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Walter Schild
Managing customer relationships keep Genex profitable as competitors fold.
For the rest of the February 2002 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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While many of the once-hot Internet services firms have either been acquired, downsized, or imploded, Walter Schild has managed to keep his company in the black. What is Schild's secret? It is all about the relationship with the customer; delivering solid solutions and managing customer expectations. "We have concentrated on keeping our customer relationships alive and turning them into long-term relationships," says Schild, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of six-year-old Genex, a CRM consultancy and integrator. His mantra is to deliver solutions on time and to maintain a high degree of customer touch by keeping the customer involved in the project and setting appropriate expectations. Schild's strategy paid off in 2001, when the privately held company was forced to switch to survival mode as a result in the cut backs in IT spending. The economic environment was a polar opposite of 2000, when Schild spent his time managing growth as Genex more than doubled its revenue to $12 million, up from $5 million in 1999. Having cultivated long-term customer relationships helped Genex onto a firmer financial footing with recent deal wins from American Honda Motor Company and Citistreet.com-both longtime customers. Schild says winning those deals was based on the past work on specific solutions that Genex did for these companies over the past six years. Those deals, along with the addition of a new customer, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, will help Genex maintain flat, though profitable, revenues of $12 million in 2002. Schild started Genex by building an Internet presence for companies that needed basic sales and marketing solutions. By 1997 his company began to focus on CRM solutions as it built applications that connected enterprise resource planning with CRM systems. Schild is quick to point out that the company is not a CRM package integrator, such as the Big Five consultancies or the boutique integration firms. He says that most CRM packages require too much customization, leaving customers with hefty service bills. "We are an integrator to all the CRM packages," Schild says. "Most of our corporate clients are not satisfied with any single suite of the CRM package and they are not satisfied with the customer experience interfacing directly with those packages."
Schild admits that, like many of his competitors, he and his management team have had to scramble to manage costs. Genex has reined in travel expenses and frozen hiring, maintaining 125 staffers. "We are in a depression here in the Internet services space," he says. "We have gone from managing our growth to closely managing our customer relationships in a survival mode." But Schild is optimistic. He says the company's customer-centric mantra is working. That means keeping close tabs on Genex's customer's needs and avoiding the "game of nickel-and-diming your customers for everything."
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