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How CRM can help your small business


Let’s face it: If you’re running a small business you know it can be a great big pond out there, with big fish in it. How do you get customers to notice you, believe in you, and stay loyal to you once you sell to them?

Small businesses differentiate themselves from bigger competitors by virtue of their care and feeding of the customer. Customer focus—outstanding customer service—sets you apart.

This is where the customer relationship management (CRM) offerings from Microsoft Office Live come into play. With features designed specifically for the small business you can be more responsive and attentive to your customers and other business contacts, and thus efficiently manage your relationship with them.

Customer relationship management is not a new idea; there are many CRM products and services out there. But Microsoft Office Live specifically targets small businesses. With Microsoft Office Live, you can shorten sales cycles and make your customers more loyal to you by automating the daily work that goes into keeping your customers happy. The Microsoft Office Live CRM features help you lend a strong personal touch to your dealings with customers—a key differentiating point for small businesses.


3 tools to help manage customer relationships

Microsoft Office Live has three critical tools: Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager; a customer workspace; and a sales application. The first two are included with both Microsoft Office Live Essentials and Microsoft Office Live Premium; the sales application is available only with Microsoft Office Live Premium.


With these CRM tools you can:

  • Gain access through a browser to your key customer information.
  • Configure Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager to send event–driven e–mail alerts.
  • Standardize internal and external documents—say, for example, when you want a documents library for product or service information and marketing collateral.

Through the Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager "dashboard" interface, you can see—and update at a glance—everything about your business and its customers (sales opportunities, contacts, accounts, etc…), and gain easy access to your company’s documents and shared workspaces. The Dashboard gives your employees direct access to tools that help them be more efficient and attentive to your customers. Details from contact information to account-level information (who in your company is assigned the customer, revenue information, payment status, etc…) is available at the click of a tab. This information is arranged in key functional areas that keep you apprised of everything related to a given customer, and related opportunities and obligations. The tabs feature allows you to customize your view according to your business needs. When you click to a different tab, you click to a different view. Through the "Create View" option, you can customize your page to display your data in the ways most useful to you.


Track all of your customer interactions

Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager also allows you, via its “Opportunities” tab, to help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks when it comes to cultivating a customer relationship. In Opportunities, you can track all your customer interactions, from initial contact through to a closed sale. You can track such things as revenue potential, probability of closing, expected close date, and more, and can build in reminders (a customer’s birthday, for example) that help you better care for your customer. Opportunities allows you to track relationships more thoroughly which can help your sales forecasts be much more reliable.

Workspaces can also be used to promote better customer relations. These password-protected Web sites allow you and your employees to work together and share information about projects, customers, or other important company matters. Posting important information in a shared workspace is infinitely more efficient and convenient than attaching documents to email and sending them around. Businesses can “meet” with clients in workspaces as well: An architect, for example, can create a workspace for sharing project documents (blueprints, schedules, estimates, etc…) with his or her clients.

Microsoft Office Live includes four workspaces: Customer, for sharing information with people outside your company; Team, for workgroups within your company; Basic Meeting; and Wiki, a brainstorming and collaborating space. And there is no end to the additional Workspaces you can create for yourself.

Finally there's the Sales application, which is one element of a robust set of online business applications available to Microsoft Office Live Premium subscribers. The Sales application provides an online location for storing information about business competition, customer support, and estimates. In terms of CRM, you can use the Sales application to record customer support details, track inquiry resolution, and associate articles with support requests. Users can store frequently asked questions and answers for quick reference when communicating with customers.

With three flavors of CRM to draw on, Microsoft Office Live helps give small businesses the competitive power of a company many times larger.