• May 1, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

The Cost of Isolated Data

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United Asset Coverage used a homegrown data capturing system designed to bolster revenue opportunities, but unbeknownst to the firm the system was eating away at its profits. By the fourth quarter of 2000 United Asset Coverage (UAC), a provider of maintenance coverage services for telephones, copiers, printers, and other office equipment, realized there was a problem with the homegrown data capturing system used by its sales, marketing, customer service, and accounting professionals. The data was scattered across the enterprise on a variety of isolated systems, including Great Plains and Microsoft Excel files. This approach could not scale to the company's growing needs. Customer data came flooding in through invoices generated by the sales team, billing information from the accounting department, and support information from customer service agents. It didn't take long before UAC employees were swimming in data. "We had data all over the place," says Jack Murray, director of CRM implementation. Overwhelmed by data, widespread inefficiencies developed. The inefficiencies reached such monumental proportions that one UAC customer was receiving 80 separate invoices every month for various UAC services contracts. Compounding the problem, roughly 40 percent of invoices were handwritten, Murray says, leaving the door wide open for mistakes and misspellings, as well as inconsistencies with abbreviations, capitalizations, and more. These mistakes and inconsistencies in the data would slow up the billing process if a handwritten file had to be pulled for verification, or worse, if the accounting department billed a client for the wrong item or service. When this happened handwritten invoices would sometimes be left atop someone's desk for days, making it difficult for others, such as customer service reps, to track down--especially when a customer called to find out the status of a bill. Determined to streamline efficiencies by cleaning up its data, UAC started looking for a solution. Murray recalls considering solutions from SAP and Siebel Systems, but executives at the company selected Oracle's eBusiness 11i platform, which offers a relational database, because the "service contracts model was tightly integrated into Oracle financials," Murray says. The project went live in September 2001. Now, thanks to the Oracle relational database, when names are entered it automatically cross-references those names to see if they have already been entered. If so, the system will check for accuracy and consistency in the data so there is no confusion. "It probably takes us longer to enter a contract now, but the integrity and standardization is much better," Murray says. The solution has nearly paid for itself just one year after installation. Oracle 11i helped cut days sales outstanding (DSO) by more than 15 days and decreased customer service reps' call resolution times from an average of seven minutes to three minutes, Murray says. He adds that these organizational efficiencies and other benefits realized from the Oracle solution, which cost UAC $3.5 million, already saved the company $3.4 million by September 2002. Now UAC employees see things clearer. "Each group had a different picture of each customer based on their limited knowledge of the customer," Murray says. "The one thing that stands out [now] is the ability to get the whole picture of a customer." Snapshot Rollout: Sept. 2001 Cost: $3.5 million One-year savings: $3.4 million Other benefits:
  • DSO cut by 15-plus days
  • Customer service call resolution times cut in half.
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