The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Elite -- VisionShare

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Ensuring a secure transfer of vital customer data is of paramount importance in the healthcare industry, and compliance with strict federal regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act means the burden rests with the more than 700,000 healthcare providers in the United States.

Enter Minnesota-based VisionShare, an eight-year-old company providing secure data connectivity for the healthcare industry. The company had been managing its order process with a homegrown software system, but there were looming concerns, says Steve Smerz, the firm’s chief information officer and vice president of technical operations. “We have to ship a digital certificate to a customer after it validates who it is,” he explains. “We have to interact with them, configure firewalls, and open up ports to talk through. We were calling up customers four to seven times trying to get them to respond, but they might be on vacation or unavailable. All of a sudden, a backlog of installations started to creep up.”

That backlog also started to creep into VisionShare’s profit outlook, Smerz says: Revenue couldn’t be reported until installation was complete. “We didn’t have a lot of room to have our employees [engaging in] multiple interactions with customers,” he says. “This was chewing up our margins.” Making matters worse was a period of hypergrowth—Smerz says that, in the last 18 months, the company has grown from a customer base of 800 to more than 3,000. In short, VisionShare was facing serious scalability issues.

To get control of the runaway train, VisionShare chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP, as well as the Powertrak solution from Microsoft partner Axonom. Smerz says familiarity and easy customization were two reasons why Microsoft won VisionShare’s business. “We already had Microsoft Office, Outlook, and other [Microsoft] tools in-house, so the ability to bring in a CRM tool in a fairly unobtrusive way was very important,” he says. “Also, capabilities that it brought to the table through inherent customization features and extended [capabilities] with Powertrak gave us options some of the other systems didn’t.”

Joe Benedict, director of sales at Axonom, says the goal was to provide flexibility without intricate programming. “Our platform allows VisionShare...to have options that would [normally] require a lot of custom, line-by-line coding,” he says, adding that Smerz’s group didn’t want or need the raft of developers some other clients might have brought in. In fact, Smerz says the Microsoft/Axonom solution only requires him to have one developer, along with one project manager/business analyst who understands the features and requirements of internal customers working on customization for the solution.

After a three-month implementation that Smerz says went off without a hitch, the solution went live in March 2007. An automated email system, for example, now reminds customers to complete certain aspects of the installation process, such as opening up a firewall port by a specific date. Within two months, Smerz says, VisionShare started seeing great results—including a 51 percent decrease in the installation-ticket backlog. “Now, we’re able to manage by event and exception rather than proactively having to touch each installation,” he says.

Sales professionals were wary at first of having to migrate from an older version of Sage Software’s Act! solution, but after a few weeks those fears subsided. “In Act!, they were able to set up their own methodologies of tracking data and essentially type in anything into any field they chose,” Smerz recalls. “This system puts more rigor into the data quality aspects, and our sales team now sees the value in reporting and the ability to manage the total interaction with the customer as opposed to prospecting.”

The project has gone so well that Medicare has approached VisionShare about handling some operations on a national basis, something Smerz says would have been a pipe dream before. “This would be an order-of-magnitude increase, and we wouldn’t be able to handle this without our new systems in place,” he says. “Medicare saw our success, and now VisionShare is seeing big opportunities as a byproduct of that.”

Real Results : VisionShare

  • Increased revenue by 115 percent.
  • Maintained a 97.8 percent customer-renewal rate.
  • Reduced backlog of installation tickets by 51 percent
  • Cut by 87 percent the number of tickets that run 90-plus days.
  • Increased same-day closing of trouble tickets by 14 percent.

To read about the other 2008 CRM Elite winners, click here.

For the rest of the 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.

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