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A customer relationship management application from Frontstep offers mid-market companies the tools to meet their business needs and the means to put them in place with minimum fuss. Frontstep CRM is a completely Web-based solution that allows users to target the key areas of sales, marketing, customer service and executive knowledge. And, since it can be accessed through a Web browser, Frontstep CRM means no software installation, and its services are available to anyone who needs it, no matter how far the user is from home base.

"Our focus was on a Web-based solution that either the direct or indirect sales channel could actually use to help drive business into the supply chain, not just manage appointments and contacts," says Tom Westerlund, Frontstep vice president of product marketing.

Frontstep CRM, formerly called estep CRM, is part of Frontstep's comprehensive e-business suite of products. Designed to integrate with Microsoft Office, Frontstep CRM is tailored to be flexible enough to let users focus on the solutions their organization needs most. The application includes four modules--Marketing, Sales, Service and Executive--that give users the ability to adopt multiple sales methods, offer Web-based customer support and access critical business information. The application's "user interface design" lets users create customized views tailored to specific groups, which means each group can have individualized desktops containing the information it needs to see from across the organization.

Modular Model

CRM Marketing covers all aspects of the marketing process. From campaign management to database management, CRM Marketing offers a one-stop shop for the marketing professional. The module also makes it easy for marketers to coordinate campaigns and events with the sales and service departments.

Campaign management features of the marketing module include a full set of database marketing tools that allow professionals to execute multilevel, highly targeted campaigns across all segments of the customer base. Campaigns can be tailored to focus on such items as prospect group size, location or buying preference. CRM Marketing's ability to integrate with the Sales and Service modules means all team members are automatically notified of new campaigns, and return on marketing investment can be tracked through built-in prospecting workflow. The marketing module also includes database list management features, including a built-in import utility that allows for the flow of outside lists. A Sales Library and automated literature fulfillment feature means sales personnel can send the latest materials to customers with ease.

The sales module, CRM Sales, leverages its power in an eCRM "desktop" that collects all relevant information from across the organization and presents it in one easy-to-view package for the busy road warrior. To-do lists, competitive information, e-mail and even corporate, sales and marketing updates also can be accessed through the Sales module. The information is limited to a salesperson's specific accounts, which can help minimize searching and agent frustration.

"This is very focused on the individual sales reps' needs," Westerlund says. "Most of the CRM failures in the market are due to the fact that the sales channel just doesn't want to use it. It's too complex, or [the reps are] stuck to a PC and not out selling. We took a very elegant, yet simple approach to helping them track what they need to track."

CRM Sales offers integration with Microsoft Outlook for such features as e-mail and calendaring and an account management tool to track contacts, opportunities and marketing campaigns. CRM Sales also offers order and quote management through an online order entry price list.

Like the sales module, the CRM Service module uses a customized desktop to give users a comprehensive view of customer information held throughout Frontstep CRM. This gives users fast access to customer information that can be helpful in solving problems or addressing customer concerns. Whenever support personnel enter customer information into CRM Service, the system automatically embarks on a search for relevant documents, then lists them in the order of highest probability to help solve the problem. In addition to its tracking, workflow and knowledge-base features, CRM Service also features built-in Return Merchandise Authorization to track defective products or returns.

The fourth module, CRM Executive, takes the information from the marketing, sales and service modules and rolls it into an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) analysis and reporting tool. The module provides a full view into activities and trends and lets users manipulate information in almost any way they choose. Based on Microsoft SQL Server OLAP Services and Frontstep CRM's own infrastructure, CRM Executive can easily answer complex questions about business activities. The system includes several out-of-the-box reports and features and offers the ability to add legacy data, such as financial and accounting information, for more analysis.

Healthy CRM

Innovatix is based in New York City, but most of its sales are completed outside the Big Apple.

In 1999, the eight-year-old Innovatix, which provides low-cost pharmaceuticals and supplies for health care organizations--such as long-term care and home IV infusion providers, oncologists and physician groups--added e-commerce to its line of offerings.

Now its clients can purchase discounted products online. But still, much of the organization's sales are closed by field personnel paying personal visits on clients or prospective clients.

"One of our challenges was that we have a regional sales team around the United states," says Donna M. McClure, vice president of operations at Innovatix. "The number one need was to get streamlined customer information to everybody in real time, because as a sales person is going in to talk to an account, it's imperative they know any of the concerns or sales needs of the customer before they walk in the front door."

Innovatix needed "an efficient way to house information so everyone could view it," McClure says. The organization implemented Frontstep, CRM's sales module in August of 2000. The organization also uses pieces of the marketing module and hopes to add the executive module to its tool kit in the future.

"The thing that attracted me to Frontstep was the adaptability of the product that allowed it to be customized to the business," she says. Another plus was Frontstep CRM's Web-based infrastructure.

While McClure admits the system "has been a major adjustment to the sales force," she says it nonetheless has been a success at Innovatix. Frontstep CRM has increased the flow of information from the sales force to account managers and has brought the marketing department into closer communication with the sales channel.

"Before, there was no flow of information," McClure says.

The increased knowledge has helped to manage and streamline business processes, McClure says, and allows the marketing department to understand where business is coming from--a key understanding that directly translates into a higher return on marketing investment.

"Since we are a growing company, we want to be able to monitor the return on investment on marketing programs," McClure says. "On every call that comes in, everyone is trained to ask, ‘How did you find out about us?' Being able to track that helps us identify the best way to get the word out."

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