If your team's not all on site, good tools and processes (which we'll cover in Chapter 7) are important. Make sure you have consistent communications systems in place across the board: a phone system with a company-wide block of numbers (even if they forward to mobiles), email (Google Apps is free and solid), and IM (there are a number of options and many systems include presence to tell if someone's on the phone, which is handy). Table 5.3 shows a few notes on IT systems.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
At a minimum, this is a contact database for all your customers and a place to keep track of potential sales. Depending on the sophistication, you may want to manage email campaigns here. Ideally, you're doing issue management (next item) in the CRM as well, so the data are integrated with the rest of your customer's profile.
Salesforce.com has an all SaaS (hosted) offer. SugarCRM has a strong solution, particularly if you prefer open source and would like to run the system locally, and it offers both deployment options).
You want something that can manage issues by queue (type) and severity and make it easy for you to update customers on status. Ideally, it provides a ready-to-use portal for customers as well.
The above CRM systems are suitable for this purpose (usually with some minimal customization). Some operations prefer to manage ...