Using “messy” Qualitative Data for Data-Driven decisions?

“Not knowing your customers can have tremendous consequences; understanding your customers means everything….  The difficulty in understanding customers arises not from a lack of information, because inside of voice conversations is a wealth of information, but rather from the ability to access and analyze it effectively…. It’s a big data problem.” (CRM Magazine, 3/7/2014)

 Your customers’ conversations, those between your sales reps and your customers, are essential to your decision making information mix for your managers, and your organization needs to ensure that you have an effective way to gather and process these data for immediate access. 

 This “big data problem” of the inability to “access and analyze ,,, voice conversation data,” which CRM Magazine, above, speaks of, need not be yours.   There are proven tools now available that can gather that messy spoken, qualitative information, convert it into digital form, and enter it into your databases.  This makes it available immediately to your managers, as data presented real-time on a performance dashboard for understanding, accountability, and action.  

 We are speaking here of accessing what is called “EXPLANATORY” information, that critical customer intelligence given through words, sentences, and paragraphs, which gives you the background and context that surround your numerical data stream.  It gives you the perceptions, struggles, aspirations, plans, decisions and choices, and feelings of the customer that are so critical to understanding the customer relationship.

 Having available this “messy” and hard to handle spoken information makes a HUGE difference,  as “firms that adopt data-driven decision making [quantitative plus qualitative] have output and productivity that is 5-6% higher than what would be expected given their other investments and information technology usage”  (MIT Sloan Center for Digital Business, Brynjolfsson, MIT Sloan, Hitt, UPenn; and Kim, MIT Sloan, April 2011).  “5-6% higher output and productivity.”  Just by focusing on being data driven as opposed to just gut driven and having the qualitative customer information converted to digital for computer processing and display.  That is a significant increase when companies focus on being data driven, and adding a strong stream of continuously flowing qualitative data to the decision making mix is a critical step in this data-driven objective.

One service that handles these qualitative or explanatory data powerfully is PMC Strategic Insights™ (, with over 20 years of practical experience behind it with major US corporations.  A CRM add-on service such as this, makes available to your managers via a real-time, as a compliment to your numerical or quantitative data stream, a continuous flow visual display dashboard of qualitative data to assist with understanding, analysis, decision making, and action.

Messy qualitative or explanatory customer information is an essential decision making component for your management team in a data-driven decision organization.

Let’s Quit Pretending that is a CRM system!

What is the damage being done to organizations who buy and implement Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool only to use it as an individual sales rep activity tracker and a personal contact manager? 

Aren’t those worthwhile uses of a CRM software product – WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Well, useful contact managers and activity tracking software are very inexpensive and simple to implement and use.  Why spend the money and implementation time putting in place a huge ‘blimp’ when a simple small water balloon would do just fine? 

But, the waste is not the initial costs and the difficulties of implementation and maintenance, the waste is in what is lost when we consider what these software services could really bring to an organization.

1.  We could be having the actual voice of the customer coming into the CRM databases as spoken information from the sales reps immediately after customer face-to-face or on the phone meetings.  Yes, there are simple tools that could enable such dictation from the sales reps.  They could dial a phone number immediately after leaving the customer offices, speak in the meeting information in detail (with context, background, perceptions, feelings, details, etc.) – all spoken and entered into the system.


But, the reality is, no one reads the data from sales reps in the CRM system because the system is being used just as a personal account manager and activity tracker.  Management sees no decision making value to the information, so they pay no attention to it.  So, if the sales reps are to care enough to enter critical data, then they must know that someone with some authority is going to read it and do something about it to benefit the customers.  If no one in management cares, then no quality customer feedback information from the sales reps is going to go into the CRM databases.

2.  We could have an analytic that shifts the spoken words to digital, computer processes it, and then displays it on a performance dashboard for real-time and continuous management monitoring.  Yes, there are simple tools that can take the digital information and visually display it on a dashboard.  Management, by assignment, could check the dashboard, note any key bits of information in his/her area, investigate it, get with the sales rep and the customer, and get the proper response taken.


But, what do we get?  Trivia.  We are angry enough to try to do something about this.  Go check us out PMC Strategic Insights at


This is a note placed at the bottom of a customer report entered into CRM by a sales rep who had just recorded the notes from a customer face-to-face meeting.  Sadly, after putting this note at the bottom of one week’s worth of daily reports, the sales rep had no one contact him.


It says there is a catastrophic flaw in the CRM environment when the customer, Sales Team, and Management Team are not interconnected through the data in the CRM system. 

A vibrant and vital CRM system should have these three essential forces:

1.  We should have a continuous and strong flow of accurate, current, and complete customer strategic information into the CRM database system.  Every sales rep should consider himself/herself to be part of a ORGANIZATION WIDE team that is focused entirely on moving critical customer information along.  After every sales call, the rep should enter his/her customer information into the CRM system, in detail, with context, background, perceptions, and feelings of the customer recorded in detail.  There is no user adoption issues because the sales rep understanding that he/she is entering information critical to revenue and ultimate business success.

2.  The CRM data need to be prepared such that it is available real-time and continuously on a performance dashboard in the hands of every manager.  The strategic customer information is processed and presented visually on the dashboard so managers are aware when any critical information in their area of responsibility comes in. 

