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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: October 2004

Workable CRM solutions for the SME abound

October 2004
Andrew Seldon

CRM could be called the miracle application. First we all thought it was the ultimate solution to everything, then we knew it was a complete waste of time and money, and now we are starting to realise value from it.

The number of publicised CRM failures over the past few years is astounding. Best guesses can put the failure figures at anywhere between 50% to 80% of all CRM projects. So why did otherwise intelligent CEOs authorise spending millions on a technology that nobody seemed to be getting any returns from?
There are probably a number of reasons, but one of the main ones must be that CRM was sold as an IT solution to the IT manager or director. And IT was responsible for implementing it and seeing to it that the amazing returns happened. Obviously this was not the way to go. CRM is a business tool designed to optimise certain processes that have a direct impact on the performance of the company.
Mike Fairon, CTO of Dimension Data notes that CRM projects will end up off track if approached as IT projects. He says only 44% of projects are initiated by CxO-level managers and only 8% were managed by them. It can be no surprise that CRM has a reputation of failing.
In enterprise installations, CRM success depends on the buy-in of personnel, especially management and the formation of a CRM strategy, including any process re-engineering that may be needed. The SME market is viewed differently in that there are supposedly off-the-shelf packages that are available that can simply be installed and used.
Customisable off-the-shelf CRM
If the main purpose of a CRM solution is to give companies a competitive edge, and if every organisation believes it offers its customers something a little unique, then the very concept of an off-the-shelf CRM solution is an oxymoron, says Wayne de Nobrega, MD of Technology Concepts.
"How can a company spend an enormous amount of money and effort implementing something which is supposed to enable it to differentiate itself from its competitors, but which, because it is off-the-shelf, effectively delivers the same competitive advantages to every company that purchases it?" he asks.
Every company is different. Every company's customers are different. Yet a packaged CRM solution, even if parts of it are customised, requires that the company deal with its customers in basically the same way.
"Businesses are constantly trying to think outside the box to deliver new and innovative solutions to their clients. It does not make sense to limit this hard-earned competitive edge by confining your business to working inside the box of an off-the-shelf CRM package - basically levelling the playing field between yourselves and your competitors.
"A CRM system should be the hub of your business, not just a sophisticated contact management system. It should be deployed to improve workflow and business efficiency by integrating with other essential business requirements such as quotations, sales forecasting and service management."
The issue with smaller companies is they do not have the millions to spend on fancy ERP systems that take months to implement before anyone realises they do not work. Fortunately, there are affordable solutions available to these companies from various vendors, using various technologies. In fact, there is a solution for everybody.
Technology Concepts has developed bespoke CRM solutions for both South African and US-based companies using Open Source software: the operating system is Linux; the database is MySQL and the development language PHP.
"These companies spent months investigating off-the-shelf CRM solutions. Nothing met their specific needs. We delivered precisely what they wanted and needed in a fraction of the time and cost it would have taken to implement a packaged solution," says De Nobrega.
A flash of CRM
Fusion Reactor has also released a CRM product called Highway. Grant Jackson, marketing director at Fusion Reactor says Highway incorporates all standard CRM functions such as an e-mail client, customer information, a notes field, full search facilities on every criterion in the database and five standard quick searches.
Aimed at the SME market, Highway is delivered via an ASP model, allowing access to the system from any browser, anywhere staff may need to interact with the company's database. The system is built using data packets so small that the applications can be accessed and run over slow connections.
"We have built specialised features that users will not find in most other CRM packages," he says. "For example, we have incorporated a comprehensive customisation feature into the package which means our end users can basically redesign the package to suit their own needs."
Highway includes a full SMS solution, based on Fusion Reactor's SMS gateway software, which allows users to send both individual and grouped SMS. The product allows users to schedule delivery of SMS for delivery at a predetermined date and time and all SMS messages can be personalised to include the recipients, full names.
The product is already in operation at The InnovationHub, the first science park in southern Africa, established to create an environment specifically designed for innovators and entrepreneurs.
Customisation is not always needed, however. Many companies simply need a CRM solution that consolidates and helps to manage their interactions with customers and each other. An example of out-of-the-box success comes from PSG Treasury Outsourcing, a South African financial organisation providing a range of services including corporate finance, trade finance, treasury and trading.
Many of the bank's profit centres are staffed by small teams of people working together. It is imperative that team members are aware of each others activities, appointments and contacts with clients to avoid duplication of effort. Each team must also understand what the other teams are doing so that new business opportunities can be identified quickly.
In the past PSG has relied on Microsoft Outlook and various applications built using Excel and Access to share information about customers. Towards the end of 2001, Mich Nieuwoudt, PSG's IT Manager, decided to look for something that would enable staff to share this information more effectively.
"It was clear to me that we needed to move towards some sort of CRM solution," Nieuwoudt says. "To get started we wanted something powerful which would be straightforward to implement, easy to use and which would work with Outlook." Nieuwoudt decided on Maximizer Enterprise.
Camsoft implemented Maximizer Enterprise in just two days. The benefits of using Maximizer were realised by PSG almost immediately. "With Maximizer we have been able to consolidate our efforts and work more efficiently. Staff now have a much better understanding of what other staff members are doing, so they are able to co-ordinate their dealings with clients."
A new entrant to the CRM market in South Africa is Gush. The company offers a hosted solution to SMEs built on Microsoft's .Net technology. Gary Stanley, MD of Gush says its Customer Harvester solution addresses the needs of organisations to grow and maximise opportunities via the software's 360° view of every customer 'and effective customer relationship development and management'.
And let us not forget Microsoft
Caron Mooney, director of IS Partners notes that Microsoft's CRM solution is a fantastic solution for SME businesses. Especially companies with licensing agreements can get the package at a good price.
"The greatest advantage of the Microsoft solution is its integration with Outlook, something everybody wants but few can deliver on," Mooney says. "And although there are some features missing from this version of the application, the design ensures it is simple to add features and one's own CRM functionality [as IS Partners has done]."
Mooney adds that the greatest benefit right now of Microsoft's CRM offering is the ability it provides with Avaya to create a small IP-based call centre integrated with the application. Using IP technology cuts the high costs normally associated with call centres.
Avaya's IP Office is an office communication solution that brings together voice, data and communications applications for small and mid-size businesses. Avaya is now providing an integrated solution that combines telephony data with information from Microsoft's customer databases and enables smaller firms to deliver service levels that rival those of much larger enterprises.
Says Alain Schram, MD of sub-Saharan Africa at Avaya: "This new solution is ideally tailored to meet the needs of the SME, which in turn makes it ideal for the South African market of which the SME makes up a major part of our private sector. Not only are we able to keep the total cost of ownership of this product low, but we are also able to provide impressive speed of deployment all with an affordable price tag.
"Customer service is after all the main differentiator for SMEs. We believe this offering will enable the smaller customer to deliver superior service, which is absolutely critical to their profitability and growth. And we are enabling companies to better manage their business, by gaining new functions, such as tracking the time and cost required for specific transactions."
The Avaya/Microsoft CRM application includes:
* Avaya IP Office, which serves as the hardware platform for the integrated Avaya-Microsoft solution for small and medium businesses. Avaya IP Office supports up to 360 extensions and offers a choice of communication protocols.
* Avaya Compact Contact Centre for IP Office, which is a customer contact application for up to 75 agents that supports voice calls, e-mail, Web chat and Web callback.

