Short Message Service (SMS)

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August 2009 | Volume 28 / Number 3
CRM, BPO & Teleservices

Short Message Service (SMS)

Proving Out Alternative CRM

By Brendan B. Read,
Senior Contributing Editor

There is a growing trend in the CRM space towards alternative delivery and design methods, versus traditional on-premises applications written to proprietary software. These Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and open source models have several advantages, including flexibility, avoiding vendor lock-in, shorter lead times, and cost savings.

Alternative CRM solutions are also becoming more feature-rich and robust. Here are two recent examples:

  •, recognizing that many workers are using Apple’s 3G iPhone for business purposes, has updated Salesforce CRM Mobile take full advantage of the new iPhone 3.0 OS software. Customers can easily cut, copy, and paste text from e-mails and text messages directly into Salesforce CRM. They can also create identical records to save typing, easily manage events with ease with a new date-indexed view, quickly find information with custom filters on any list of data and convert a lead as soon as the user hangs up the phone. The iPhone now offers lead conversion on a single form.
  • SugarCRM has added a new web services framework, platform improvements, and enhanced mobile features for its open-source CRM solution. Customers can now easily create unique themes suited to the needs of companies or the preferences of individual developers without coding. There is also advanced password management that enables users to set password strength requirements, create system-generated passwords, and allows them to reset their own passwords.

That´s the theory, anyway. What has been the experience of companies who have gone the alternative route? Here are several case studies:

Saveology and Salesforce is a comparison and shopping site for consumer services such as, communications (broadband, cable, satellite, and wireless), moving, and financial services. It has 52 Web sites and four contact centers: two in the U.S. with over 450 agents, and one each in India and the Philippines with 30 agents apiece.

Being a consumer intensive online business, it needed a tool to allow it to track every aspect of its relationships with its customers and seamlessly integrate across suppliers and partners, explains CIO Stephen Smith. His industry, he said, is highly competitive and, as such, relies upon speed to market with cost effective solutions. His firm needed a solution in place in less than 180 days that delivered full value straight away. It turned to CRM and to Salesforce’s hosted solution to handle those functions.

"We had recently deployed a completely new hosting infrastructure, and constructing another application in-house and the associated cost of hardware, software and support made a hosted solution ideal," explains Smith. "Our analysis demonstrated that our cost of ownership was reduced by over 50 percent compared to our internal solutions; it was a no brainer to go with a hosted solution."

The Salesforce CRM solution delivered, enabling Saveology to meet goals, including retiring an internally developed tool set and achieving a 15 percent efficiency gains within its contact centers. It achieved deployment in less than 90 days and hit its efficiency target within 30 days. It is extending Salesforce across all of its delivery and business channels as the primary interface for all point of sales activity to include all customer management, both self service and fully serviced.

"Our experience has convinced staff and management alike that we made the right choice when it has become increasingly difficult to justify ROI on internal IT projects," says Smith. "We have seen the value that the cloud-based model delivers and plan on taking maximum advantage of that in every aspect of our business. We would not be able to deliver the same services at the same cost and speed using any other tools."

Innoveer and Suffolk Construction

Suffolk Construction Company is a privately held building contracting firm with sales offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Los Angeles.

Typical for the construction industry, Suffolk did not have a CRM system in place. All leads and opportunities were tracked through Excel and MS Outlook. Yet, strong growth, the need to collect customer information and understand their past and future needs, to ensure ownership and management of data on a regional and corporate level, and to permit a single view of the customers and who "owns" them sales-wise led Suffolk to adopt CRM. It also wanted to increase its sales pipeline and forecasting accuracy and management, and replace many of its manual processes with automated reports.

After several months of evaluation, Suffolk chose Oracle on Demand and brought in Innoveer Solutions to implement the software. It selected the hosted model because it did not require much customization. Its team found the product easy to use and intuitive and it met the majority of its sales and management needs out of the box.

"Oracle is our platform of choice at Suffolk, and an Oracle front-end application is much easier for us from an integration perspective, which is part of our future plan," explains CIO Corren Collura. "We wanted to work with Innoveer Solutions to implement the solution because of its team´s understanding of our business and processes, complete focus on CRM, onsite presence, partnership mentality and project management style."