3.  Then each manager, for his/her area of responsibility, needs to read the detail of the sales rep report and get with the sales rep and, perhaps, the customer to work out a plan of action they all can agree on.  Then the manager can give positive feedback to the sales rep for a job well done, and can arrange to communicate with the customer on the consequences of the actions taken.


There is a better way for CRM implementation.  Check out and the PMC Strategic Insights service.


It says the organization doesn’t have a clue as to what its CRM software should be doing.  Whether it is Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics or any one of a myriad of others, 80% to 90% of the organizations implementing the CRM system fail to get a system that meets their expectations.

They bought the CRM system to increase their ability to handle customer relationship management information for the good of both the customer and the organization.  This lofty aspiration for the software is noble and good and proper.  So, the organization buys a beautiful and expensive ‘automobile’, thinking of all of the good things that will come.



Sales reps aren’t stupid.  When they see that management is treating the CRM system like a mundane contact manager and activity tracker, when they see that all management wants is a number here or there, when they see that the most important conversations they have with the customers have no place in the CRM system, when they realize that managers do not read nor care about the data in the CRM databases –


Every time we have asked companies with CRM user adoption problems if they would fire their top revenue generator if that person would not use the CRM system, the answer is always (head down, feet shuffling, shoulders slumping, quiet mouse voice) “no!”  Clearly, the data in the CRM database is not valuable enough to require it. 


So, the Sales Manager devolves into using the CRM “Cadillac/Ferrari” system to haul the manure of activity numbers around.  No wonder there is a CRM user adoption problem.


I would only use it if I were considered a partner with management, so the information I gathered was information they wanted and would read and use.

To understand why we are angry about the current abuse/misuse of CRM systems potential, go to and do some looking and reading about PMC Strategic Insights.

CRM Quality Data – Why 80% of CRM Implementations Fail to Meet Expectations

The CEO’s worst nightmare is paying all of the money for a CRM implementation, using all of those resources to get it to work, and then to find the data in the CRM databases is bad and missing – the system is not generating the kinds of customer detail that management finds useful to building BUSINESS PURPOSE.  

And whose fault is it?

And is this failure of CRM systems to deliver what is expected a big deal? 

YES!  Look at the potential for this market.  “The latest (January 2014) enterprise software forecast from Gartner shows Customer Relationship Management (CRM) increasing to a $36.5B worldwide market by 2017, a significant increase from the $20.6B forecasted in Q1 of this year.  CRM also leads all enterprise software categories in projected growth, showing a 15.1% CAGR from 2012 to 2017, also revised up from 9.7% in the Q1 forecast” (

THIS IS A HUGE MARKET!  $36.5 billion by 2017!  Something about this kind of service is VERY appealing to almost all companies and organizations. 

How significant, then, is the disappointment when these systems fail to meet expectations.  “Nearly 80% of companies polled in a new Big Data study find CRM ineffective at helping find external company information.”  Gartner Group research, meanwhile, concludes that anywhere from 50% to 80% of CRM implementations fail in terms of not meeting expectations.

(Thomas Net News Tech Trends Journal – Why B2B CRM Systems Fail – 8/2013)


SalesForce, one of the biggest providers or CRM software services, ironically, points exactly at both the cause of the problem of the disconnect and at the solution when they say in one of their BEST PRACTICES notices titled ”6 steps toward top data quality”: 

Don’t let bad data undermine your Salesforce CRM project—or your success as a company.  Industry analysts point the finger at bad data as one of the top three reasons why CRM projects fail.  [SalesForce now traces an incredible chain of failures that come from this source] 

BAD DATA!  Exactly!  SalesForce shoots a rifle shot insight, exactly into the middle of the target, about why companies are experiencing such a high failure to meet expectations rate.  The consequences of bad data overwhelm all attempts to get CRM to work. 

So, let’s talk about Quality Data and how to bring it back or into the CRM implementation from the very beginning.  


The problem is that CRM implementations are “poisoned” from the beginning with three faulty assumptions.

1.  Faulty assumption:  Management and Sales are connected and work together as a team to use Quality Data. 

Reality – in most companies they are not connected and do not work together or share as a team, so no Quality Data moves between them and no action is taken based on Quality Data. 

The Sales Team and the Management Team have to come together as partners, with equal respect and dignity and compensation, to determine exactly which customer information is critical, how the sales reps will gather it, how management will respond to it, and how it will be used to strengthen customer relationships.  Sales has to know that they are appreciated as equal partners with management in this effort, so, when they go look and listen carefully to the customer speaking and report it, management will listen and be held accountable to do something in response and then report it to the customer.  Everyone has to know that the entire management and sales organizations are dedicated to moving Quality Data (accurate, current, and complete) from the customer to the sales rep to management and then back to sales and to the customer. 


This loop eliminates user adoption issues entirely, as now the Sales Team knows it has value and is an equal partner with management in the handling of critical customer information.  Both are committed totally to the BUSINESS PURPOSE of doing their share to make sure customer information is routed to those accountable, that action is taken, and that feedback on that action is given to Sales and to the customer.

2.  Faulty assumption: Sales reps, of course, as part of their job, will use the CRM system to enter Quality Data. 

Reality – sales reps do only the basic minimum demanded for what they consider administrative work that takes them away from making money, reporting activity, giving reports days after the customer meeting (if at all), and leaving out all of the contextual and background information that make the data meaningful.  Thus, the trash and junk information (BAD DATA) that clogs up the CRM databases and makes any search/query or analytics meaningless and debilitating to all involved.

