O’Brien makes its national contacts database a transparent, rich resource

O’Brien is a name familiar to anyone who has ever broken a windscreen, and for that reason alone, its database of contacts is quite extensive. The company operates as a network of 80 small businesses across the nation, having grown somewhat from the original company founded in 1924 to make mirrors. After a recent spate of advances in its use of technology, including an online booking system and a mobile communications rollout based on the Nokia 9110 platform, the company went looking for a way to integrate all of its separate sales leads and contacts into a single, centralised national database.

O’Brien provides a national 24-hour seven-day-a-week glass replacement service which covers windscreens, side and rear car windows or any glass in the home, shop or office including windows, doors, mirrors, furniture, shower screens and tabletops. O’Brien is also the only glass replacement company offering a nationwide mobile service with a fleet of more than 550 company-owned trucks and vans. That adds up to a lot of contacts and a lot of mobile calls.

“Because we are a nationwide company,” says Richard Glendinning, O’Brien’s senior market development manager, “our national sales team work from a variety of locations around the country. We wanted to build a national repository of sales and contact information that could be both updated and accessed by our remote sales staff.

“As it stood, we were using a combination of disparate spreadsheets, Outlook address books and good old-fashioned hard copy business-card holders to manage our sales and marketing information.

“As you can imagine, there was very little sharing of this data. In fact, we found that we were losing information through staff turnover, neglect or simply non-communication.”

As if the existing number of contacts wasn’t enough to manage, some of Glendinning’s new sales initiatives were proving successful and the volume of sales leads and new contacts was overwhelming the sales team. O’Brien had been using the services of The Contact Group to help manage its existing contact databases and Glendinning decided to commission the company to provide a solution to his growing problem.

“O’Brien wanted to start with its national sales team and build a central store of sales and marketing data so that it could track and share sales opportunities in a truly coordinated manner,” says Cedric Amoyal, senior consultant with The Contact Group.

“Our first task was to develop a scope of the exact requirements. We needed to know exactly what information they wanted to manage, how that information was to be formatted, how they wanted the reports to look and how the sales staff would be able to interface with the system. We also looked at O’Brien’s other information systems and how we could leverage its existing data and integrate it with an ACT! solution.”

One of the biggest challenges was not to do with the new software, but with providing a suitable platform to run the software. Some of the older equipment needed tweaking to bring it up to speed and some new hardware was acquired where appropriate. In fact, installing the new hardware turned out to be the most time-consuming aspect of the rollout, followed by the running of training sessions for all the sales staff who would be using the new system.

“We set up a customised, one-day training workshop for all potential users that took them through the entire system and showed them how to enter information and run reports,” Amoyal says. “The logistics of bringing all the people together and rolling out the hardware and software simultaneously around the country was a major task, but we all pulled together and the results have been extremely satisfying.”

O’Brien has been pleased with the new technology and is already finding new ways to use the information, now that staff no longer spend time just looking for information.

“The ACT! solution has been an unqualified success,” Glendinning says. “We have 22 of our national sales and marketing staff using the system and have built up a database of 1800 contacts and that number is growing rapidly. Our goal was to have a national database that could be accessed by all of the users and that has happened. All staff can now share and communicate the required information including sales histories and any correspondence that has happened. We also take full advantage of the calendar and scheduling capabilities and that has facilitated logistics to a great extent.”

In the near future, Glendinning plans to add more users to the system as well as installing extra components to add more functionality.

“As more people use the system, more data will be entered and more sharing of that data will occur,” Glendinning says.

“We want to expand the system to include a new add-on to ACT! called SMS Messenger which will allow us send SMS messages to staff and contacts instantly. We also plan to integrate the system more closely with our other sales and marketing initiatives.”

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