A phased implementation would take place starting in July, 2008. By November, Phase one enabled contact, lead, opportunity and historical project information management, and streamlined reporting. The second phase, which is in the works, will have campaign management to track and manage hard copy and e-mail campaigns and ensure a closed loop from leads to opportunities to closed deals. This will be followed by a third phase focused on integration with its enterprise resource planning system, to remove dupli¬cate entry that occurs from entering contact information in multiple systems, and improve order management.

Following phase three, Suffolk will have one information flow with real-time data, a one-stop shop and an end-to-end, streamlined process from the CRM. This will improve, says Collura, overall produc¬tivity and reduce administrative work from multiple people collecting and chasing data.

Phase one has achieved the goals set by Suffolk. The Oracle solution reduced the time that business development spends on administrative tasks. It also better manages contacts and opportunities. Reports now only take a few hours to create instead of a full day. Suffolk is using the CRM system to house historic project information. This allows the marketing team to utilize this data when writing proposals, to ensure up-to-date and accurate information and the most appropriate references and examples.

Secure Health and Prophet on Demand

Secure Health, Inc. specializes in marketing non-invasive medical products and services to improve the quality of life of patients and the bottom line of physicians. It created the Better Balance Fall Prevention & Wellness program to reduce the incidence of falls in the elderly. The firm says because its medical products and services are cutting edge, prospective doctors need to be educated on the scope of its programs and what the positive rewards are for their clinics. They need to know how the program will impact the quality of lives of their patients by helping them avoid the painful and expensive experience of falling and breaking a hip. In most cases, it has a long, complicated sales cycle, lasting several months or even a year, often involving multiple decision makers.

"I needed a system to efficiently track where each prospect was in the sales cycle," explains Daniel B. Scherer, CEO of Secure Health. "At a glance, I need to quickly find and review complex information regarding each customer. When on the phone, it´s essential for me to rapidly access what information was sent, what still needs to be sent, specific terms of the proposal or sale, follow-up correspondence, or to address each obstacle and what was done or needed to overcome it. A major objective is to interface the information to project sales revenue for each independent representative and the entire sales funnel."

Secure Health´s customer relationship does not end with product delivery. Clients require post-sale ongoing education and support to remain current with technology and research, health care regulations and medical reimbursement. "We required a solution that allowed us to track all activities, follow all support requests, and communicate changes and updates to regulations in a seamless way," says Scherer.

After initially analyzing these issues, Secure Health felt it had to settle for trying several off-the-shelf software programs, knowing that it would be sacrificing some of its objectives. Each solution offered varying degrees of a total package, says Scherer, but none completely fit all of its prerequisites and each caused system crashes on a daily basis.

Hosted/SaaS CRM services seemed to offer the most flexibility and provide convenient access for its independent reps, says Scherer, including the ability to access data while traveling to stay current with progress and sales activities. Hosting also provides the convenience of not having to back up data, since it is stored off site.

After examining other hosted solutions, Secure Health selected Avidian´s Prophet OnDemand. It began trial deployment in May, 2009 and real-time deployment took place in June.

After the first day of the trial, Secure Health was sold. It experimented with most of the tools available and had no crashes. It also found the program easy to implement, that it performed perfectly, and that it would fit all of its needs with a minimum of modifications to its existing systems.

"Initially, I was skeptical that a CRM solution could be that simple, based on my past experiences with off-the-shelf systems," says Scherer. "However, I agreed to conduct a complimentary trial period to experience first-hand if it really was that simple. It was. "Prophet OnDemand has so far met all of its Secure Health´s objectives, advanced efficiency and aided in improving response times. It allows easy access to areas pertaining to each rep´s sales activities while preventing them entry to company-sensitive data. The automated e-mail response segment greatly enhances its ability to stay in contact with each new prospect and ensure they have all information needed in a systematic fashion to make their purchase decision.

The following companies participated in the preparation of this article





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