CRM Superstars

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Some say generals receive all the glory in battle, but that soldiers are the ones who actually win the war. The same rings true with CRM. CRM initiatives need to be driven from the c-level, but it takes the daily efforts of those associates who use the systems to make CRM a success. Often it is the superusers who truly encourage adoption among their peers, who think of new ways to make business processes more customer-centric, and who find ways to maximize the CRM technologies their companies have deployed. We spotlight three superusers--one in sales, the second in marketing, and the third in customer service--who exemplify the ideal user of a CRM system. Their efforts, and the subsequent results, prove that one user really can make a difference in the success of a CRM initiative. Sales: Don Vrrocchio SkillSoft knows well the adoption issues related to new technologies. So when the e-learning provider moved from a Vantive CRM system to a more complex PeopleSoft system linking sales, marketing, and human resources, the company did so in a phased approach. "Our objective was not to overwhelm the users, just add the core functions that were valuable for them at first, then slowly expand," says Brian Witchger, vice president of global sales at SkillSoft. But phasing in the system was just one part of SkillSoft's CRM strategy. Someone had to be responsible for getting the salespeople on board and managing the data. That's where Don Vrrocchio, SkillSoft's manager of sales operations, came in. "Every day I'm looking to make sure that the data flows from the inside sales team to the outside representatives, and that all the leads from a single customer can be found in one place," Vrrocchio says. "We have a very clearly defined sales process, and the PeopleSoft system has been developed to work with that process." Witchger says that Vrrocchio has been invaluable when it comes to making sure that data is in the system and is reliable: "Getting all that data from disparate systems into PeopleSoft was a major accomplishment, but on an ongoing basis Don is helping other reps to get that real-time view of every sales case. And sometimes we have a better view of the customers' business than they do." To help sales reps to understand and adopt the PeopleSoft system, Vrrocchio has helped develop informal monthly training sessions to get new reps up to speed, and to keep all users refreshed on the key functions of the system, Witchger says. Yet, Vrrocchio is quick to shine the success spotlight back on management. "CRM has really become part of the corporate culture here," Vrrocchio says. "The executive buy-in has really spurred usage across the board." Even so, Vrrocchio says, salespeople are typically reluctant to change, so he has spearheaded initiatives to make the PeopleSoft system as easy to use as possible. "It's all about less clicks to get what you want in less time," he says of his involvement in simplifying the user interface. "Salespeople want to go out and sell, they don't want to do paperwork." Vrrocchio's efforts are preparing him for his next starring role: He will be a major part of the company's upgrade to PeopleSoft version 8.8 this summer. Don Vrrocchio
Title: manager of sales operations, SkillSoft System used: PeopleSoft 8.4 Years used: 2 Key duties: supervises the sales force; ensures reps input data into PeopleSoft Status: CRM superuser Marketing: Andrea Cooling The contact management system the salespeople at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) had been using until 1999 was "antiquated," says Andrea Cooling, marketing consultant and project manager. So Cooling and her project team evaluated several CRM products to bring the sales and marketing departments up to date. "Rather than sink money into this unreliable system, we wanted to add something that would fit into our business vision for the next three to five years, which included using the Web even more for e-commerce and other needs," Cooling says. BCBST needed a solution that could be highly tailored, and something salespeople would actually use. The team selected SalesLogix from Best Software, and Cooling became a leader among those using and deploying the system. "Andrea has been involved since day one, and is totally committed to the project," says Janet Adams, director of marketing administration at BCBST and Cooling's supervisor. "Her dedication is simply profound." Cooling says helping to drive adoption was a challenge. "People get set in their ways," she says. But Cooling was determined, and visited every user to show them how to use the system, instilling confidence that SalesLogix was the best way to move forward. In fact, Adams says that Cooling was one of the major reasons that the brokers and other users at BCBST started to adopt the new system. "She really demonstrated how the tool would benefit the users, not just the company," Adams says. "She truly was a guidance counselor for our associates, showing them how to use the system based on her use of it, not just telling them how to use it." Cooling uses the system "constantly" to manage accounts and to coordinate leads and account renewals between the marketing department and the brokers in the field. And since information can move through the system much more efficiently, Cooling says she uses it to push pertinent information from the customer database out to brokers on a daily basis. "We can now push information to our brokers about incentives for renewals and other benefits in a manner of minutes, where that used to take days to manually send out the forms and documents," she says. Because of Cooling's familiarity with the system, Adams says Cooling has been the point person when it comes to tweaking it to better suit the workflow of the brokers and other users. "She sees the same obstacles as other users, so she can really relate to them and help come up with the best solution that will benefit every user," Adams says. "I wear many hats when it comes to SalesLogix, and I am always troubleshooting and thinking of ways to change the system for the better," Cooling says. Cooling's current focus is leading BCBST's efforts to integrate between SalesLogix and its back-office applications, creating a process that instantly drives customer data from SalesLogix into the billing and accounting systems. "We are looking to make SalesLogix our true front-office solution," she says. "We want to streamline the customer acquisition process from prospect to acquisition to issuing an ID card to customer retention." And you can be sure that Cooling will be involved every step of the way. Andrea Cooling Title: marketing consultant and project manager, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee System used: SalesLogix 6 Years used: 4 Key duties: coordinates customer information between marketing and sales teams, spearheading customer retention programs Status: CRM superuser Customer Support: Kirk McNesby When Activision selected RightNow Technologies it got two surprises. Activision, an international publisher of interactive entertainment software products, selected RightNow to handle customer support on the Web. Instead, RightNow became the backbone of Activision's customer support strategy. "Once we actually got the system up and running we saw what it could do, and now we use it for Web self-service, email management, and case management--basically all of our customer support," says Bob McPherson, senior manager of customer support at Activision. And Activision didn't expect to find such a CRM superuser in Kirk McNesby, a game tester and customer support rep with the company. He joined Activision just over a year ago, and has been using the RightNow system like a pro since he started. "Kirk is one of those guys who is really great at motivating people around him," McPherson says. "He just knows the system so well--he really is a go-to guy." But McNesby is quick to shift the accolades away from himself. "The system is really easy to use," he says,"that's why it was so simple to ramp up to providing support and accessing the database." McNesby says he is literally in the system all day, every day. "Apart from using the system to help customers who call in or email, I am constantly querying the database for solutions to problems, or adding new customer history or information about common problems for other users to utilize," he says. McPherson says that McNesby knows the system so well that he was integral to the company's upgrade from RightNow 5.5 to version 6.0. "There are a lot of added features, and Kirk was really helpful in determining where customer information should be placed so it can be accessed the easiest," McPherson says. Overall, McPherson says, McNesby's knowledge and constant use of the RightNow system has not only made him a top-notch customer service representative, but also a better game tester and developer. This time McNesby agrees with McPherson's compliments: "Dealing with so many customer issues, I can recognize potential problems in a new game before it is released, hopefully reducing the amount of customer service calls we'll have to handle in the future." Those are the words of a truly customer-focused agent. Kirk McNesby Title: tester and support representative, Activision System used: RightNow 6.0 Years used: 1 Key duties: handles customer support via phone and email, updates customer database Status: CRM superuser Contact CRM magazine at gconlon@destinationCRM.com
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