Gartner Singles Out Companies With Winning CRM Strategies
Canada Post, Tipper Tie Grab Top Honors
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At Gartner Inc.'s CRM Spring Summit the well-known research firm presented two CRM Excellence Awards to the large enterprise and smaller business that have made compelling changes in their day-to-day customer-facing operations through better use of technology and an enlightened corporate structure. On the corporate level Canada Post beat rivals Bank One and General Motors/GMAC for the honors in the over-1,000-employee category. Since late 1999 the service has been aggressively eliminating legacy systems and bringing all customer and supplier relationship management functions into SAP R/3. Consumers are now served by a plain-language Web site, and more coordinated resolution of misdirected mail and packages; retail operators have a clean, unified system for reporting sales and requesting replenishment. "I think what made the difference with us was mainly the size and the scope of the initiative," says Aaron Nichols, general manager of the 400-employee business transformation unit. "This was our number one project as a company for the past two years." Gartner believes that dedication to reinventing the customer experience showed in the final vote. "[Canada Post] did a multichannel integration that [became] a seamless experience for the customer," research director Beth Eisenfeld says. "The customer doesn't notice any difference, except that they're getting great service." Meanwhile, Tipper Tie, a manufacturer of packaging and industrial food preparation equipment in Apex, N.C., edged California's Meriwest Credit Union and Hard Rock Café for the midsize-company nod. Tough competition caused a sales decline during the mid-1990s, and rather than submit to a price war, the company asked its customers what it could do to right the situation. "The response was, 'We want a salesperson who knows our business,'" says Kendra Bender, IT manager. Providing better training, along with expanded customer and product information through Siebel sales and call center modules, was part of the solution. As an organization Tipper Tie decided to unify its disconnected service and support organizations under a new organization led by Dave Wince, formerly the company's top sales manager. That impressed both Gartner and the voting audience most. "It really proved that CRM was strategy, not technology," Bender says. "We did not have the most technology implemented, but it was and is an ongoing corporate strategy from the top down." Gartner's Eisenfeld notes that Tipper Tie made a bold investment decision, rather than a throw-away spending spree. "The [firm] chose, rather than to build a new machine or plant or hire salespeople, to implement CRM," she says. Although Tipper Tie had a 42-month window for return on its CRM investment, Eisenfeld would not second-guess the strategy. "Whether it's two months or four years, if it is within their management's guidelines, then it's a benefit to their company and they made the right choice." A screening panel of Gartner analysts narrowed 190 qualified submissions to a field of three companies in each category, and conference attendees cast the final vote based on a short presentation from each finalist. Gartner's next CRM Summit is scheduled for September 25 to 27, in Chicago. Potential applicants for the next round of awards would do well to heed Eisenfeld's summary of the spring winners: "Seventy percent of [CRM] is about people, process, and politics, not the technology," she says. "Tipper Tie and Canada Post focused on the three P's first."
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