A man in a suit is sitting at a nice restaurant, enjoying wine with another person.

With a cloud-based CRM, you can provide better service to retain long-term customers.

The secret to a successful business is pretty simple: have loyal, long-term customers. And if you aren’t using cloud-based CRM technology, it’s likely you are losing potential long-term customers. Harvard Business Review found that landing a new customer can be 5 to 25 times more expensive than keeping an existing one. It’s easy (and enticing) to focus on new customers, because it’s such a great feeling to land a new account. However, it’s essential to maintain strong relationships and provide excellent service to current customers to build their loyalty.

Technology makes it much less time-consuming to keep your customers happy. The secret is knowing what they want and then automating the process of giving it to them. Cloud-based CRM technology can be integrated into other communication tools your business uses (like your phone system), allowing you to predict and deliver targeted, holistic marketing strategies for clients and prospects alike.

Find Out What Your Customers Want

You probably think you know what your customers want as a whole, but the trick is finding out what each and every customer cares about. Before you start going through your customer database and frantically trying to figure out the puzzle, stop. Breathe. You already have your answer in your CRM software — how they shop, what they buy, when they shop, and which discounts or coupons they use.

By using a cloud-based CRM tool, you now have real-time information updated automatically from all sources, such as salespeople, your customer portal, customer care associates, and in-store employees. Your team can use CRM technology to log notes directly into the system during the interaction as well. And, your employees can access it from any device and location. By integrating with your phone system, you can also reduce the time it takes to contact your customers by using click-to-dial and automating call logging.

Give Your Customers What They Want

Getting the information is the easy part, but taking it to the next level is where you turn casual customers into lifelong fans. Because you’ll have each customer’s data easily accessible, you can take what you know and create customized, delightful experiences.

For instance, say a customer at your spa always gets a 60-minute massage once a month on Friday and will occasionally treat herself to a pedicure. You also know she always books her appointments using a mobile app and has never once logged onto your website. Instead of giving her a discount on a facial or a service she has never shown interest in, you give her a discount for a combination pedicure and massage for next month through a mobile app notification. Even better, if you notice she misses a month, you can use that information to flag an associate to give her a call to check on her and offer to set up an appointment.

And when she calls to cancel last minute? You know it’s her calling, because your phone system recognizes her number, as it’s integrated with your CRM. You know her appointment is today at 2, and you’re happy to let her know that her preferred manicurist is free next week at her regular time.

It’s easy to think that technology makes customer relationships less personal, but if you use the tech-generated information to meet and exceed the expectations your customers don’t even realize they have, the result is a personal relationship between the customer and your company.

Visit Vonage Business to learn more about the difference you’ll see with cloud technology.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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Two men and a woman in a conference room, viewing laptops.

If you don’t understand the business language of the cloud, here is a cheat sheet.

Tech jargon is a slippery slope. Use too much, and you confuse — or worse, bore — your audience. Use too little, and you can’t have an effective conversation about the digital workplace.

The cloud still confuses many people, even those who use cloud services every day. Still, if you ask the average person to define it, you can practically see the cartoon question marks hovering above their heads. Throw in a few related terms and acronyms — such as SaaS, IaaS, SLA, and VoIP — and eyes start to glaze over.

However, these terms are important parts of today’s business language. For teams to effectively and strategically use cloud technology, they must be able to communicate about it. This means everyone in the organization needs at least a basic understanding of cloud-oriented business language — including the decision-makers who adopt cloud-based solutions, the leaders who deploy and integrate them into workflows, and the end users who rely on them to work from anywhere.

As more small and midsize businesses undergo a cloud migration for the first time, which terms do their teams need to know to professionally and confidently discuss their new tech tools?

What Is the Cloud?

We talk about “the cloud” as if it’s a place or thing, which leads to such questions as “Where is the cloud? What is the cloud? Is it over us right now?” Really, the cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. In simplest terms, it means storing and accessing data and software via the internet, rather than your hard drive or a local server.

Cloud Migration

No, it’s not a storm rolling in, nor is the internet heading south for the winter. Cloud migration simply means transitioning some or all of a company’s data, applications, processes, or services from onsite servers to the internet for on-demand usage.

Cloud Storage

You know that scary-looking room with all the interconnected computers only the IT team is allowed to enter? That’s a local server. And with the cloud, it’s unnecessary. Instead, business data gets saved on remote servers that can be accessed via any internet-connected device.

There are three types of cloud storage:

  1. Public: A third-party server where users share resources and pay per use
  2. Private: A remote but privately owned server that is implemented within the corporate firewall and controlled by the IT department
  3. Hybrid: A combination of public and private cloud storage, where highly sensitive data is kept on a private cloud and the rest resides on a public cloud

IaaS and SaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) refers to self-service, pay-per-use storage space, networking equipment, and services.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) refers to third-party business applications that are accessible via the internet. This includes bookkeeping software, project management programs, word processors, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and any other business programs that teams use to share and utilize information.

