NetSuite Serves the Services Industry

NetSuite rolled out a CRM platform today designed for services businesses, which approach CRM quite a bit differently from product-based companies, according to NetSuite officials and an industry analyst. "Product-based companies try to tie most documents and records to the [sales] opportunity," says Liz Herbert, analyst for Forrester Research. "Service-based companies are much more client-centric. The client relationship is more important than the opportunity." Service-based companies--law firms, accounting companies, and the like--sell time, not particular products, which is why they need to track it, according to Herbert. The new platform, NetCRM Services Edition, tracks time as it is used, much like an opportunity-based CRM platform would track products as they are sold and removed from inventory. "For services businesses, it doesn't make sense to tie information about a job to an opportunity," says NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson. "Services businesses need that information tied to a client. Services companies need to be able to track time at many different levels. They need to be able to manage resources like time and available facilities, so they need advanced calendaring functions." Client engagements for services-based businesses do not end with the closing of the opportunity, but are just beginning. Once the service is sold the company must deliver the service and track the project through completion with various service-delivery personnel involved. The current product is designed for the firms that sell primarily services. For more complex service companies like construction firms, which might have a significant amount of materials to track as well as time, NetSuite is developing another version of the product, which is due in second quarter 2005. That version will include more advanced project costing and job costing features, according to Nelson. Herbert adds that NetCRM Services Edition offers features not found in other on-demand CRM systems, such as referring to customers as clients, rather than as accounts, because this is the terminology commonly used in the services arena. Other service-specific features are service item management, project/job tracking, client self-service center, advanced activity and time tracking, and document management, in addition to traditional CRM functionality, including marketing campaign management, client support, and opportunity management. When used as part of the complete NetSuite ERP/CRM solution, services-based businesses can go from proposal to invoice in a single integrated solution, another important feature, Herbert says. "There are some other solutions out there, but they need more customization before they're ready for services businesses." Related articles: On-Demand SFA Providers: Building Out Analytics and Localization
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