5 Ways to Get More From Your CRM Investment

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Just like adding mag wheels and a bored-out engine to turn a Mustang into a hot rod, you can soup up your CRM and maximize its return on investment. But it's not just what's under the hood that will make the difference with CRM. The succinct advice of Frederick Newell, author of Why CRM Doesn't Work (about how to gain more value from CRM), is to stop thinking about the technology. "Nine times out of ten the software people already have is fine," he says. Instead, the CRM users and business processes are what require attention. Companies like Allied Office Supplies, Brother International, and Unisys have squeezed more value from their CRM technology by improving the user experience or by identifying additional business goals that benefit from customer information. Here are the strategies of five companies that have turbocharged their CRM initiatives. 1 Recruit new ownership
After four months of limited returns on its Salesforce.com investment, $300 million Allied Office Supplies put a sales guy in charge of selling CRM to end users. Steve Hartnack was summoned from his regional sales manager post and charged with taking over CRM responsibility from the IT department. At the time of the handoff, Hartnack, now senior vice president of sales operations, says that utilization rates were negligible, because the application "did not speak sales." To support his efforts Hartnack hired an analyst from the IT department and assigned a branch sales operations manager (a "CRM wizard") to each sales office. Hartnack's team customized several screens to close the terminology gap and made sure that the technology supported Allied's sales support and cross-selling processes. Then, he and the analyst visited each sales office to deliver a basic IT class and a three-hour rundown of the system's benefits and how it supports each sales process. "Since I was on the sales side," Hartnack says, "[the salespeople] were much more willing to listen to me than somebody from IT or corporate." Although utilization soared (to 92 percent at last count), Hartnack believes the measure's value has waned. Instead, Allied uses the term active user to describe someone who fully use the system. Active user measures have evolved as use of Salesforce.com has increased. Early on, active users were determined in part by the number of times a user signed on. That no longer suffices. Active user status is determined by performance in categories like updated opportunities, leads converted, and appointments. The specific quantities within those categories change when Hartnack raises the bar on what it means to be an active user. He raises the bar every six months. Also, an active user is defined differently for different user groups. For example, sales managers are evaluated on a pipeline (or forecasting) measure. The inside sales force does not have appointments, so one of its active-user determinants is the number of tasks completed. Membership as an active user has its privileges: Active users are granted access to leads generated from the Web and the telemarketing department, as well as leads that were in progress when a salesperson leaves the company. 2 Improve back-office integration Patrick Arnold, vice president of sales for $10 million Filice Insurance, developed a CRM investment strategy based on his experience working for Oracle and Siebel Systems: "Have a deep understanding of your expectations and remain conservative with your functionality." In May 2003 the growing employee-benefits consulting and brokerage firm selected NetSuite, due in part to its simplicity and integration capabilities. The application was customized and running by the end of July 2003. Filice spent about $250,000 in implementation costs, and spends an additional $25,000 to $50,000 annually on maintenance and training. Arnold credits NetSuite with helping Filice boost revenue by an estimated $500,000 through higher client retention and better management of sales prospects and existing business. To extend NetSuite's value, Filice uses the system's CRM capabilities to handle sales commissions. Filice's highly collaborative sales process requires a complex commission model, and the company's proprietary commission system did not scale with the company's growth. "By tying commissions to CRM, we have streamlined the payment process," Arnold says. "Our payroll went from eight hours to about an hour." 3 Spend more on training When Unisys struggled through the aftermath of an aggressive Siebel implementation, the $5.9 billion IT consulting and systems-integration company bought new software, and both investments paid off. Unisys rolled out Siebel to 3,800 global users in a four-month period in 2000. By early 2001 only 70 percent of users were logging on to the system at least once a week. A survey revealed that users found the system difficult to use. So, Unisys purchased OnDemand Software's Personal Navigator, which provides Siebel training and support through four modes of operation, says Sharon Sienkiewicz, Unisys training manager. Users can view a walk-through of Siebel's functionality, navigate actual Siebel screens, receive automated guidance while using the live version, and test and supplement their Siebel proficiency at any time. The training team also has built Unisys-specific process documentation into Personal Navigator. The documentation includes target account selling, sales approval processes, and client business planning, as well as a "What's New in Siebel?" module. Siebel users received the training software in late 2002. Sienkiewicz stopped measuring utilization when weekly log-ins surpassed the 90 percent mark. "The next question was, Are we able to drive our business with the CRM information?" she says. The answer, based on the steadily improving results of data integrity reports, is yes. In a late-2003 survey of Siebel users, 92 percent of respondents said they would continue to use the training software. 4 Expand the technology's reach When Brother International launched SAP CRM in 2001, the technology supported a larger customer strategy of "making the customer experience as easy and pleasant as humanly possible," says CIO Dennis Upton. The subsidiary of Japan-based Brother Industries makes and markets labeling systems, printers, gear motors, and other office and work equipment. Because Brother sells primarily through dealers and resellers, direct customer contact translates to product-related inquiries to its toll-free number. Brother's top CRM objectives were to capture customer information collected during each of the nearly 2 million calls Brother service representatives receive each year, and then use that information to improve customer experience and the efficiency of call center operations. By early 2003 the company had achieved or exceeded "all of the returns and expectations we originally identified," Upton says. So it extended its CRM capabilities, based on the mySAP platform, to its relationship with dealers and resellers. Sales leads generated at trade shows, from dealers, and through other sources now are qualified, entered into the system, and dispersed by geography to inside sales representatives and to field salespeople who work in conjunction with resellers and dealers. Brother took a process previously based on a tangle of spreadsheets and call lists and "brought structure, reporting, and analysis in by using CRM as the platform technology," Upton says. Management also has a more accurate picture of what's going on in the field. "With our initial implementation, ROI was based on operational efficiency--reducing excess tasks and jobs that did not enhance the customer's experience," Upton says. The continuing use of mySAP's CRM capabilities provides more strategic returns. Salespeople can apply resources to leads with the greatest potential for reward, which has led to revenue increases. Although it's too early for Upton to give specific numbers, he says, "We have every confidence that mySAP will provide better deal closure rates." 5 Repurpose CRM data Marty Ellingsworth's title--director, operations research, customer research and strategies--reflects the growing reach of CRM within Fireman's Fund Insurance, a $4.3 billion unit of German insurance giant Allianz. CRM and business intelligence technology, delivered through SAS, represents only one of several components of the insurance company's larger objective: establishing customer focus as a competitive differentiator. "While you can say it's a strategic investment, it's still a very big line item," Ellingsworth says. "We've worked extremely hard to get more value out of what initially was a CRM initiative." Ellingsworth's operations research partners with the company's claims operations, underwriting operations, and distribution management group to identify ways those areas can benefit from customer data. Operations research uses the CRM data to scour closed claims files for instances where Fireman's Fund paid claims to automobile insurance customers involved in accidents in which a driver insured by a competitor was at fault. In those cases Fireman's can subrogate--that is, contact the at-fault driver's insurance company and collect reimbursements for the claims Fireman's paid to its customer. That use of customer data enabled Fireman's Fund to collect about $2 million through subrogation, all of which has gone straight to the bottom line. Eric Krell is a freelance journalist based in Austin, TX
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