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Improving your business operations with a CRM

Stanford Web Services serves a diverse set of clients throughout Stanford University, ranging as large as schools to as small as individual labs. With over 200 active or completed website projects, and an average of 18 new project inquiries per month, we needed to implement a Customer Relationship Management system to track all of our operational data and communications.

Which CRM?

Last year we evaluated 7 different CRMs, including: Insightly, SalesForce, Zoho, Sugar CRM, HubSpot, RedHen, and Podio. After analyzing each of the options through an evaluation matrix based on our needs, we settled on Podio for our team. It has now been over 7 months since we’ve migrated all of our data from disparate systems into Podio, and the reception has been very positive across all roles in the team. We were able to consolidate various types of information from Basecamp, Google Docs/Sheets, Excel files, email, mailing lists, and even information that only existed in our staff’s memory.

Importing and Setting Up Your Data

One of the critical requirements for adding a CRM to our operations was its ease of data import and export. Podio, at its core, can be thought of as a UI on top of a relational database, so we found it extremely flexible and customizable for our needs. It’s quick and simple to import and export data in Excel format. We set up several “apps” for each of our types of data: an “app” is similar to that of a Content Type in Drupal, though simplified. We have apps for our leads, organizations, projects (completed and in progress), website launches calendar, help tickets, products (we have several product offerings, including the Jumpstart product line), potential deals (new inquiries), website theme information, vendor contacts, and more.

Connectivity and API

Using Podio’s “Email API”, we were able to easily integrate a number of other systems to feed data into Podio. Although Podio has built-in support for webforms, we use Qualtrics to create web forms with question display logic and email triggers to customize the data that gets fed into Podio (such as for help tickets or new project inquiries). We’ve also used ZenDesk’s triggers to pass help ticket information from one of our partners to Podio.

By having all of our operational data in one system, we were able to improve our operations across the board, from the intake level all the way through to the support level. We can take a look at an organization’s listing and easily see all of our active and completed projects with them, their related help tickets, a list of new project inquiries from them, as well as the potential value of those new projects.

The inbox is not where you store communications

Another one of the primary goals for implementing a CRM was to record communications more visibly and permanently as opposed to in an individual’s email or via a mailing list. Within each of these items in Podio, such as a single project, or a single help ticket, Podio allows users to add comments and attachments via an “activity stream”. This feature essentially improves coordination and communication within the team: such as if someone needs to take over a deal consultation from another team member and wants to read all the past communications with that client. To do this, our team member would simply CC or BCC the “Email To Item” email address provided by Podio for that specific item. This process also ensures information retention for the team. Changes to fields within an item are also tracked in the activity stream, allowing us to see who made the change and when.

A single point of reference

Podio serves as first point of reference for information: from there, we can link out to a project’s relevant Harvest listing, JIRA project, Basecamp listing (if applicable), as well as links to a project’s development and production site URLs. Since implementing it with our operations, it has saved countless hours of searching and coordination, as well as improved communications and information awareness within our team.

Have you looked into CRMs for your team, or do you use one already? How has your experience been? What are your favorite features from your CRM?