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CRM - Why?

Submitted by Julian Stokes on 3 July, 2014 - 14:55

In this series of blogs I will be documenting Jewelion Web Design's experience and experiments with a Customer Relationship Management system.

I will be starting at the beginning and the dawning realisation that something had to be done. And then move on through the installation and gradual customisation of our chosen system. We will see what works well, what doesn't. I will be showing you the steps taken to adapt and modify the chosen CRM to get it to fit our requirements more exactly.

In the beginning...

My first client, my first job - that was great. One person, one website, a perfectly linear process. Second client - one person, one website. And if the first client needed something changing then it wasn't too hard to swap from one site to the other and keep track of what was done on what job.

Gradually work started to mount up. It's good to be busy. I managed my work with a paper diary. I tried computerised to-do lists and tasks as per Outlook or Google Calendar, but they never quite hit the mark. Always seemed to be an exception which you couldn't fit. Overall the paper diary continued to work best - except that it's not very searchable. OK, you can skim through the days and see what you did for client A, but pulling all of client A's work together, the emails, the jobs, the queries - this was something crying out for computerisation. And no, the irony was not lost on me, given my chosen field of activity!

First steps...

In 2010 I tried a program called OpenERP. ERP means Enterprise Resource Planning. This was a massive program designed to cover every aspect of business from customers, suppliers, accounts, the whole lot. I found it cuimbersome and spent more time trying to figure it out and failing to get it to play nicely. So after a couple of months, it was back to paper & pencil. OpenERP have since re-branded themselves "Odoo" and occasionally send me emails telling me that they have not forgotten.

Then I tried a little program called Hamster. This is great. It's basically a task timer. You just enter what you're doing and it keepsĀ  a record of how long you've been doing it. You can add notes to clarify the activity. You can use it later to show in all different sorts of ways, filtering the data, how you have spent your time: productively or unproductively. This program, for me, ticks a lot of the boxes. It's easy to use. It does what it does really well and simply. It has the capabilities of the paper diary with the benefits of searchability. Tracking time this way was a real eye opener, the impact of seeing what time was actually spent on and actual productive hours gave great pause for thought.

When you, as we do, perform multiple tasks for multiple clients, a simple linear tracker may work for billing / time accounting purposes, it does not help in the management of those tasks. or in the communication with the customer.

In the next blog in this series we will look at various CRMs and explain why we chose the one we did