CRM applications can be too focused on selling products and unsuitable for services-oriented businesses, according to a Western Australia-based project management company.
Diamond Industries' CFO and IT manager, Berry de Klerk was an early adopter of Microsoft's first-generation CRM product which "wasn't very satisfactory".
"It was based around selling widgets or bicycles as the model in the package alluded to," de Klerk said. "We are in the services industry - for air conditioning and mechanical - and it didn't address the complexities of our relationships."
The CRM application was first installed in October 2004 in a release de Klerk said had all the makings of third-party software acquired by Microsoft and rushed to market.
Diamond Industries' business involves managing large-scale airconditioning and mechanical services projects for the mining, marine, and residential tower markets. Wanting to remain at the forefront of technology adoption, the company decided to upgrade to Microsoft CRM 3.0 late last year and is now finalizing the required customization.
"Version 3.0 is far more customizable, so we can put in more entities to address our business application [and] this was not possible with 1.2," de Klerk said. "The primary objective was to track the hundreds of projects that come out into the market each year. Approvals need to be gained [and] we need to track changes and stakeholders. You could have as many as four or five builders [or] investment parties."
Diamond Industries uses Pronto for its main accounting system, which has a CRM module, but Microsoft was chosen because it integrates with Outlook, Word and Excel which is "very useful to us".
Other solutions like Salesforce.com were also evaluated, but de Klerk expressed doubts about their level of support.
"I did give Saleforce.com some thought, but my problem was it wasn't well known and I was a bit sceptical about the [level of] support you can get in the future," he said. "Will there be continual enhancements and will it be supported?"
After investing about $10,000 including new hardware, de Klerk said Microsoft CRM's $1600 per-year subscription fee is very affordable compared with others which "can cost thousands".
Regarding ROI, de Klerk said while it's still too early to tell but the main question is, "how much value do you put on maintaining a good relationship with a client?"
"We have a tool that helps build and maintain a relationship [and we're] really in a people business," he said. "It's not a system we [want] to have sales and marketing people spend their time feeding information into. It's to help them work more efficiently [which] keeps company costs down and helps us to be more competitive."
For those businesses looking to make CRM work, de Klerk recommends firstly identifying objectives for what you want CRM to accomplish.
"Involve management and various operators, including sales, in the implementation so any customizations are done upfront," he said. "To roll out a system into which very few people have input isn't really going to get the support of the employees."
Salesforce.com's Asia-Pacific vice president of operations, Doug Farber rejected any concerns of ongoing development and support issues with the company's hosted CRM application.
"We are publicly listed and have had a fantastic history of success," Farber said. "Some of the largest organizations around the world use Salesforce.com [and] our viability is extremely strong."
Farber encourages mid-sized companies like Diamond Industries to trial Salesforce.com for free for 30 days as "the real benefit of Salesforce.com is you don't need to manage systems".