of demos myself to tell an ‘end-to-end’ story about CRM.
  • It might not be a trade show, but ALL organizations have events of some sort or another. The events vary, but the end-to-end processes don’t change much.
  • That’s a screen shot from one of my demos. During the demo, I click into each and every one of those icons to show features & functionality while I am telling a use case story.
  • The flow above is pretty much the same for marketing campaigns, new product launches, promo code sales, etc.
  • (Some orgs may not create quotes, credit checks or order acknowledgements, but those are usually backend processes anyway, so they are there as placeholders for integration examples with ERP/Order Entry systems.)
  • This testing framework allows me to assess your product (and his, hers & theirs,) consistently on key deliverables & comparables:
  • Which of these same processes, functions, features and analytics can I do? Which ones are missing?
  • If any are missing, are they in planned development? Can I integrate with other products that fill in the gaps? If so, which ones?
  • How would I implement this in your product?
  • Can I configure &/or customize rules, logic, and flow?
  • Can I set data requirements or standards to collect/store what I need at each step of the process flow and the underlying processes, too?
  • How would I migrate data to your offering?  Is the data information architected well for integrations?
  • Can I get the reports and data I need to do a robust analysis of the whole flow and select processes/phases?
  • Do I like the user interface? Is it intuitive as I work through & navigate this flow?
  • How would I fit your innovations into this traditional example of a CRM flow.
  • Where are the logical spots to incorporate your social capabilities into my story & demo?
  • How could this process flow be improved and made more efficient using your Product/Service?

So there it is – your challenge, should you choose to accept it.  Step back and review your product with a proven use case story like the one above.

Most of you won’t put tickmarks beside all of these processes and features or you’d already be selling like the big platform players, (and for the record, in 15 years I’ve only worked with one product to date that did all of this easily, so don’t be discouraged – very few other vendors could check every box either). But… you can write your own new narrative about the things you can do innately, and via integrations, and craft kick-ass use case demos!

For those of you who are real keeners, I’ve created a slide deck for you with loads more coaching, strategy, and examples for telling more compelling CRM and social business stories.

It is up to you to decide if you’d like to share your discoveries & experience if you take on this challenge, but I’d be interested if you are willing.  It’d be fun to compare notes between contestant perspectives & learning, wouldn’t it? I know I’d love to see that trade show image totally reworked with a flow that demonstrates your own compelling use case.  Tell us a story.

I’ll leave you to it. Queue the Mission Impossible theme again… :-p

Practicing what we preach: Insights and Actions from smbWR Measurement presentation

Since the theme of this morning’s Social Media Breakfast Waterloo Region was all about social media metrics, measurement and actionable intelligence, it makes sense to use this event into a ‘proof of concept’ case study. Let’s explore what we heard as a group this morning, categorize the feedback as we align the metrics with goals, then plan actions from the results. As with all events and conversations, the learning doesn’t stop just because the event has ended. Neither does the conversation.

(Note: the slide deck from the original presentation can be found here: Social Media Metrics – Evil and Essential)

smbWR Influencer Network Diagram

smbWR Summary Infographic

Question 1: Why turn this into a story?

A1: Because the results indicate overwhelmingly that the #smbWR audience learns the most and responds most positively to narratives they can relate to.  We know this because:

  • Attendees made the effort to search out the Kraft Rainbow Oreo story
  • Then they shared this forward through tweets
  • ‘Oreo’ and ‘Kraft’ were one of the top 5 themes in tweets from the event
  • Which often included positive sentiment indicators, such as ‘especially loved this’
  • When asked if they’d prefer Q&A or a quick run through of Roger’s story and measurement/analysis, the audience voted to hear the story

ACTIONS:

  • Based on the feedback, it seemed like a good idea to write this story, because chances are the audience will relate to it and learn further from it.
  • Take a few risks of your own, and look at the results from multiple angles
Question 2: What other things did we learn today, aside from the goals of the presentation?