With the typical CRM implementation, sales reps are to file their customer meeting reports because they are told to.  They have seen these “wonder solutions” implemented before, where nothing beneficial happened, so they are very cynical and wary.  Many Sales Managers use the CRM system like ‘Big Brother’ to track the activities of the sales reps.  And it does not take long for the sales rep to realize that no one cares, no one reads the reports, there is no feedback, no personal value to the activity.  They get nothing from doing a good job.  So, they just do the minimum required with just a number or check of a box.  Clearly, management does not care about the customer relationship information; management only cares that some activity is going on.  One person wrote at the bottom of a CRM system sales report, “If anyone reads this report, please call me or send an email.”  He did this over a two-month period, putting the message at the bottom of each report each day – and he got no response!  No one cares, so only a stupid person would continue doing it or trying very hard. 

Is anyone reading this report?  If so, please call me.  (and no one calls, for months)

The source of the most accurate, complete, and current customer information is the sales rep out on the cutting edge of the customer relationship.  It is the sales rep, brought in and made a valuable part of the management team for building customer relationships, that should be most listened to by management, most rewarded for valuable information not just revenue.  We often ask a Sales Manager, “If your highest revenue producing sales rep refused to report into the CRM system, would you fire her?”  What is more important to your organization, immediate cash or a long-term customer relationship?  Most of the time the answer is ‘no’ – the tail is wagging the dog.  And if the sales rep is refusing to report but claims to be developing solid and long-term customer relationships, then only a stupid Sales Manager would fail to ask, “long-term for whom, you or for the company?”  When that sales rep isn’t quite making it any more with the revenue and decides to leave the organization, what is left to document the promises made to the customer and ensure realization of the value of the information shared by the customer? 

Quality customer data, flowing continuously into the CRM databases from the sales team, is at the heart of any powerful and successful CRM implementation. 

Without it, there is no way to ensure the integrity of the CRM databases such that management can trust them enough to understand the current business position of the company, to do trustworthy analytics, to do good problem solving and decision making, take proper action, and deliver good feedback to the Sales Team and to the customers.  Everything, from beginning to end, gains significant value because Quality Data is flowing continuously into a shared system.

3.  Faulty assumption:  Lots of astounding applications attached to the CRM implementation, that tell management as much as possible about as many things as possible, is the way for management to make best use of the CRM system. 

Reality – bells and whistles coming from every software developer direction in the world are swamping and drowning the CRM BUSINESS PURPOSE.  The fact is that very few categories of customer information are essential for management to monitor to accomplish BUSINESS PURPOSES and meet customer relationship management expectations.

As the old Minit-Lube commercial said, “Some people want to change the world; we just want to change your oil.”  Sales reps must be trained to observe and listen to the customer regarding the status of products and services, the status of marketing value and pricing, the status of the competition and the competitive environment, and the status of opportunities both with the customer and in the marketplace “out there.”  Then they must feed that information into the CRM system immediately following each customer meeting in order to capture the contextual and background information sufficient to understand what is happening.  Very often, this feedback is far more valuable if spoken, given by voice rather than typed because of the natural limitations of keyboarding in the field and the natural limitations of trying to enter EXPLANATORY DATA, or the information that requires sentences and paragraphs and longer explanations (no thumbs, please!) 

A simple STATUS BOARD or PERFORMANCE DASHBOARD can pull these data out of the CRM databases and present visual presentations real-time and continuously for immediate management understanding, accountability, and proper action.  A sales rep might enter a variety of information in a report, but essential to the report is the sales rep’s report of products/services, marketing/pricing, competition, and opportunities.   


We invite you to look into CRM Quality Data™ as a one-of-a-kind CRM add-on service that brings these three solutions to your CRM implementation.  We especially welcome the interest of CRM Implementation Consultants and experts, as they might have a special interest in avoiding false assumptions and implementing tools that make their implementations successful in realizing asset value and ROI through strong customer relationships.

A Critical CRM Choice: Voice-Based CRM Data Entry or Speech Recognition or Speech-to-Text

When buying or implementing a CRM system, you have an all-important choice to make as far as your data entry system.

The ‘Holy Grail’ for CRM data entry is the ability to just talk to the computer, have it convert the audio into digital automatically, and then have it enter the data into the CRM program.  No sweat!  Just talk and the computer does the rest.  Speech-to-text and speech recognition technologies have improved significantly in the past few years, with many services providing workable results.  These advances seem to say that the software people have “figured it out” now and that speech recognition and speech-to-text have solved the CRM data entry issue.  Issue resolved!  The Holy Grail located!

BUT STOP!  That is only partially true.  Before going in that direction, CRM buyers need to think about a critical choice between two very different CRM data entry possibilities.

On the one hand,

FOR”CLOSED” DICTATION ENVIRONMENTS, where (1) the ambient environment is controlled so there are no distractions or interruptions, (2) where the vocabulary is limited and controlled so the speakers only use the service for well-defined tasks, (3) where the information dictated is very short (a number or two or a word or two), and (4) where the system is “trained” to the speaker’s voice – these ‘closed dictation’ environments are providing tremendous success for speech recognition and speech-to-text software solutions.  To say “Radio” while driving and have the computer/radio turn on is wonderful.  To say “Hotel” and have the computer system ask, “What hotel are you looking for?”, again, is a useful service.  To say “Send email” and then be promoted through the tasks to send a brief email of a few words has significant value to a busy person.

