Build a Web Gateway for Your Best Customers

If you're serious about your best customers, you probably have a CRM system that keeps close tabs on them. But your customers aren't likely to have a system for keeping track of you. Chances are you end up shuttling quotes, order histories and contracts back and forth manually.

Kovair, a new Web-based CRM vendor, has launched VIPCenter to provide a one-stop information source for so-called "80/20" customers: the 20 percent of an enterprise's customers that usually account for 80 percent of its revenues. VIPCenter acts as the online nexus for all customer/sales contact.

According to Carl Lehmann, vice president of electronic business strategies for META Group, VIPCenter is an overdue relief for companies with complex sales relationships that involve teams of decision-makers on both the buy and sell sides. "Managing all the players and managing all the interactions is a difficult challenge, and a lot of things fall through the cracks," he says.

Kovair agrees. Founder and CEO Krishna Subramanian claims that 85% of the time spent on a large, intricate sale goes to managing the information flow between the parties, not towards negotiation and consummation of the deal. VIPCenter's strong points include:

* Customer-specific information--each VIPCenter displays just the products, documents and pricing relevant to an individual client. This minimizes the risk of confusing a customer with extraneous or conflicting messages.

* Relationship history--VIPCenter tracks and records the interaction between vendor and client. Not only does this provide a complete snapshot of a deal in progress, it can cut down on retraining time when new staff comes on to an account.

* Flexible communication--customers can even click a button on the VIPCenter site, which pages a sales rep and prompts a return call.

* CRM/ERP integration--Kovair plans a set of connection modules for popular CRM systems and important data. Presently, VIPCenter offers ERP integration for inventory and order status, and can incorporate configurator technology.

Mike Ofstedahl, vice president of sales and business development for networking systems company Chip2Chip, has implemented VIPCenters for 10 of his customer relationships, and plans to expand to 25 in the near future.

For Chip2Chip, VIPCenter provided an efficient, low-cost way to organize and track communications. In a typical high-tech company, a US-based salesperson may have to interact with R&D facilities in Europe and manufacturing in the Far East. "It's really hard for an account management person to communicate with all these locations without being up all day," Ofstedahl says.

Although Lehmann points out that customers and partners may need some encouragement to participate in the VIPCenter environment, Ofstedahl says participation hasn't been a problem. "There's never been an issue," he says. "The customers are very happy to participate. It's just a place they go, another Web site. We're not asking them to do anything unusual."

Kovair hosts and maintains the VIPCenter site and data. The base price is $1,000 per month for each VIPCenter.

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