A2: We learned that Quarry Communications really understands Customer Experience, as does the smbWR team.  And both are committed to nurturing social business conversations and education. We know this because:

  • Quarry very graciously offered to host us all in their very cool facility.
  • Everything about the experience – from the creative design aesthetics, to the Bauer Kitchen  gift card donations, and the team’s efforts to ensure that we were comfortable is consistent with Quarry’s mission: Understanding and delivery of ‘Buyer Experience Value Chain’
  • Quarry staff were fully engaged – on-line and off – Before, During, and After the event. They know that the experience and conversation carries on. Our experience as ‘customers’ has been standardized across all channels.
  • #smbWR founder and CEO of Communicate & Howe, James Howe, peppers every related conversation, welcome message, and introduction with consistent themes: discuss, share, collaborate, challenge, question.
  • If the goal is to grow a collaborative community, James provides a good example of how to do it well by focusing on the ecosystem versus brand, personality or self promotion.
  • This event was organized and the topic chosen as a direct result response to feedback provided by attendees of last month’s smbWR ‘All Day Breakfast Unconference’. James listened to feedback, tied it to the goal to provide what audience wanted, then organized the presentation, and promoted it well. Listen –> Analyze –> Act
  • After the event, one of the smbWR team members shared that once booked, she’d been following my tweets for the past few weeks. Smart girl, she understands the value that is gained by doing a little advance research.

ACTIONS:

  • Explore both Quarry Integrated Communications and Communicate & Howe further. They really understand the concepts of customer experience across many channels -> and can help you strategize to meet your goals for your customers.
  • Be an active participant in the smbWR community: Connect with others you met at the event. Share your ideas, stories. Offer to speak. Act as a Host for a future event.
  • Keep the conversation going. Engage.
Question 3: What did attendees learn from today’s event?

A3:  Some attendees will now look at metrics and analysis as part of a larger measurement strategy, as opposed to isolated activities. We know this because:

  • One of the top themes that emerged in updates posted during the presentation was ‘framework’, followed closely by and often with,
    Listen, Analyze, Take Action‘. –> Rinse and repeat in infinite loops.
  • Another note that resonated was “looking at singular metrics in isolation isn’t nearly as useful as grouping and comparing metrics.”
  • Some metrics are static. New goals and formulas for ‘success’ measurement require regular reviews, creation and tweaks. The Roger’s lay-off/profit/competition/Q1/2012 current news provided and example of how to break up events into metrics and measurements that address goals, risks, and the customer experience.
  • smbWR audience also seemed to relate to the concept that basic training of staff should include instructing them on the overall brand vision/mission/voice of the organization.
ACTIONS:
  • Consider how to incorporate social media discoveries into new and existing business processes. (So we have a hot lead via twitter. Now what do we do with it?)
  • Explore moving beyond using social channels strictly for marketing –> towards holistic, comprehensive, consistent business values & and goals.
  • 4 cornerstones  that span all audiences (customers, prospects, leads, competitors, etc.) are: Customer Experience, Innovation, Efficiency, and Brand Health
Question 4: What can the presenter (me), learn from feedback and socially shared responses to the presentation?

A4:   There is much room for improvement on both presentation and content. I know this because (we listened, we analyzed, and we’ll act/tweak/create/refine based on feedback):

  • Many suggestions filtered and categorized from feedback, but my personal favourite is this one from @juanitametzger:

Breathe Kelly. Breathe!

 New question spawned –> Why is this update particularly valuable?

  • It made me laugh really hard. A genuine LOL generator.
  • This feedback has been provided by a respected colleague who can share similar experiences. Weighted with higher value because it is given by an experienced practitioner
  • This tweet shows the best method to weave constructive critiques in with positive accolades. ;-p
    • This feedback is particularly meaningful & instructive because it came from a colleague. Not a ‘fan’. (differentiate, categorize, weight, & segment feedback)
    • Juanita moves to the head of the class for demonstrating her acumen for understanding of the presentation goals, content in context, the audience experience, and presenter’s delivery.

