As a vendor of a Business Process Management / Workflow product, we were keen to learn how customers of SugarCRM, or any CRM for that matter, were using workflow to automate their businesses at this year's SugarCon which SierraCRM was a sponsor of again. What we heard from the customer base was quite an eye opener. Here are some comments:

  • We don’t use workflow – too hard to setup
  • If my boss automates my job , I don’t have one
  • It’s hard enough just to get our users to use the damn system
  • Workflow? What’s that?
  • We only have a couple of workflows

Needless to say, we were a bit surprised. We asked every one of the customers who visited our booth if they were at the least sending out an email on their Contacts birthday. This is very simple workflow that every CRM system can do. Not one customer was doing this. We then engaged our customers in a short conversation on what workflow’s they were running. The most common one was to send an acknowledgment email on new Leads. After that, the end user/employee was pretty much left on their own to figure out where to go next in the customer journey. This is not how you will transform your customer relationships and hope to close more business and keep your customers happy.

It is quite easy for vendors in the CRM space, such as our company, who have been working and consulting since the early days of CRM (mid 1990’s) to take for granted all the cool bells and whistles that SugarCRM, SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics and other CRM systems offer right out of the box. For companies that are new to CRM, it can be such an overwhelming task just to get the system installed and the user base to adopt it. We realize now that workflow is the least of their worries.


Behind the scenes on any CRM implementation, lays your automation tools. These are workflow, email syncing systems, ERP and Accounting integrations, and in house solutions.

These automation tools are imperative to a successful CRM implementation. Some of our customers have setup 100-200 workflows that run their entire business, from initial onboarding of new Leads to ongoing Contract management. These companies grasp the power of business automation and engage the entire company in the Sales and Support of their customers – thus making the customers journey a First Class Event.

Beginning with Lead management to recurring sales revenue to top notch product support, we would like to list out some very simple workflows that should be easy to setup and run regardless of which CRM system you are using.


Lead Routing to the correct Sales Rep:

  • As your new leads are gathered from your website, trade shows, purchased Lead lists, or manually entered, a simple workflow is to make sure that based on the attributes of the lead they are sent to the right sales rep. Your company may segregate leads based on geographic locations. A simple workflow is to check the address (state or country) of the lead and assign to the qualified rep who handles that geography.
  • You will want to make sure that your workflow checks to see if the rep is at work and not on vacation and if so do not assign the lead.
  • After the lead is assigned to the correct sales rep – you should send a text message to this rep.

Drip Emails to new Leads

  • When new leads arrive into your CRM system, setup a series of Emails to be sent over the course of a few days. This is known as a drip email campaign. Send a Thank You email on the first day, a product intro email on the second, a company intro on the third day. You decide what you would like to include in the body of the email. The goal here is to proactively send out emails without having to rely on your rep to do this.

Old Leads that are not customers

  • We see many customers use workflow to mine their huge lead list and re-work leads that are not revenue generating customers. We call these “Dead Leads”. A common business rule is to run a query once a week or once a day and find all Leads created the last month who are not converted. We take these Leads and do one of the following:

    • Assign the Leads to another group of Sales reps
    • Create a Task and assign to the owner of the Lead to follow up
    • Send a final “Thank You” email to the Lead

Support Management

Case Routing to the correct Support Staff

  • Similar to Lead Routing – if your company is setup to handle support cases based on attributes about the Case or Product or Company, then one or more processes would be recommended to properly route the case. For example:

    • Generic Cases: If a Case is created in your company that can be classified under a non-priority case, you may want to consider having workflow automatically send an email with a link to your FAQ on your website.

Closing an Open Case

  • When your company completes and closes a Case, a workflow should be triggered that completes the following Tasks:

    • Send an Email to the Customer letting them know that the Case is Closed
    • Find all Tasks related to the Case that may still be “Open” and close them.
    • Wait 24 hours and send a follow up email

Finding Open Cases that are not being actively worked on

  • As cases are created and your employees are working diligently to close cases, eventually a case will “Fall Through The Cracks”. Obviously, you don’t want this to happen as it leads to an upset customer. An ideal solution to this is to create a workflow that runs every day and queries your CRM system. The query can be something like ‘find all cases created the previous day that are not closed and have not been modified in the last 24 hours’. For all these cases – create a Task and assign to the owner of the Case – or send an email to the employee, or create a text message that lets the employee know that there is a case not being worked on.

Service Level Agreements

Companies that provide SLA’s to their customers can utilize workflow to guarantee that your end of the bargain is upheld. Here is an example: You agree to a customer to provide a fix to a product issue within one hour. If the product issue is not resolved in one hour, the issue is escalated to a senior support employee who will then step in and work the issue.

Setting up this workflow would involve the following:

  • When the case is created – find out who the customer is and if the customer has an active SLA.
  • What level is the SLA?
  • Based on the level, start a timer running. If the case is not Closed in the time allowed, escalate the Case

Customer Onboarding

As your company books sales, your employees will be responsible for setting up these new Accounts and what they purchased into your CRM, Accounting and ERP system. Customer Onboarding can be as simple as setting a status on the Sales Opportunity to ‘Closed Won’ to more advanced workflow that involves multiple departments, employees and tasks. Utilizing an automated workflow will ensure that nothing is missed and the customer is up and running with your products/services in the shortest time.

Here are some ideas for workflows that you may consider for your customer onboarding:

  • Tasks Auto Created and assigned to employees one at a time
  • In this workflow CRM Tasks are created one at a time and assigned to a specific user to complete a task. When the employee completes the task , meaning the employee opens the CRM Tasks and sets the Status to “Completed” the workflow engine will create the next Task in the order and assign to the next employee to do their job. This is a feature found in SierraCRM’s Process Manager – creating a Task upon completion from the previous Task. What is nice about this workflow is that only one Task at a time is created and the employee must complete the Task before the next one is created and assigned.

Contract Management

Utilizing workflow to handle the flow of your contracts is easy and not intimidating. New contracts must go through an approval process and existing contracts should go through a renewal process. Many departments in your company have a say in the Contract, so don’t hesitate to setup an automated workflow to make sure that your entire company is engaged in your contract approval process.

Here is an example of a typical Contract Approval Process:

New Contracts

  • Based on the attributes of the Contract we begin one of many flows
  • Who is the first person that needs to do something with the contract?

    • Create a Task and assign to this person
  • Start a Timer on the Contract

    • If the Contract status is not changed to “Completed Initial Review” within an hour, then assign the Contract to somebody else
    • Notify the customer that there has been a delay in the contract approval process
  • As soon as the first person in the flow completes their review, they will set the status of the Contract to “Initial Review Completed”

    • At this time, assign the Contract to the next person in line
    • Send an email to the customer
    • Create a Task or send a Notification to the person who is next in line to be prepared for a contract heading their way
    • Start the timer again for this next stage of the Contract

Utilizing workflow to help automate your company’s business does not have to be an intimidating task. Most workflow systems do not require you to know how to program a computer. Most are drag and drop and are easy to setup.

For SugarCRM customers, your workflow options include the new Advanced Workflow found in Sugar Enterprise 7.7, the legacy workflow found in Sugar Professional, and Process Manager from SierraCRM.

All of these workflow products provide basic workflow tasks such as modifying records, creating new records, and sending emails. The more advanced workflow such as Process Manager and Advanced Workflow will allow you to easily setup business processes that meet all the mentioned scenarios, and you will not have to hire a programmer to deliver these automated tools.

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