For nearly all businesses, a website has become a necessary part of a well-rounded marketing and advertising campaign. Without a quality site to promote products and services, a business could be missing out on potential sales captured by competitors with a superior web presence. But a website’s potential is not limited to brochureware. By using web-based, portal applications such as those listed below, a website can help capture and keep customers, as well as decrease operating expenses. Below is a list of potential applications that can be used to improve customer satisfaction and/or a business’ efficiency and effectiveness:
- Customer management
- Sales lead tracking and quote generation
- Appointment scheduling
- Trouble ticket entry and tracking
- Inventory control
- Time and expense entry
- Knowledge management
- Project management
- Resource management
- Website content management
Many businesses have become experts at using Microsoft Excel and Access to manage their mission critical information and client interactions. And while this may work well for new businesses just starting out, the data quickly becomes difficult, if not impossible to manage. This is the stage when portal applications such as those listed above can be used to take a business to the next level. Some of the benefits realized by consolidating data into a web-based, portal application are:
- Centralized storage of all business information for customers, quotes, sales, inventory, etc.
- Access to mission critical information from work, home, client sites, PDA’s and cell phones.
- The ability to create quotes while at client locations.
- Access to valuable reports on sales trends, revenue, hours worked, etc.
- Improved communication and collaboration between employees on schedules, customer communications, sales, client troubles, business knowledge, etc.
- Reduction or elimination of paper processes.
- Streamlining of business processes and procedures to reduce cycle time and to improve customer experiences.
- The ability for clients to schedule appointments online.
- Reduction of employee training time
This list is not exhaustive, but it does provide a glimpse into the value web-based applications can add to a business. In today’s competitive environment, the ability to close a deal quickly before a competitor can provide a quote, or place doubt in your perspective customer’s mind, is critical. With a wireless portal interface and a laptop or PDA, the sales person can read client communication logs, generate quotes, check delivery times, etc., while sitting with the customer. If a sales person has to return to the office to create a quote, he or she is leaving the door open to the competition. By providing easy, remote access to all client related information, a portal application can help a sales person create a positive perception in the client’s mind. Reviewing the client communication logs and previous orders in the car prior to the appointment or while on the phone with the client, will build confidence by enabling the sales person to answer all questions without the need for follow-up meetings. No one likes to hear, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” A portal application can help to reduce or eliminate this statement from sales meetings. Until recently, these types of applications were limited to large companies with substantial IT budgets. However, with the introduction of Microsoft’s new .Net development technologies, even small businesses can afford to utilize these valuable tools. For a relatively small investment that will most likely pay for itself within months, web-based, portal applications can take a business to the next level by helping to attain and keep customers, by reducing operating expenses, and by opening windows into business information that never existed before.