* Microsoft CRM, which helps businesses develop profitable customer relationships through lead and opportunity management, incident management, a searchable knowledgebase, and reporting tools with Microsoft Business Solutions CRM modules.
Built using Microsoft .NET-connected technologies, Microsoft CRM is easy to deploy, integrate, and customise.
While CRM still has somewhat of a bad reputation, it is clear that companies are realising that improving their customer service and internal knowledge of what has been done with customers in the past boosts the overall performance of their businesses. And when companies demonstrate results, we have a domino effect starting as competitors realise they need to up their performance to match. Of course, while we have focused on the SME market (the main market in South Africa) CRM is also finding more traction in the enterprise as companies strategise and reorganise to better serve customers and face globalisation head on.
The key issue is not to fall into the must-have trap and simply spend money thinking IT will somehow create a solution. CRM is a business problem that needs business solutions from business people. IT is just the nuts and bolts to make it all work.
KPT launches Qnique contact centre solution
Workforce optimisation solutions specialist, Key Performance Technologies (KPT), has launched the full suite of Qnique modules, a browser-based integrated solution for selecting and managing people within contact centres. Qnique particularly focuses on the quantitative, qualitative and business assessment challenges within contact centres making huge strides in assessing and managing ROI.
"Qnique employs a unique methodology to achieve permanent, measurable results," says Marian Spieth, director of KPT. "A key differentiator of Qnique is its set of embedded knowledge libraries of generic assessment criteria. These knowledge libraries are the driving force behind the Qnique modules."
Using key performance areas (KPA) and key performance indicators (KPI), Qnique encompasses a comprehensive repository of core competencies for all aspects of quality management. These competencies are specifically focused on measuring customer experience dialogue, quantitative performance and business achievements.
Optimising performance and delivering quality customer interactions are the cornerstones of Qnique. The product helps companies to align their contact centres with best practice key performance areas and indicators.
Qnique's integrated modules are achievement-orientated and results-driven. Each of the modules can be customised to businesses' unique requirements for best practice performance and maximum effectiveness within the contact centre.
It begins with agent selection (QSelection), and extends to performance assessment (QAssessment), online learning (QLearn), and a personal interactive coaching tool for quality assurance (QAssurance). Closing the loop is customer research (QResearch) - the findings of which are continuously used to enhance the agents' performance.
For more information contact Key Performance Technologies, Marian Spieth, 011 803 9090, marians@kptsystems.com


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