For words, numbers, and short notes or jots or tweets, the closed dictation environment is blossoming and growing, and, certainly, everyone applauds these developments.  The possibilities seem endless.

On the other hand,

FOR “OPEN” DICTATION ENVIRONMENTS, however, we find a different world entirely.  PROBABLY THIS IS YOUR WORLD!  This is a dictation environment (1) where there is no control over the ambient environment (with many disruptions and distractions), (2) where the vocabulary is open to anything the speaker wants to say and with the speaker changing or editing the dictation as he/she goes along, (3) where the information is paragraphs in length and often technical and complex, and (4) where there is no training of the system to the speaker’s voice.   No IVR, no imposed discipline or control, just an open dictation system where the speaker dictates exactly what he/she wants to say, how he/she wants to say it, for as long as it takes to work out the ideas and get them into the system.

Think about it!  The OPEN CRM DATA ENTRY ENVIRONMENT is an entirely different environment for longer, paragraph(s) length dictation that requires an entirely different tool for data entry.

So, you might ask, “How does a Voice-based CRM data entry system work in an “OPEN” environment?”

1.  A voice-based CRM data entry system is one where the caller dials a phone number, enters a secure PIN or ID number, is greeted by name by a pleasant recorded human voice, and then enters the open dictation space.  Because the dictation will be transcribed by a human transcriptionist, the caller knows a human intelligence is working with him/her, listening, adjusting, helping, and fulfilling at a high quality and professional level of 98% accuracy.  There may be some general categories the company has given where the person speaks “about” certain topics, but how the person goes about the dictation, the logic and the flow of the information, is entirely unique to the speaker.  The speaker can edit things, rearrange things, struggle to make something make sense, give instructions regarding formatting, and otherwise work out what it is that needs to be said.  He/she has an intelligent partner who is as interested as he/she is in getting things accurate and making things look professional.

2.  For a voice-based CRM data entry system to provide satisfying service, the human transcriptionist must be a native English language speaker, a U.S. citizen living in the United States with broad general experience in the speaking patterns of the culture, with extensive documentation experience and capable of assisting the speaker in constructing a clear and concise document.  Once transcribed, the document syncs automatically into the CRM system, such as Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce or other.  The caller receives an email immediately with a copy of the document for his/her reference, and simultaneously the data go into the CRM databases into the specified fields as determined by management.


Voice-based CRM data entry is simple and quick – a person walks out of the meeting, finds a quiet place with a good cell connection, dials the number, speaks in the data, hangs up, and gets on with customer service, selling, and making good money.  Simple and fast.  The reporting requirement is satisfied with excellence, the reporting job is off his/her back and out of mind, and management now has accurate, complete, and timely information flowing into the CRM databases or management understanding, decision making, and proper action..  A 5-minute phone call report is the equivalent of a 60 minute keyboarding exercise of trying to type it up on a computer (with all of the Internet and other distractions), which usually requires significant procrastination and setting aside time at night or on the weekends (or just not doing it).  With voice-based CRM data entry, we never hear a sales rep say, “I hate to write!” when the subject of sales reporting is mentioned.  “It just takes a moment and I’m done.”  User adoption is a non-issue, bad and missing information in the CRM system are non-issues.  Management and sales rep frustration at poor communication among their functions are a non-issues.

In an OPEN ENVIRONMENT, where paragraph-length information is sought, voice-based CRM data entry is an essential companion to any serious CRM implementation in any organization.

A Simple CRM Solution that Really Works – A little New, a little Retro

There is the old Minit Lube company’s slogan, “Some people want to change the world; we just want to change your oil.” 

I was reminded of this slogan when I read a piece in the recent ComputerWorld by Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service titled, “Internet of Things Is a Work in Progress (December 2, 2013, 2,, wherein he summaries the thoughts of a panel at the recent Open Mobile Summit:

“The next generation of mobile connected devices may make life easier for consumers in the long run, but today they present a bundle of headaches.  Beyond convenience and the cool factor, it’s still often a chore to live with these devices, and it doesn’t get easier as they proliferate.  ‘We’re about to hit the ceiling of what people are willing to baby-sit.  How many devices do you want to try to keep alive and awake throughout the day’ (Mark Rolston, chief creative officer at Frog Design)   ‘In all, there are too many challenges for users.  If you look at what’s there today, it’s just horribly, terribly broken for the end user’ (Rick Osterlob, senior vp Google’s Motorola Mobility subsidiary).”

“Internet of [All] Things” Is, again, mankind’s eternal desire to change the world, to find the holy grail, and to discover the one great answer to the world’s meaning. The Open Mobile Summit panel report ends with, “The whole precise of mobile interfaces is wrong, according to Osterlob and others.  They said devices should be asking users what they want and learning from prior events rather than always forcing users to ask.”

What a novel idea – ask the users what they want and learning from prior events!

When organizations want the most out of their implementation of SalesForce or other CRM systems, they need to consider the value of a combination of some things new and some things old.

