Technology has the ability to bamboozle and empower businesses in equal measure – it all comes down to education and execution.
One business leader tells us about his productivity hack, using a CRM system to power decision making.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can transform business operations, regardless size or sector, according to entrepreneur Larry Gould, founder and chief executive of language services firm thebigword Group.
The case for CRM
A CRM system is designed to help operators stay on top of data and insights generated by interactions with customers. It’s a central repository that allows best practice to be shared, and customer relationships to be carefully managed.
“I can’t tell you how important CRM has been to my business,” explained Gould, whose Leeds-based firm processes one billion words per month in 500 languages and dialects and one million minutes of telephone interpreting per month in 235 languages. “It’s a magic box, which holds everything you need to run your business well,” he added.
“Think about what goes into making a single sale. The sales person could make several calls, the marketing department might send out brochures, there may be email campaigns, PowerPoint presentations in meetings – a whole range of efforts. Without CRM, you have no way of keeping track of it all. You spend all that money trying to get to the sale but the insights would then be lost.”
CRM to collect, store and share
Founded in 1980, thebigword Group now boasts customers all over the world, providing services to organisations including the NHS and IBM. It would be impossible for Gould to stay on top of all the customer interactions using traditional spreadsheet. “Our marketing team is made up of just seven people,” he said. “We would need five times that number without the CRM.”
CRM tools are available off-the-shelf and more than 40 options exist in the market right now. Each business can tailor the software to individual needs, specifying what kind of data should be tracked and analysed.
“You can see a dramatic spike in revenue when you start using CRM insights to improve performance,” Gould explained. “Using the CRM, for example, we can track each sales person’s activity, and understand what goes into each sale. We also get a clear indication of the return on investment on each lead.”
Data meets regulation
From 25 May 2018, new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be in force in the UK. The rules affect the way businesses can legally use customer data.
“Many businesses across the UK are currently grappling with GDPR compliance,” explained Gould. “At thebigword, we have thousands of people saved in our internal systems. We now need to ask each and every individual if they are happy to be kept on the system. If they don’t answer, we are obliged to take them off. If we don’t comply, it’s up a fine of up to £20m.
“How on earth do you monitor all that without a CRM system? We are able to use the CRM to check who has opted in and who hasn’t, to ensure we’re fully compliant.”
Creating insights for other business functions
At thebigword Group, CRM helps different departments of the business leverage one another’s insights. For example, when customers browse the company website, their IP address is tracked across the site – which allows Gould’s sales team to better understand what features or services they may be interested in.
“We can see whether they are interested in buying our interpreting services, or need help building a website for their export business,” he said. “This information goes into the CRM, which allows the marketing department to create bespoke emails for each customer, giving them more information about a specific service. A salesperson can then follow up, using the same intelligence to ensure the call is totally relevant to the customer.”
Gould attributed a recent client acquisition directly to CRM data. “We sent out a mailshot and one of the recipients clicked through and began browsing our website,” he explained. “We were able to see, from the IP address, that this major retailer was looking for translation services. We followed up with the company and now generate £400,000 a month from that single client.”
CRM also gives Gould the ability to make accurate forecasts about everything from sales to customer churn. “By looking at the data we hold, I can understand the pipeline of opportunity.
“I can see when a client is spending less with us, and work out why. I can see which areas of the website are getting the most traffic, and make sure I invest more heavily in those areas of the business.”
The company currently has a network of around 15,000 freelance linguists. Last year, Polish was the most sought-out language at thebigword Group. This year, it is Arabic. By tracking the CRM data, the company’s dedicated linguist recruitment team could actively move resource into finding more Arabic speakers to meet demand.
Enabling customers to complete orders and transactions online
Gould’s business has embraced productivity hacks and many different technologies in recent years, using automation and online tools to improve customer experience and make the company more efficient.
“Online webinars are used for demonstrations of our technology,” he revealed. “They are brilliant and very cheap. We use them to walk new clients through the implementation of our services, but we also hold general webinars, where prospective clients can find out more about what we do.”
Skype is used to keep costs low, while connecting customers to interpreters. The business has also built its own telecoms software, which instantly matches the client to the right linguist. Gould explained: “If a hospital needs an interpreter for a patient, it will connect to our system, specify what it requires and the system automatically looks for a qualified translator. If they need the translator instantly, that linguist will be patched straight through to the hospital there and then.”
This online technology is not only efficient, it helps both thebigword Group and its clients to maintain full transparency. “We track exactly how many minutes are spent on the line, which means bills are completely accurate.”
The firm also uses a patented translation management system, which allows clients to send files through an online portal and select the languages they need translations in. “It matches the right linguists to the project, and then the translation is delivered to client,” he said. “This system automates most of the words, so we can offer a speedier service. We have 420 people here. We would need at least ten times that if we didn’t automate.”
Gould’s numerous technology investments have helped the business not only boost turnover, but provide valuable insights for the sales, marketing and customer service teams. His is a business build on digital tools – one not afraid to pursue a better, more productive, way of doing things.