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The 2012 Service Elite
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Picking up the Phone: ABC Financial

The largest payment-processing provider for health clubs nationwide, ABC Financial is a fitness world heavyweight. Over 30 years, the Arkansas-based company has grown to service more than 3,000 clubs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, processing more than 30 million transactions annually.

Growth doesn't come without pain, however, and ABC Financial was feeling it in 2009. "We have customer touch points at five or six places inside our company," says Doug Elkins, chief information officer at ABC. With no way to effectively share data, employees in all areas struggled to deal with customers efficiently. The help desk couldn't answer questions quickly, resulting in painfully low first-call resolution.

ABC needed a CRM system, and invested first in a small-scale, license-by-license adoption from an on-demand provider. "This was a good place to start," says Elkins of the largely sales-focused implementation. After growing from 10 users to 170, it was clear the company would benefit from extending CRM's reach to service, but the cost associated with both licensing and employee training was prohibitive.

The switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM was made in May 2011. A lower cost, as well as employees' familiarity with a Microsoft ecosystem, made for an easy transition. ABC projects a savings of more than $1.2 million in licensing fees over the next four years. The training period for the previous CRM system lasted upward of four weeks, but ABC staffers were up and running on Dynamics in five days, creating a savings in time and cost. "Our employees are used to working in Outlook," says Elkins, "so it was a look and feel they were used to."

The first phase, an integration of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, took 90 days; the second, a move to Dynamics CRM On-premises, an additional two months. "[ABC] liked our promise of choice, that they could start in the cloud and go on-premise," says David Pennington, director of product marketing for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Because ABC stores sensitive data, such as credit card information, the company kept this information out of the cloud and stored behind its firewalls.

By the end of the implementation process, all 400 of ABC's employees had access to a common CRM system, giving each a complete view of every customer.

New opportunities spelled improved business practices. Previously, the help desk was ABC's Achilles heel. Due to disparate data, agents spent most of their time troubleshooting. This made it nearly impossible to solve queries quickly—if customers could reach an agent at all.

Finding customer information prior to implementation had been akin to a treasure hunt. It was now delivered in an easy-to-navigate portfolio on each agent's desktop. "Time for resolution went down, so agents could handle more calls, [and then] they could handle them live," Elkins says.

Help desk proficiency rose from an 18 percent average live-call, first-call resolution to a 95 percent average. "Our help desk is now one of the key selling points of our service," says Elkins, who estimates a saving of 160 employee hours per week due to automated call-routing services alone, an average savings of $250,000 per year. In the service department as a whole, ABC cites a cost avoidance of 28 full-time employees during the first six months of implementation.

ABC experienced improved management and sales, as well. Managers can leverage dashboards to weed out potential trouble spots. The sales force uses email-to-case to harvest prospects online and automate quote processing. Most importantly, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has enabled employees in every area of the company to have a single view of each customer. "Our people have seen how it can help them," Elkins says. "They're excited, and we're working to keep that excitement high."

ABC Financial plans additional integration and expansion of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. E-signatures and work flow management will be a central focus, and ERP and general customization are also in the cards.

The end game is to have competent, skilled people to be able to implement solutions for their departments and for the company as a whole, Elkins says. It's all 400 of our employees' focus to make raving fans of our customers."

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