Burn Those Binders
HR outsourcer staff leasing replaces paper-based CRM system--and burns it--with Oracle software.
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With annual revenue of $2.7 million and more than 10,000 clients, staff Leasing has earned its place in the middle of the Fortune 1,000. Each year, the payroll and human resources consulting company uses high-tech systems to process millions of dollars in payroll checks for its customers.

Ironically, the company was rather low-tech in how it handled customer service. Its 200 service consultants handled 1.5 million client calls a year, relying mainly on plastic binders and customer file folders. "We desperately needed a front-office solution," says Lisa Harris, senior vice president and CIO. "A client would call in, and we'd say, 'Hold on a minute while I get your folder.' It was embarrassing."

Even worse, the paper system didn't allow staff Leasing to track customer calls. Harris says the company had no idea how many times clients were calling, and had no way to be sure client issues had been resolved. "It was truly starting to hurt our business," she says.

Early last year, the company began its search for a front-office solution. Since the company had been using Oracle's back-office products since 1995, choosing its front-office E-Business suite was a logical choice.

However, Harris was concerned that Oracle was still early in its implementations of front-office products and didn't have all the features and functions her company sought. In contract negotiations, Oracle committed in writing to adding the needed functionality in its next release.

In fact, for its November 1990 implementation, staff Leasing was able to beta test two products scheduled for Oracle's 11i release in May 2000. Its Scripting product was particularly important for Harris. "We have such a complex business model that a client could be calling us for a legal question, a payroll question or tax question, and it's wonderful to have a script up there to tell us what to say," she says.

Because it was a beta implementation, the company used Oracle's consulting group for installation. Here again, Harris practiced due diligence in contract negotiations.

On Time, On Budget
In November, after a short pilot, the company began rolling the system out to 400 corporate employees. "We implemented the entire CRM suite in 100 days--on time, on budget," says Harris. "The best thing is, when Oracle's consultants were done with the implementation, they walked away, and my team has been supporting it by themselves for the last six months."

Training was done in-house by existing call center training staff, who participated in the pilot. Harris says the most difficult part was overcoming users' apprehensions that they wouldn't be able to get all the information they needed or that it would take too long. "It took more to pry the old system out of their hands," she says, adding that the company is planning a client folder-burning party later this year.

One of the nice features of the new system, according to Harris is that customer information appears on a single screen, which can be easily configured for different users. For example, payroll representatives see the client name, payroll call-in date, number of employees, last time they called and average payroll. For a benefits rep, the screen would still show client contact information, but would include employee benefits data and previous benefits inquiries.

After using the system for several months, Harris says the company has a much stronger feel for its clients, how many times they call and why they call.

The software is also allowing the company to provide improved customer service. For example, if a client calls in with a complex question that requires research, the system automatically captures the fact that it was assigned to a benefits expert. Twenty-four hours later, if the problem is not resolved, the system automatically sends a reminder to the benefits manager that there's an open customer service issue. If it's still not resolved 24 hours after that, the system sends a message to the director of the benefits group. "You can imagine what that means in terms of improved service," says Harris. "It doesn't let us make mistakes as often as we did before."

While she says reducing service costs wasn't the reason for the project, it did allow the company to easily justify it. Initial projections called for an 18-month payback, but Harris expects to beat that significantly. "The return on investment was phenomenal," she says.

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