Save time and money with ESP

In addition to offering a good product, the other important thing any company can do to increase revenue is to make sure it is reaching potential customers. A CRM (customer relationship management) application is of paramount importance in helping your sales force surf an ocean of contacts and sales leads and ultimately boost your revenue.

The problem is that the complexity involved in installing and keeping a sales force automation product humming can drain your budget, try your patience, and disgust the very people who should benefit from it: your salespeople.

Enter the world of CRM as a service: affordable, ubiquitous, reliable and quickly delivered. UpShot ESP (Extended Service Plan) from California-based is a service and set of applications that you can put to work at a fraction of the time and cost required to purchase and install a comparable package, let alone maintain it.

We found the new UpShot ESP to be a flexible, easy-to-use, Web-delivered CRM solution covering the whole sales process, from contact management to marketing campaigns. Furthermore, UpShot promises a quick and budget-friendly deployment as well as an unprecedented commitment to service excellence - all at a price that should cause concern for Siebel and SalesLogix.

With its service commitments, UpShot may have created a precedent that competitors will be forced to follow. Our overall assessment of UpShot ESP is Very Good. We did not give it a score of Excellent because we felt its applications portfolio was limited to CRM-only tasks, whereas solutions from Oracle or SAP include the capability to tie in e-commerce and e-procurement. We also felt the SLA (service-level agreement) could be refined.

Generating sales

UpShot offers a flexible CRM solution that you can easily customise to satisfy the sales automation needs of your company. For example, you can easily define sales territories, allocate groups of users, and assign roles granularly - and therefore the ability to access certain information - to each group member.

UpShot ESP allows you to manage contacts, deals and customers; to define and execute promotional campaigns; and to monitor the performance of sales teams via the multiple built-in reports and charts. In addition to standard reporting, UpShot offers easy creation of custom reports.

More impressive is UpShot's graphic metaphor, one of the most captivating on the market, which enables you to visualise sales forecasts. Appropriately named "Radar", this feature offers an immediate summary based on the actual deal database. Using a wizard, managers can select which sales event to monitor and drill down to details.

Furthermore, the flexibility of the interface is one of the strong points of UpShot ESP. One interesting option allows users to link the content of a field on the workspace to a URL on the Web.

Backed by bucks

UpShot ESP gets as close as possible to the target of perfection by offering help to implement the system; promising deployment within 15 business days; and, after that, 99.9 per cent, around-the-clock system availability.

Most notably, UpShot backs up that pledge with clearly defined penalties listed in a comprehensive SLA. For example, for companies that have a sales team consisting of up to 50 people, UpShot will deploy the service in 15 business days. During that time, UpShot will assign a project manager to coordinate your implementation; configure the system according to your sales process; migrate your existing Account, Deal, and Contact databases; and provide training for your users and administrators.

If not completed on time, UpShot promises a 5 per cent discount on the $US5000 implementation fee for each day late. Also, if UpShot does not meet its 99.9 per cent uptime promise, you get a 10 per cent discount for each hour of downtime. Although the financial impact on your company will probably be more than that discount, it is certainly a commitment we hope other vendors will follow.

However, there were other parts of the SLA we found unacceptable. Specifically, the promised response time of 15 days for "serious" problems should be revised. Waiting more than two weeks could spell disaster for your company if serious data corruption occurs.

UpShot offers an easy-to-use Web-based CRM service. The only drawback is that it is limited to little more than CRM applications. Companies that have a larger appetite may be enticed by competitors such as Oracle, JD Edwards, or SAP AG, which offer a full range of hosting services such as CRM, ERP (enterprise resource planning), e-business and e-procurement.

Because of the specific functionality of the product, easy delivery via the Internet, and excellent commitment from the vendor, we found UpShot ESP to be one of the most interesting CRM offerings to date.

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