Vertical Focus: High-Tech

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It's not unusual to assume that technology companies, often quick to implement new and promising solutions, would be on the cutting edge when it comes to adopting CRM software. But the fact is, most technology companies are quite conservative in their CRM choices. "Technology vendors are not bold and daring at all when it comes to IT spending," says Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager with the Yankee Group. "They are quite cautious, and you will often see these companies using much older versions of CRM suites, and see them wait as long as possible before making a decision on any new systems. "There's not a lot of capital money available in this economy to spend on a new system that may or may not give a tech firm a competitive advantage," she adds. Joel Reed, senior director of product marketing at J.D. Edwards, agrees, noting that even though many tech firms are chock-full of IT experts, these firms are actually looking to do as little customization on their end as possible. "Tech firms really take the long view in terms of how much use they can get out of a product," he says. "They have a sense of what additional costs will be like to customize and integrate." One high-tech company that chose J.D. Edwards' CRM suite, Hutton Communications, was already using J.D. Edwards' ERP software and wanted to add a CRM solution that would need the least amount of effort to implement and integrate into back-end systems, according to Brian Capone, director of marketing at the wireless equipment provider. "It was really all about integration, creating a closed loop with our ERP solution," Capone says of the decision to go with J.D. Edwards for both ERP and CRM. "And choosing just one vendor kept our IT staff lean." VisionAIR, a company that develops public safety software, was also looking for a one-stop CRM shop when it chose Remedy's CRM products, according to Kerry Wicks, director of client services and account management at VisionAIR. "It was important to us to have one vendor for all our CRM needs," Wicks says. "And we recognize the importance of having all our client data centralized and accessible by all employees." The company is currently using Remedy Customer Support and Remedy Action Request System for all its CRM needs, and Wicks says having one unified Remedy client database has helped VisionAIR achieve greater customer satisfaction, because now all customer data is instantly updated and available to any and all associates. Another tech firm using an inclusive CRM strategy is network technologies provider Allied Telesyn. The company is using RightNow's CRM technology to create a knowledge base of product information for Web self-service capabilities, to perform customer satisfaction surveys, and to aid in support and field service, according to Rob Rejmaniak, director of service and support programs at Allied Telesyn. "We look at CRM as a means to cut down on customer calls," he says, noting how RightNow has enabled customers to "help themselves" via the Web regarding new software updates, and warranty and returns processing information. "The less calls that come in, the more quality we can put into the calls we do handle," he says. Rejmaniak adds that the company has reduced product returns from 1.2 million annually to 150,000, because the support staff can use RightNow's technology to talk customers through troubleshooting situations. In the past customers would often return a product that was not really faulty. Some tech firms, however, do not take the all-in-one approach. Rather, some are deploying products from smaller CRM vendors for specific tasks like customer analytics. For example, Broadview Networks, a network-based electronically integrated communications provider, had nearly everything it needed for its CRM initiatives in house, except for the ability to perform analytics on an overwhelming amount of unstructured data, according to Tracy Korman, executive vice president of CRM at Broadview. Broadview tapped Enkata, an analytics provider, to help it analyze its data. "Enkata's solution helps us to get a handle on our data, which is the one thing we could not do with our in-house systems," Korman says.
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