API

An application programming interface (API) is a set of computer codes that help different software — or different components of the same software — play nice together. For instance, if you wanted to link customer information from your CRM platform and your accounting program, an API could help them “talk” to each other and share data.

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refers to a phone connection that takes place via the internet, rather than a landline or cell tower. Cloud-based VoIP service is becoming particularly popular among businesses with remote workers or call centers, as it enables employees to use the business phone system from anywhere.

SLA

The term “service-level agreement” (SLA) is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a contract that spells out the level of service a vendor agrees to provide, including the quality and accessibility customers can expect. This important document also explains the vendor’s privacy protocols, which can be a critical consideration, especially for businesses that handle sensitive data.

There you have it. The cloud really isn’t all that complicated — it just requires learning a new business language. Share this cheat sheet with your team to help them join the conversation.

To learn more about VoIP and other cloud business services, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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A woman using a laptop computer, talking on a mobile phone.

Unified communications and collaboration tools let customers and employees connect and save time.

Remember the days when getting in touch with a specific colleague or vendor could be the hardest part of completing a task? If so, you’ve probably been working long enough to remember the world before unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools. Now that you have such effective communication tools at your disposal, you must undoubtedly understand, in full detail, how “human latency” is much more than a buzzword.

Of course, people are still the lifeblood of any organization, a fact that will hold true until the last job’s been automated and handed over to the machines. Provided the solution is tailored to the organization’s specific needs, UC&C tools can vastly improve the processes these people carry out by streamlining and automating tasks generally considered to be labor- and time-intensive. Do it right, and working with colleagues, partners, vendors, and customers get a lot easier, even as it becomes faster to carry out. To that end, the following are just a few ways UC&C tools can revolutionize business processes, broken down by relationship:

Internal Communications

As noted by B2B software company Tibco, the insurance industry provides an excellent case study for the benefits of an intelligently applied UC&C solution. It’s a heady line of work that requires labor and expertise from numerous individual skill sets. In addition, even easy customer interactions can require expertise that comes from multiple people in multiple roles, given the complex suite of products and services insurance organizations provide.

If anything, this complexity makes UC&C’s benefits to the industry easy to pinpoint. When an insurance organization unifies its communications — particularly with presence tools, which allow employees to quickly find specific colleagues and discern their availability — it cuts human latency from core processes. This makes underwriting, claims, customer service, and mostly every other aspect of the business more productive and efficient.

For example, say a contact center rep needs to get in touch with an underwriter and then speak to a specific claims specialist working on a customer’s case. By building UC&C capabilities into the systems these professionals use, the insurance company turns basic communication into a unified process. Seeing that a rep is available from the underwriting system, the customer service rep can place a quick Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call to a general line, then send an urgent-flagged message to the currently unavailable claims expert. The message automatically pings the claims rep’s phone, tablet, laptop, and PC, he responds, and voila! The issue is on its way to resolution, with no need to chase down an employee who could be in the field, at home, or in the office.

Vendor and Business Partner Communications

In some ways, the need for UC&C tools with vendors and business partners rests between internal and customer-focused communications. Though the partnering organizations don’t operate under the same proverbial roof, companies today work closely enough with their partners that near-constant communication can be downright imperative.

As an increasingly common backbone for UC&C tools, cloud technology can help bridge this gap. Indeed, the cloud’s natural strengths (think portability and ease of access) are perfectly aligned with the average business’ communication needs.

Here, collaboration naturally takes the spotlight. If a business is reaching out to a partner, after all, it’s likely to carry out some shared task. Involving the cloud in the collaborative process allows for a consistent workspace across businesses and individual end-user platforms. Compared to the human latency that comes with, say, sharing a document back and forth across email — a process that also invites all sorts of human and technical error to befall the work — being able to invite a specific employee within a partnering organization to view and revise a document from any device or location is a truly attractive alternative.

Customer Communications

If constant collaboration’s the name of the game with businesses and their partners, constant communication is the key to a healthy relationship with clientele. Customer expectations have turned the modern call center into the contact center, and businesses would be well-advised to study the difference between the two.

Turning back to the insurance example, CustomerThink’s take on skill-based presence illustrates the ways UC&C can remove human latency from complex interactions. The contact center rep searching for that elusive claims expert can directly connect a concerned patron to the person he or she needs to talk to. They can just as easily make scheduling callbacks a concrete affair with UC tools, taking the experience from “we’ll call you back soon” to “[insert rep’s name] will call you back at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday.” Used in conjunction with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, the rep can take things even further by instantly emailing (or texting) a confirmation of the meeting date to the email address on file.

Instead of the customer and organization wasting time, unified communications and collaboration tools create a continuum of contact between an organization’s clientele, initial points of contact, and the employees they’ll eventually need to talk to. The same idea applies anywhere human latency can break the intricate dependencies between communication and productivity, making communication a top priority for modernization in almost any business setting.

Let Vonage Business remove human latency from your critical processes with its suite of unified communications and collaboration tools.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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