Rightsizing CRM

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) software, the market has overcome its own initial over-hyped promises of nirvana and has settled down to become another important tool in the business armoury. The definition of a small- to medium-sized enterprise covers a lot of territory, from the one-person outfit right up to a 150-person, multi-location national company. It’s unlikely that all SMEs would find a single CRM solution that met their needs. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there when it comes to choosing hardware and software to make your business hum. Ian Yates takes a look at three SMEs to see which offerings they chose.

Sunny Queen Limited is Queensland's largest supplier of eggs and egg products, and has recently expanded into New South Wales and Victoria. Sunny Queen needed a CRM system to support its plan to deal directly with all customers instead of handling sales through agents in regional centres. The company started looking for systems from second-tier vendors because it thought the market leaders would be out of its price range. "We thought there was no way we could afford top-of-the-line software," financial controller Murray Clark said.

Since Sunny Queen was already using Oracle’s E-Business Suite, the incumbent vendor was asked to provide its CRM solution initially as a point of comparison between tiers one and two, but the attraction of total integration with the company’s existing applications overcame other differences and the Oracle offering got the go-ahead.

The CRM implementation allowed Sunny Queen to link its customer management system to a PABX to support inbound caller ID and outbound dialling. The CRM system has allowed Sunny Queen to handle all orders from customers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria with a telesales team of just five people, replacing a costly network of agents in regional centres.

"By implementing the Oracle E-Business Suite, we were able to increase our sales volume 40 percent while keeping staff employee numbers constant,” Clark said. “At the same time, customers are also receiving better service, with Sunny Queen's order-to-fulfilment rate having risen from around 80 to 99 percent."

"We're only just starting to scratch the surface of the financial reporting features, but we have reduced the time taken to prepare management reports from 15 to eight working days, and we're aiming for five days by the end of the financial year," Clark said. "I believe that is easily achievable - but we could never have done it before. What's more, each day's sales reports are ready for us when we arrive at work [the following] morning. You can't do better than that for great daily business intelligence."

Purchasing and sales analysis has also improved. Sunny Queen can now easily track sales trends down to individual stores. On the supply side, the mix of egg sizes varies according to the weather. The company can now easily see when special prices are needed to balance the supply and demand of particular sizes. "We believe we have the leading software in the Australian egg industry. We're years ahead of the other players," Clark said.

Medium-sized CRM

Couran Cove is situated on South Stradbroke Island just 15 minutes from Queensland’s Gold Coast. Established in 1998, this island playground provides holiday-makers and corporate clients with a relaxed environment, five-star accommodation and gourmet cuisine.

Couran Cove recognised that its existing information management system, Microsoft Outlook, was not capable of effectively managing a hundred-thousand dollar sales pipeline and client relationships that stretched across the globe.

“The old system suited our needs for a while but once we started to ramp-up our marketing and grow the sales team it became a bottleneck to possible revenue gains,” said Alastair McCracken, general manager for Couran Cove.

“Our business revolves around tracking leads and securing bookings. We needed a system that would help us do this more effectively.”

Couran Cove’s objectives for the solution were firstly to automate the sales and marketing process, in particular the low-level administrative tasks, to make the sales team more efficient. Secondly, they needed to establish a live link between the resort’s four sales offices located in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast. Finally, management wanted to give members of the sales team working from these remote offices access to the resort’s central database in real time using synchronisation technology.

The resort decided that a full-blown CRM system was needed to provide the features and functionality required and to meet all its objectives. Couran Cove decided on SalesLogix, in particular the Sales and Marketing modules. “We chose SalesLogix because it could be integrated with Microsoft Outlook which was important given this had been our primary sales tool for some time,” McCracken said. “We also wanted a system that could be customised to collect specific data, modify customer records and above all was easy to use.”

Although there were a number of sales force automation/CRM systems on the market specific to the hospitality industry, Couran Cove felt confident SalesLogix would deliver the flexibility it was after. “We looked at a number of reference sites which gave us peace of mind that SalesLogix was capable of delivering on its promise,” McCracken said.

“It’s our main source of revenue generation and allows the entire sales team access to all customer information,” said Casey Detheridge, international sales executive with Couran Cove and SalesLogix administrator.

“Everyone is reading off the same page. For your average sales person, it’s reduced the administrative load from around four hours to two hours a day. Generating contracts, preparing reports and sending out e-mail blasts can now all be done at the press of a button. This gives us more time to spend in front of customers, which is important as it’s the site inspections and families that bring in the sales.”

Furthermore if someone leaves, is off sick or on holidays, details of that person’s interactions with customers and ‘where they’re up to’ can be found on the CRM system. “This helps us avoid lost sales opportunities and gives the added peace of mind that the resort’s intellectual property is secure,” Casey said. Given the 40 to 50 percent reduction in administrative time, general productivity gains and increased sales revenue, Couran Cove calculates it saw payback on its investment in just one year.

Budget CRM

Melbourne-based IT training, consulting and virtual office service provider, The Temporary Alternative, was keen to take advantage of the promises of customer relationship management technology, but wary of the high price associated with most offerings. Was there a way to get the required result without breaking the bank? Company founder and director, Cathy Fanning, was attracted to the expanded functionality offered by Microsoft’s Office 2003.

“In any business – regardless of size – information is critical,” Fanning said.

“The main thing about information though is that it needs to be accessible and above all, usable. Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 with Business Contact Manager has given me the ability to exploit information and use it to benefit my company by means of improving customer relationship management and simplifying many of the day-to-day activities that are inherent in running The Temporary Alternative.”

Fanning had looked at a number of CRM offerings that were targeted at the SME sector, but at that price point, integration with Microsoft Office was not being offered.

“I spend a lot of time in Outlook and other Office applications, such as Word and PowerPoint, and everything I do within those applications I consider as information that needs to be tracked,” Fanning said. “Whether it’s sending an e-mail, creating a document, entering a journal entry – which I do for every business phone call, letter sent, meeting and the like – or scheduling a meeting, it is all valuable information that I call upon constantly in dealing with clients and other business activities.”

Fanning and her staff employ a strict policy of recording all events and activities that relate in any way to a client or job. “Whether it’s a phone call, meeting or e-mail, Outlook’s journalling is used to record the specifics,” Fanning said. “As soon as I take a call from a client I start the timer so I can track exactly how long I’m on the phone and what was discussed. When I get back from a meeting I do a ‘brain dump’ in Outlook and record it against the company or person with whom I had the meeting.”

“It’s a case of having information on-hand whenever I need it,” Fanning explained. “When a client calls me to check on the progress of a project or an update on exactly how long I’ve spent on-site, I can let them know immediately. The result is that the impact on my time of client queries is much less than it has ever been and I would estimate that I’m now saving anything up to half-an-hour every day by avoiding the need to manually sort through masses of files and papers. Even more importantly, my clients are very impressed with the immediacy of my ability to react to their requests.”

If you’ve been thinking about a CRM solution to your business problems, you don’t have to see the bank manager first. There is an enormous range of offerings ranging from an off-the-shelf box at your local computer store through to the full-blown enterprise suites available from vendors such as Oracle. As these business principals have discovered, CRM has matured into a business tool that can deliver real gains in productivity and efficiency, while helping to maintain the SME mantra that the customer is always right.

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