Other Insights – Overall = Positive Sentiment, but drill down analysis shows this was also an EPIC Fail when aligned with the presenter’s (my) goals

  • I’ll admit that while the feedback and response has been mostly positive, it is clearly evident that this presenter failed abysmally in making a key point ‘sticky’ with the audience:
    • If there was a singular message I’d hoped the audience would take away and ponder, it was “ask your customers they want/need,” before crafting/launching SM (and any other) campaigns
      • My fav/key/critical message in this presentation elicited exactly zero/zippo/nada response or discussion.
        • I need to work a whole lot harder on telling a better story about the value of customer insights during research/planning
        • &/Or – I need to tweak the content to draw additional attention to this. Maybe with a better visual?
  • Based on the time and pace, this presentation might be better if it were split into two separate presentation
    • Measurement Framework
    • Measurement Tools
  • During the Q&A after the presentation three main themes of further interest surfaced
    • Collaboration (silo busting)
    • Narrative Storytelling
    • Customer Experience

ACTIONS:

  • Gather more feedback
  • Tweak content
  • Write this post > Listen > Analyze > Repeat
  • Share interest ideas above with smbWR for additional presentation suggestions & recommendations for speakers

I’m sure some are curious about the tools used to gather and assess the tweets from today. They are:

  • Tweetdeck: Which is the tool I use day-to-day for my personal engagement & management of my twitter stream. For this event I created a separate column for the hashtag #smbWR, then I filtered the tweets based on specific keywords (i.e. oreo, Quarry, framework, etc.)
  • NextPrinciples:  The cool graphics and deeper analysis was done with NextPrinciples, which I mentioned during today’s bit on tools. I’d shared my recommendation that NextPrinciples is a particularly useful tool for events – and used it to practice what I preached.  I’d like to thank the NP team for putting this together for me while I was returning from Quarry. Yes, it was that fast. ;-p

I know that I gleaned much more from today’s event than just the examples given above, and I’m hoping you did, too.  This is merely meant as an example of how you can listen, derive insights and plot actions in (almost) real time for your own organizations events.

Really enjoyed it, thanks for attending and sharing highlights, questions and your stories.  I’m happy to field any further questions you might have. 

CRM Idol: It’s a Pay-It-Forward Community. Join Now!

In a recent interview with CRM Idol 20111 semi-finalist Nimble, CEO Jon Ferrara called the contest, “a pay it forward community in which the entire SCRM ecosystem all win by nurturing the social business conversation.”  I couldn’t agree more, and I’m inviting all contestants, analysts, vendor seekers, and fans to join in on continuing the conversation this year on the CRM Idol 2012 community discussion boards. Bring your voice, share your thoughts and post your questions.

For those of you just learning about the contest, the idea for CRM Idol evolved from bad PR. Many influencers are approached frequently by companies trying to pitch their wares, but typically, the pitches are badly done and not in a way that encouraged in-depth reviews. Initially, there was talk of an Eminem/Rihanna style video along the lines of parody  ’Love the way you Lie‘ and the idea to have companies compete for face time. Charlie Isaacs quipped that it sounded a lot like American Idol, and CRM Idol evolved into the extraordinary competition and opportunity that it is today, thanks to the efforts of CRM Idol ringmaster Paul Greenberg, and the rest of the discerning judges.

This is a valuable contribution to the social business ecosystem with the joint wisdom of this élite crowd of leaders (all volunteers) like Brent LearyEsteban Kolsky, and Jesus Hoyos,  sharing the highlights and challenges of each emerging technology presented as an SCRM offering. This is going to be an adventure for contestants, but is also extremely beneficial to anyone interested in CRM and social software. To those of us close to the topic it can seem like we already know who is who on the playing field. But that couldn’t be further from reality. In the bigger picture there are still gaping holes in today’s social technologies and tons of room for new innovations to improve customer, partner, community, and employee performance. Let’s see what we learn this year.

For solution shoppers, (and this year’s contestants,) this is an opportunity to absorb wisdom and advice for any small business. You’ll learn much just by checking out the highlights from last season’s Highlights from the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard of Event’. This gold nugget is true for any business:

One of the key differentials between semi-finalists and the other entrants was storytelling ability. Esteban Kolsky stressed that participants should, “Know your story.” We all forget that our story is as important as our product. The companies that did really well told their story extremely well and had a product worth showing. 

