• March 7, 2002

Gartner's CRM Summit

On March 6 Gartner concluded its three-day Spring 2002 CRM Summit in Chicago by presenting CRM Excellence Awards to the businesses that have made compelling changes in their day-to-day customer-facing operations through better use of technology and an enlightened corporate structure. A screening panel of Gartner analysts narrowed 190 qualified submissions down to a field of three companies in each category (defined by company size), and conference attendees cast the final vote based on a short presentation from each finalist.

Canada Post beat out rivals Bank One and General Motors/GMAC for the honors in the over-1000-employee category. The overall business restructuring process began in December 1999 and has to date included improvements both in CRM and procurement practices, largely powered by software modules from SAP. By tying together or streamlining dozens of legacy customer information systems, Canada Post has driven a significant amount of time and paperwork out of the process of serving large institutional mailers such as power utilities, and can more effectively audit and compensate independent retail franchises. Response from the 30 million consumer and one million industrial customers has been positive, as the company's customer satisfaction measurement has risen 4 pecent over the life of the effort.

In presenting the award to Canada Post's general manager of business transformation Aaron Nichols, Gartner analyst Claudio Marcus highlighted the organization's commitment to focus on organizational change before implementing new technology as a key reason for its selection. When it came time to execute on software, however, the story was the same. "This is one of the most comprehensive roll-outs we have seen across multiple channels," Marcus says.

In the midsize enterprise division, Tipper Tie, a manufacturer of packaging and industrial food preparation equipment in Apex, NC, edged out California's Meriwest Credit Union and Hard Rock Café. The company's CRM overhaul was a direct result of a sales decline that saw a once-commanding market share steadily falling from its peak in the mid-1990s. To right the ship, Tipper took a close look at its structure and found that it created two independent and disconnected faces to the customer. Sales, service, and engineering were not closely linked, and Tipper's sales agents lacked the depth of documentation and customer information they craved.

Tipper Tie may have won over the jury of its peers by being refreshingly candid in its presentation, disclosing that its $94 million annual business was being challenged by an increasing number of substantial competitors. Tipper also spoke plainly about costs and benefits- -the company expects its 18-month, $360,000 investment (roughly an equal mix of the cost of Siebel Mid-Market software, and implementation and consulting services) to be returned through decreased headcount in IT and administration alone over a 42-month span.

Gartner seems sure that Tipper's new focus on customer care will bring its own ROI in a shorter time frame than that. Marcus congratulated Tipper IT manager Kendra Bender on her company's vision to place both technical and customer service staff under a single director of customer service, reporting to the president. "They took [a] top salesperson and sales manager and put him in charge of customer service. That takes guts, but it shows a true dedication to serving customers," he says.

Gartner's next CRM Summit is scheduled for September 25-27, in Chicago.

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