Some things NEW (many of the digital tools are new)

CRM systems are new, SalesForce is new, the Internet and web sites are new, pulling data out of databases for display onto Executive Dashboards is new, smart phones, iPads, tablets, all of these communication devices are new. 

Some things OLD (many of the human tools are old)

The human voice is old, the telephone is old, people talking to each other is old, human transcription of speech into text is old, coding information and putting it into databases is old, doing search/query on those data is old, taking action on good information is old.

So, let’s say we have a consulting service that does the following – would that be helpful to end users today?

1.  Management and Sales get together as partners to decide the kinds of customer information that would be most helpful in correct understanding, productive analytics, good decision making, and proper action such that the organization is successful over the long term (  What if we could make sure that a link or channel is made between management and sales is secure, where accurate, correct, and relevant information is flowing strongly up and down that channel?  That would be good.

2.  Management and Sales focus in on just four specific kinds of information that seem to be indicators of all that is going on in the customer environment:  Products/Services, Marketing/Pricing, Competition, and Opportunity ( .  What if the sales reps are instructed in how to see and hear these kinds of information at customer locations and in customer meetings, and what if they feel it a partnership responsibility to report that information back to management as quickly as possible at the close of a customer meeting?   What if we could make sure these specific kinds of information are aggregating, accumulating continually in the CRM databases?  That would be good.

3.  What if we could have an Executive Dashboard that displays REAL TIME the “red flags” attached to information from the sales reps about the customer experience, so management knows at any point, exactly with the source, customer issues that need to be addressed now ( ?  This would be especially critical with all sales reps directly connected to the organization’s most profitable customers.  The key, of course, to the viability of such a display would be the continuous influx of the right kinds of data from the sales team partners.  That would be good.

4.  What if sales reps really liked to report their customer meeting information, I mean, really liked to do it as an important and valued part of their jobs?  What if they felt the partnership with management so personally – and management responds quickly and just as personally – that they strive to make this reporting one of the most important parts of their sales work and sales success?  What if “CRM user adoption” issues, simply, did not exist, at all, with 100% of the sales reps participating willingly and professionally?  What if they could just use their phone to speak in the information and hang up, knowing that their information would be transcribed with 98% accuracy, formatted professionally, and synced automatically into their SalesForce databases?  Just speak it, hang up, and get keep on serving customers and generating revenue ( .  This would mean a maximum amount of data from all sales people flowing into the CRM database would be accurate, current, and relevant.  That would be good.

This consulting and implementation solution includes the very best that is new today with the very best that was proven in the past.  THAT IS GOOD!


Here’s a match made in Heaven – but a match that very few companies are making today.  Link management customer information needs with sales team customer meeting and reporting, and you create a powerful culture on which to build strong, successful customer relationships. 

The sales rep is out on the edge of the customer relationship, seeing and hearing customer information that is critical to be reported to management for understanding, analysis, decision making, and proper action.  The sales rep is the eyes and ears of the organization out there on the front line; therefore, creating a direct channel or link whereby management sits with sales to identify the information they most want to know and sales agrees to go looking for it and to report it back immediately following a meeting.  Thus, a strong flow of accurate, complete, and relevant information is moving up and down the management/sales channel – A PARTNERSHIP MADE IN HEAVEN! (see  

This is a WIN-WIN.  On one hand, management feels empowered through this flow of good information, they appreciate the sales team and its professionalism in identifying and seeking these kinds of information and reporting them back.  On the other hand, sales team feels empowered because of what they can provide, and they feel professional as management engages with them as a partner.

So, once that channel from management to sales and from sales to management is established and information about those data is flowing into a management dashboard, it is right to ask – WHAT INFORMATION IS IT THAT ORGANIZATIONS MIGHT BE SEEKING AND USING IN THE MANAGEMENT/SALES CHANNEL?

We think we would all agree that not all information is equally valuable.  First of all, we want to speak of the value of EXPLANATORY INFORMATION.  The numerical data on activity tells an important story, certainly.  However, the information we want most of all from the sales reps on the customer experience is EXPLANATORY DATA.  These are the data that require long sentences and paragraphing to document and explain.  These are the data of detail, context, and background so critical to making data meaningful and actionable. 


Here are four categories of information that we suggest are “sufficient” to tell management what is “going on out there.”  These few things are four areas of information that management can use to run the company and sales can use to manage selling.

With each, we have given below what we call ‘Question Chains’ that elicit the kinds of information on each of the four subject areas.

Products/Services – What products is the customer buying?  Why? What customer need is being satisfied with our product and does that need have a long life?   What other products could we sell to them?  Who is the buyer and what is the buying process?  What good things (negative things) do you hear at the customer location about our products?  Could we innovate and improve to make our products more useful to them?  Are they pleased with our shipping and delivery performance?  With our Customer Service people and response time?  Do you see them doing ‘work-arounds’ (in-house corrections) with our products to make them more useful?  Could we make those improvements?  Are they buying the same or like products from competitors?  Do they feel that our products and services are “Best in Class?”  Who is expressing an opinion?  What do you sense about their satisfaction with our products and services?  What is the ‘upsell’ potential?

