election email fax innovation vouchers ipad social crm

And they’re off – but it hardly matters who wins

The election was called today by Gordon Brown here in the UK. So finally the government has come to the end of their term. I think the date of the election, every four years, should be fixed. There would be none of this politicking going on. I’ve noted that one of the fringe radical parties is falling apart at the seams. Interesting. Nervermind technology goes on. And in terms of IT policy and technology and work permits, it hardly matters whom you vote for. Things will be the same.

Another studendous announcement this weekend was the release of the iPad which apparently sold over 300,000 units over the weekend. Its a fantastic device but where will it fit in the overall scheme of things. Will it be for reading, playing, browsing or working. Or will it excell at all these things.

I’ve been putting in my applications for innovation vouchers. This great little program by the NWDA allows companies that qualify to get research by university professors and students in the area they want. There are some caveats of course – nothing is perfect! I have to pay VAT on the award amount and I can only have one live voucher at a time and only ever have two vouchers awarded. I suppose that’s fair as it shouldn’t become a cash cow for only a select few companies.

The internet what a powerful being it is. My wife as able within two days, find and book a holiday. I was then able to look for reviews on that holiday from other people who’ve taken it. It appears alright. Now that’s social CRM in action for you. Its not just about having public forums and a Twitter account. There are other forums which users can display their love, or hate, of your product. Any company that wants to build a good reputation for themselves needs to monitor all the relevent sites and get immediate feedback. I was checking out the reviews of our fax provider. I’m not sure who to believe as it appears they all have problems. We’ve had terrible problems with ours. And customer service and notification were poor. You would think that if their service goes down that you’d get an e-mail and it would be on their website as well. Rubbish.

Well all in all looks to be a hard week, if not month coming up.

asterisk CRM freepbx iax sip sip trunks social crm voip

What is Social CRM and why do beans taste so damn good

I recently read an article in one of the rags I get on a weekly basis – or is that monthly. No matter, it was an interesting article on the business merits and real necessity of employing social media as part of a new strategy to engage with customers.

This overall area is known as SocialCRM. Its not a single package, its a strategy. A company would employ their website, forums, Twitter, Facebook and other websites in engaging with customers and the general public. For example my broadband ISP allows customers to open service tickets in different ways. A customer can do this by phone, e-mail, ticketing on their site iself or by posting to their forums. Almost immediately one of the ISP service reps. will pick up the conversation and assist the user.

Such interaction is open to the public and is searchable. When I shop I now not only look for a product that fits my needs and budget I also search the web for reviews of the product. I then base my decision on what I find. A company can either win my business with great reviews and feedback and great customer service, or lose it by doing neither of these.

So the challenge then becomes keeping track of all of this information. How does staff do all this. Are they sitting inside their CRM with RSS feeds of hot topics flowing in. Are they responding withing the CRM or directly to the social media. I’m just getting my head around this now. It is a huge area and a potential for about £10bn in the CRM market.

Now that I’ve completed the latest project I’ve been working on. I’ve no time to do what I love. Fiddling with my wife’s office network. I’ve just installed a Asterisk server in the office. Asterisk is a VOIP office server which builds a small office PBX as quite a low price. I mean you can’t get much lower than free can you? It is then necessary to get a SIP/IAX supplier so you can make outside calls. The call rates are quite good and the service is usually excellent – unless the power goes out.

Installing Asterisk was simple – its part of the Ubuntu libraries and a simple apt-get Asterisk did the trick. Then…the hard work starts. Luckily there are two simpler solutions.

One, get AsteriskNOW. This is basically a iso which has a prebuilt Asterisk server using CentOS 5.1 distribution. This comes with a Asterisk web GUI which makes life soo much easier than fiddling with .conf files.
Two, install Asterisk and then install FreePBX. This is a great Web GUI front end to Asterisk.

I did neither. Though I am presently evaluating whether doing number 1 is the way to go. None the less I have it installed and have installed the AsteriskGUI manually. The instructions for that all over the web so I won’t repeat them here.

Now I’ve been looking for a IAX/SIP provider. Some a better than others. Some have no idea that I can install Asterisk myself – others are more clued up. As always, shop around and choose the best for you.

Of course you can avoid all this and just get it hosted. You pay more, but then you don’t have the headache of running a server. Now, to buy some IP phones. They sure are expensive. I think its time for some beans on toast. They sure do taste nice don’t they.