Roylene Rhodes, vice president of American Medical Response, discusses the challenge of implementing CRM.
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American Medical Response, which provides medical transportation services and operates 911 response systems, began in 1992 when four companies merged. Since then we have bought 250 companies and taken on the challenge of merging these companies into one national company with unified processes and procedures. This brought us to look at CRM--we wanted one tool that would help us implement one way of seeing the big picture, one way of forecasting, and one way to manage the entire process.
When did you first implement CRM?
We realized we needed a more formalized and centralized system, [so] we looked around at both hosted and client/server software. We went live on Salesforce.com in August 2002.
In four weeks we signed the contract; identified the process, program, and modifications; did the upgrades; migrated 5,000 contracts from a homegrown contract database into Salesforce.com; and trained users online. The most phenomenal thing about the entire process is that despite the more than 100 people scattered in 35 states, we were able to turn the system on at one time.
What were your key criteria for selecting a CRM vendor?
A CRM vendor with a relationship with sales training firm Miller Heiman
An affordable solution we could implement nationally overnight
Open architecture that would allow us to modify it to create the fields that we needed to monitor and benchmark our business
How did you gain executive and user buy-in?
We did a lot of research through industry trade journals about why CRM and SFA projects failed. Then we drafted a list of failure flags and plotted our strategy for avoiding those pitfalls.
We also made Salesforce.com a part of the job description. We put teeth behind it; we created processes and made Salesforce.com part of those processes. This is why we overcame any potential challenges with our CRM implementation.
What were the key challenges or obstacles and how did you overcome them?
Matching our process with SFA and CRM functionality. To that end we selected Salesforce.com, because of its open architecture and flexibility.
We had already made a huge commitment to Miller Heiman by training every one of our Business Retention team members in MH Blue and Green--both conceptual and strategic selling. We were halfway through training when Salesforce.com came into the picture. Salesforce.com partners with Miller Heiman, so it was easier integrating Salesforce.com into the training.
Miller Heiman and Salesforce.com changed our terminology. We defined all the fields that we were able to define in Salesforce.com ourselves. Then we built a glossary and hierarchy so all team members would know exactly our intent for what to enter into each field.
What were the main rewards and results?
Qualitatively, Salesforce.com helps us serve our customers better by enabling us to better communicate our commitment of service to them, and to ourselves internally. In addition, we do all of our forecasting with Salesforce.com--it's a huge piece of our financial modeling, particularly [for] business retention initiatives.
Quantitatively, we have generated a return on investment of more than 500 percent.
What are your future plans?
We would like to integrate our accounts receivable system and transport volume data system with Salesforce.com.
We made Salesforce.com an intrinsic part of our daily processes. This was not just a one-time project.
Research helped us understand why CRM and SFA projects fail, and we used this to develop a strategy to avoid such pitfalls.
We clearly defined our terminology and hierarchy so all team members would understand exactly what information needed to be captured and why.