Marketing/Pricing –  Does our marketing literature make a good “value proposition” case for the pricing of the products and services?  Does our marketing approach make a clear and strong case for our unique discriminators?   Does the customer feel our marketing information matches our product and service?  What marketing information does the customer have and where is it kept?  What marketing information do you see from competitor companies?  Are they able to turn away competitors because we offer a greater value even though the price might be slightly higher or are we at risk to any other sales person who enters their door?  Are we losing business because of price?  Are the companies we sell products and services to winning business with our pricing?  If we are losing because of price, how much is the differential?  What can we do about it?   Do we have difficulty winning because of freight, handling, distance, or other such costs?  How do our prices compare with our most aggressive competitors?  Are we winning or losing in our bidding against them and why?

Competition – As you walk through the plant or the offices and facilities, what competitor products do you see being used, in the inventory, on the shelves, out in the yard, or sitting on the desks?  In casual talk with the sales people, what do you hear about the competition?  Are there lessons to be learned from competitor innovations or approaches that customers like and that seem successful?  Where do competitors seem to be focusing their attention right now?  Do you hear the customer speak of things they see, read about, or think about as useful?  What associations do customer leaders belong to?  Are they leaders in those associations?  Do competitor leaders also belong to those organizations and attend the conferences and read the magazines?  Who advertises in the organization and industry leader magazines and how ‘expensive’ are the media buys of the competition?  Who are the competitor representatives visiting with the customer?  What do you hear about those persons and their approaches and success?  What are our discriminators that make us a more likely buy than our competition? 

Opportunities – When you are at the location and look around, what do you see as the most successful things going on?  What seems to be the customer’s core competency and what are they doing to maximize their revenue?  If you stand in the middle of the customer ‘hot interest stream,’ where do you see needs for our products and services?  What products and services can we provide that will maximize the customer’s business objectives?  Which people in the customer organization seem to be the visionaries, the thought leaders, the practical opportunists that are pushing/leading the customer organization forward?  Have these people written books, reports, publications in magazines that we can read?  Could our visionaries and thought leaders co-author papers and presentations for conferences on the synergy between our capabilities?  Which of our competitors seems to be doing the most to create and take advantage of opportunities with our customer organizations?

Of course, there are a thousand other questions that could be asked in each of the four categories.  Part of a great consulting implementation is to assist management and sales in scripting the key questions and helping the sales team “see and hear” the information as they hold customer meetings and to speak it or report it (see  The important fact, however, to notice is that in each of the four categories we drive to the heart of the customer relationship and customer experience.  If our sales reps can open their eyes and ears to see and hear these kinds of information, can get good at not only seeing and hearing but also understanding strategically, and then explain/report what they understand, in detail, to management, we have the makings of a channel of vital information that will bring success to the organization.

THE MANAGEMENT-SALES CONNECTION – the Vital Purpose of a Voice to CRM System

VOICE-BASED SYSTEM CRM data entry is a viable and cost-effective alternative to keyboarding data entry, software-based speech-to-text, or traditional secretary-based dictation/transcription. 

A voice-based system enables a person to (1) enter data via a telephone or hand-held device, (2) have those data transcribed by experienced and professional U.S. citizens/native English speakers located in the United States, and then (3)  have those data synced automatically into fields in, Microsoft Dynamics, Redtail or other CRM systems.

1.  Management/Sales Symmetry – of primary significance, a voice-based system is customizable to those CRM fields that management and sales agree are most important to the success of both the organization and the sales reps.  A call prompt card gives the fields, so the sales rep can watch and listen for information of critical importance to management.  Then, immediately after the sales meeting, the rep speaks the agreed-upon critical information into the voice-based system, and when finished just hangs up and gets on with the work of selling and working with customers and prospective customers. 

This symmetry is a critical CRM partnership between those in management who need accurate, current, and relevant information for understanding, analysis, decision making, and action and those in sales who are the partner, looking and listening for and then reporting those kinds of critical information (see  This disciplined transfer of correct information from the ground, from the field, from the interface with the customer makes all of the difference in how well the organization meets customer expectations.

2.  Access to Explanatory data – the Voice-Based System enables the sales rep to “speak his/her mind,” to give the detail, the context, and the background required to have the information make sense.  Much of this information requires longer sentences, full paragraphs, and important technical or logistical facts and assignments or commitments. 

Explanatory information is often called qualitative information rather than quantitative or numerical information.  Researchers estimate that over 80% of the critical information that develops during a sales meeting is qualitative and requires explanation to give it meaningful report.  Most CRM data collection systems are digital-based, requiring keyboard or voice entry of numbers or simple prompts.  However, easy this digital information is for computers to process, it accounts merely for 10% or less of the available and critical information in a sales call and report.

3.  Quick return – this is a true benefit of a Voice-Based System, that the observations, perceptions, and details of a sales call with a customer can be input into the system within minutes of the close of the meeting.  These critical data are not held hostage to all of the other tasks the sales rep has to do in a day or week.  When meeting data sits unreported for hours or days, the loss of relevancy, the loss of value in the data is significant.  Typically, sales reps are not motivated to report their sales meeting information other than just for activity tracking.  When they know that no one cares what they see, hear, and otherwise experience in a sales meeting but only want a number, they stop observing, stop caring about context and background, and just do the absolute bare minimum in reporting.