Now it is your turn to weigh in: Tell us your stories. Share your CRM challenges. Ask questions. Discuss solutions. Further the social business education and conversation.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY.

Pay it forward.

The Cutest Little Sales Funnel Evah – Base CRM for Smartphones

Base (CRM) from Future Simple

SMBs are so eager to find simple cloud-based CRM and Sales offerings that they can use on handheld devices that they’ll grab the iPhone right out of your hand. That’s what happened at lunch today while dining with a fellow CRM geek. My colleague pointed to my phone and said, “Okay, show me what you’ve got.”  As I walked her through my latest mobile CRM find, the gent at the table next to us was obviously listening in keenly, then he jumped right in with hand extended to see the app for himself when he heard me say (partly in jest), “See?  It’s got the cutest little sales funnel!”

Developed by startup Future SimpleBase is an attractive cloud-based CRM and Sales Management tool for SMBs . With minimalist, uncluttered interfaces on both the web and smartphone apps, Base will appeal to smaller organizations and individuals looking for simplicity and convenience over feature depth. I think Future Simple has hit a good balance between functionality and ease of use. And it is FREE for unlimited contacts and users for up to 50 deals.

BASE ON THE WEB

Menus and work areas are well organized which allow users to efficiently move between tasks, reports, sales, and contacts.  The simple overview displays a pipeline, activity stream and task list, which is also useful for managers as a snapshot of progress and usage. Predefined reports include Incoming Leads, Total Sales, Lost Sales, Lead Sources, Sales Stage Distribution and the Sales Funnel. Each report is easily filtered by date, user and/or tags and offers a good balance of graphic and text-based information for review. Within Sales, users can quickly view, add, edit, and move opportunities through sales stages simply. Data input is simple and painless throughout the system; the ability to add both standard and custom fields on the fly to system records for users, contacts, and deals is particularly useful. There doesn’t seem to be any social channel integration related to the activity streams yet, social site links like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Skype that are stored on contact/organization cards will link directly to the site profile.

Several other key features of the Base web:

  • Admins can easily configure custom values for Lead Sources, Loss Reasons, Sales Stages, as well as custom fields
  • Data import options for contacts, organizations and deals include: .vcf, .csv., Salesforce, Highrise, Basecamp, and Gmail
  • Email Dropbox – When emailing contacts from mail apps outside of Base, users can paste a token into the BCC field and the email will automatically be attached to the contact record within Base.
  • Data Export – contacts, deals, and tasks can be exported to .csv
  • Create a Client Space to have deal conversations and share documents with clients
  • Embed a hosted web form on your site to harvest Leads
  • Integration with Facebook, DropBox and Harvest
  • API (REST) – didn’t test it, but clear guidance offered on Future Simple’s Developer pages
  • Security – Information is transmitted via SSL to Amazon EC2 servers

Overall, Base offers a simple CRM and Sales experience without a lot of fuss and muss – and –  you can take it with you on your handheld.

BASE ON THE SMARTPHONE

Future Simple offers both iPhone and Android apps. In testing the iPhone app, the data integration between the web and phone was seamless. As with the web interface, the mobile version delivers clean simplicity and the same base feature functions. Contacts, tasks, deals and deals are easily managed. The dashboard displays recent items and an activity stream for a quick overview. Work deals from the (cute little) Sales Funnel.

Base CRM iPhone Sales Funnel

One downfall is that contacts aren’t connected to contacts stored on your device, but this isn’t likely to be a deal-breaker for most users because they can import contacts from Gmail easily. Perhaps Future Simple will work on further contact sync and integration options in future versions. Some Android users report minor glitches with Asus Transformer, but the Android reviews are otherwise consistently positive.

PRICING

Base is FREE for unlimited users and contacts, but that is limited to a total of 50 deals.  Upgrade options include usual deal package bumps and a referral program deal offering (which I’m not a fan of, but some users will like.) See Future Simple for further details.

My Opinion: Base for the iPhone stands out as a pretty powerful and clean tool that might be more appealing to SMBs and individuals than some of the more complex CRM smartphone offerings.