From Excel to ASP to In-house

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"What's my distance?" It's the question that plagues golfers--and the course owners tracking the pace of play--the world over. Being able to answer that question has made ProLink hugely popular among course owners. ProLink is a Web-based GPS system that uses crosshairs to project distance to any part of a hole and displays the results on a 10-inch flat-panel monitor attached to the golf carts. The company, which had just 20 courses on board when it started in 1994, found its business growing exponentially. Today, with more than 100 courses on board and an average 700,000 users per month, ProLink's sales and service requires a robust CRM application. "Once we couldn't manage our sales on an Excel spreadsheet we realized it was time to get serious about CRM," says Alex Pannone, ProLink product manager. The main issues that ProLink needed to address related to service. The company wanted to provide clients with quick resolution for everything from software issues to parts-ordering, fulfillment, and tracking. So in 1999 ProLink selected Soffront Software Inc., because of its Web interface and high level of customization. ProLink decided to launch Soffront's CRM package in an ASP model, largely because this would allow the golf-services provider to put the software through its paces. Although inputting customer data took nearly six months, the software began to show value as soon as it was fully up and running--ProLink went from 50 open customer service issues at any given time to zero. "Using Soffront as an ASP model worked very well for us. We pushed the asset-management module to its limits and found it kept up," Pannone says. "I was able to open a customer ticket and be able to follow sales through an initial need all the way to completion. If a customer had a service issue I could determine how quickly it was resolved and even track parts orders from placement to fulfillment, which allowed me to give clients accurate time projections." The ASP model worked well, but Pannone wanted more control over changes. Although it would only take up to 48 hours to make a change, Pannone wanted real-time access so he could work with package's development tools open to try and retry his ideas. "We had been paying per change, so if I had a hundred changes it got costly. Bringing the product in-house allows me to noodle with it as much as I want," he says. Bringing Soffront's application in-house took mere overnight hours and Pannone says he has complete more customization in six months than in the entire one-and-a-half years ProLink used the product in an ASP model. Of course, Pannone isn't finished yet. ProLink's future plans for Soffront includes using the software's Web-interface with handheld computers. And Pannone says he is also looking forward to the product's next release, which will include NT authentication. "Soffront has been very open to customer suggestions--for example the real desire to have NT authentication with the product," he says. "The result is that we feel they are really growing with us--it's another reason the product has worked so well for us." --Ramin Ganeshram
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