One sad reality in the management/sales relationship is made clear when we ask the question, “If your best sales rep, the one who makes you the most money, will not use your CRM system and will not report, will you fire him/her?”  Over and over, the answer is “No.”  THE TAIL IS WAGGING THE DOG!  What is that sales rep doing out there?  What if he/she gets angry and decides to leave the company – what happens to the critical customer history and current sales potential from accumulated and aggregated gross data?  Accurate, current, relevant information gathered and reported by partner sales people to management is, in the long term, far more important to the success of the organization than a LONE RANGER sales rep, however important he/she might seem in the short term.

4.  High Quality of input information and output text -  When sales reps know management will be reading their reports and that the information they are giving is meaningful, they will look more carefully at what is going on with the customer, and they will report with more meaning and intelligence applied.  The critical purpose of a CRM system with its databases is achieved when the data flowing into it are clear, complete, and purposeful.  These are the result of the sales rep thinking about what is being said and making the report complete, so others can understand.

Further, it is a well researched fact that sloppy appearing, difficult text, with unintelligent grammar and mechanics errors color the way a person reads the information.  Corrected constructed sentences, meaningful and clear paragraphing, and words spelled correctly and periods and commas and conjunctions used correctly – all make a difference in the way the eye perceives the message and the brain decodes it.  Long dense paragraphs filled with incomplete and misconstructed sentences, with key words misspelled and commas incorrectly used make the read think the information is not very important and the writer is not educated or doesn’t care.  Accuracy is of high value when sales rep messages move to senior management for reading and consideration.  An interesting study found that police officers who wrote well (messages clear and up front, clear paragraphing, accurate sentences and spelling and mechanics) were far more likely to get a conviction from their reports than those who presented sloppy material to the lawyers and the judges. 

A Voice-Based system that has at its heart a professional transcription team of native English language speakers, US Citizens living in America, and with the latest computer software resolves all of the presentation issues.  The material going into the CRM system databases is professional, correct, and easily readable.  After a while, such a professional presentation standard “lifts” the quality of thinking and communicating of everyone involved in the data reporting and reading system.

5.  Simple and natural input via phone so sales reps use it – THE USER ADOPTION PROBLEM!  How many studies tell us that a major obstacle to CRM implementation and continued use is user adoption – the sales people will not use it or use it superficially.  A company buys and installs an expensive CRM system only to find that it is worthless because the “good” information is not getting into it.  It is filling with numerical data from various sources, but it is not filling with accurate, complete, and relevant explanatory information regarding the customer, products and services, competitors, marketing and pricing, and opportunities (see 

A great advantage of a Voice-Based CRM data entry system is that it is natural and simple to use.  All that is required are the meeting notes, a quiet place, the prompt card, and a cell phone.  Sales reps love to talk on the phone, so dialing the number, putting in the ID/PIN number, and then speaking in the meeting data is natural and pleasant.  No prompts, no interruptions, no time limits, no space limitations.  Just speak it all in as it forms in your mind and comes out of your mouth.  That is exactly what is wanted.  We have very few sales reps who have had any formal dictation training, so a Voice-Based System must be simple and natural enough that anyone can use it without hesitation.

Research shows that a spoken message of about 3-5 minutes time would require about 20-25 minutes keyboarding or typing time of a, basically, unskilled typist.  It doesn’t take long to do the arithmetic to see that a Voice-Based System could have a very high ROI for a sales team over a week or month.  How much time is given back to a sales rep when he can speak it, hang up, and get right back to work, rather than set-up the computer, deal with all of the email messages, do some searching on a special website, and finally get to typing the report.  The hour has passed, the window for work has closed, the rep now just needs to forget the report and go have lunch.  “Oh, I’ll do it at home this weekend, when I have some free time.”  Total information/communication failure. 

So, if you have a CRM system, if you are looking at CRM software and solutions, we encourage you to do your due diligence on Voice-Based CRM data entry systems such as Voice2insight (see  A reputable company with years of experience with an international clientele, with plenty of solid testimonials and high Salesforce Affiliate ratings, should be your first stop in your search.

VOICE TO CRM: Five Benefits of Voice-based Data entry

First of all, before we talk about the unique benefits of voice-based CRM data entry, let’s set aside speech-to-text software and keyboarding as effective ways for professional and busy sales reps to enter explanatory information into the CRM databases.  Note that we are talking here only about EXPLANATORY data, which is dictation that is long enough to require full sentences and longer paragraphs to handle complex descriptions and significant technical detail. 

Explanatory data is the kind of complex information in engineering or construction sales reports, it is the kind found in longer financial planning notes from client meetings or conversations with prospective clients, it is the detailed information so important from manufacturer sales reps who are out in the marketplace presenting the manufacturers’ products.  This kind of information needs sentences and paragraphs to make the details of the meeting clear, to give data context, background, and meaning, to make the experiences and observations and commitments of the sales calls clear.

1.  Speech-to-text and keyboarding as options for entering data into a CRM system

1.1  So, first of all, what about speech-to-text software?  Sure, we all love “the idea” of SIRI and other speech-to-text software programs for our jots, tweets, notes, quick questions, and short emails.  Of course this software works enough, and it seems to be getting better at what it does!  Simple, fast, accurate enough.  Just speak in the prompt, and SIRI does the rest – the magic and wizardry of technical dreams.  Anything we can speak in on the new phone and pad technologies is fascinating and great even if it is accurate only 20% of the time (demanding that we edit and rewrite the other 80% to get it to make sense).

1.2  And second of all, what about keyboarding in the information?  Keyboarding explanatory information is an option, of course.  The issues are poor typing skills such that entering into the CRM database are misspellings, confusing grammar, awkward explanations where the mind tries to form coherent thought at the same time as trying to see it in perfect form in front of them on the screen.  Far too much time is spent writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting (we’re back to Freshman English in college) for mediocre product.  A message that would take 3 minutes to speak, with all of the complexity and detail, would take 15 minutes to keyboard.  An attendant negative issue with keyboarding is the instant a person is on the computer, the temptation is very great to go check the email or personal schedules and appointments, go do Google searches, go send a note home or to a friend, etc.  The mere fact that the person diverts attention from the task and starts “playing with” the technological devices and Internet programs means time is spent away from selling and serving customers that would not have been spent had the person spoken the information in the first place.  Keyboarding is waster of major time and sales focus.

2.  Voice-based CRM data entry

So, now, what about voice-based data entry – speaking it into the phone into a service like Voice2insight that processes the information and syncs it directly into the CRM system?  Speak it and keep selling. 

What are five benefits of using voice-based data entry for CRM information?

2.1  Ensures top-level management that accurate, current, and relevant information is flowing into the CRM databases for strong analytics.  Because the sales rep is speaking in his/her own voice and expressing the thoughts in his/her own way, as it makes sense to him/her, the information going into the system is meaningful and purposeful, will have the necessary context, and will be, therefore, more useful.  These data are a strong and trustworthy foundation for management understanding, analysis/analytics, decision making, and action.

2.2  Enables a natural, comfortable conversational mode for the human mind – Speaking the information into the system using the telephone is something sales reps do continuously throughout the day and night.  This is simple dictation (what a RETRO notion!) and something anyone can do minimum training.  Using notes taken during the sales meeting and a simple template, the sales rep is able to jump on the task immediately after a meeting, progress through the information in a logical manner, and, when finished, just hang up and get on with the work.  Sales reps love to talk, they love to make a story out of what happened, giving all of the background detail.  All of this coming easily with a voice-based data entry approach.  Further, because the rep knows that the voice service will process the text with 98% accuracy, he/she can complete the call and relax, knowing that no more time will be demanded for editing or rewriting what was said.

2.3  Avoids the “User Adoption” problems of typical CRM implementations.  It is a common maxim that “Sales Reps Hate to Write” because this task is perceived as just administrative downtime from selling and making money.  Unfortunately, in too many companies, the sales reports are merely activity tracking devices that give no meaningful explanatory information.  Thus, sales reps treat it like it means nothing (and, all too often, they are right!).  When explanatory information is expected by senior management, when they read the reports and comment back to the sales team, then the sales report becomes a way for a good sales rep to include management in his/her work and to get their help and support.  When the sales report is a “partnership transaction,” between the sales rep and the management team, and when everyone sees how valuable each sales report is, then no one will tolerate anyone not reporting or treating the reporting process as trivial.  User adoption issues disappear when the sales report becomes a partnership tool that increases everyone’s ability to serve the customer and generate revenue.

2.4  Helps sales reps selling and revenue flowing and not doing administrative chores.  Simple voice-based dictation has an interesting positive effect on time for customer attention and care.  When the rep WANTS to do the report, anticipates it when taking notes, and then jumps to get it done immediately upon leaving the meeting, then a sense of satisfaction in the work pushes the rep to throw energy and purpose into the rest of the meetings and work of the day.  Rather than the “yucky” feeling that “now I have to get my sales reports off my back, I hate it,” sort of negative and debilitating emotions, the rep is free of that task, knows it is done right for the partnership with management, and now is excited to get to the next customer-related work.  These feelings of success, of accomplishment, of high-level achievement, of management satisfaction with the data flowing in – these feelings have significant benefit to the attitude and motivation of the rep.  No feet dragging, time wasting, emotional avoiding.  Voice-based CRM data entry gets a significant job done easily, quickly, and well, leaving the rep energized and excited to get on with the next task.  These positive feelings in sales people cannot be overemphasized as a significant component in sales success in an organization.

2.5  Makes everyone aware of plans, commitments, expectations, and promises.  One of the horrors of interacting with others is that we forget something critical, something that means a lot to the other party, that the other party is counting on and trusting you for.  Failing to meet an obligation or promise is “death” in a sales environment with a customer.  This is why the sales rep cannot afford to keep such commitments just to himself, especially just in his mind. “Oh, I’ll remember to do that!” is to ask for disaster for a busy person.  Explanatory information in a sales report is a natural vehicle for itemizing and explaining commitments and obligations.  Often we need to know why the customer is asking for something, the context and background, before the promise or commitment makes sense.  When these obligations are explained in the sales report, everyone knows what is going on, why the obligation exists, and what everyone must do to satisfy it.  Having it explained also gives others a sense of timing and scheduling, such that they can ask about deadlines and timelines, helping to make sure the commitment is kept.

 Speech-to-text software has its place with jots, tweets, notes, and short emails, especially with very specific subjects and prompts.  We expect that such services will continue to improve for their purposes.  SIRI can always find us a restaurant or tell us where to call for dentists in a geographical area.  Keyboarding will always be a way for some people and some information to get sales reports processed.  However, the majority of sales people in companies that require explanatory information in sales reports will find voice-based CRM data entry (see exactly the right tool for this job.