CRM shifts to the cloud

Three local companies share their online CRM experiences with Ulrika Hedquist

Southern Hospitality is a supplier of products and services to the hospitality and food service industry. The company deals with around 600 calls a day and the 100 mobile staff visit eacch from five to 15 customers a day, says Andy Doherty, CEO at Southern Hospitality.

“It’s quite a powerful beast, and to manage that and get the most out of it is obviously a big part of our business.”

Two years ago, the company chose to implement a Salesforce.com CRM system. All mobile staff were equipped with iPhones, with Salesforce.com’s app running on them.

“[The app] was the main reason for moving to Salesforce.com,” says Doherty.

The previous solution was “a lovely piece of paper, which we recorded our calls on”, Doherty says. In addition to being a very manual process, there was also a lot of reluctance within the team to actually fill out the form, he says.

“We knew the technology was changing. With mobile phones delivering more and more, we could see the ability to take that piece of paper and put it on the phone,” he says.

However, Salesforce wasn’t “top-of-mind” when the organisation started the search for a CRM system – Southern Hospitality actually looked at building a system in-house.

“Our requirements were very simple – we wanted to take that piece of paper and effectively put it on the mobile phone,” Doherty says. “We weren’t looking for too many bells and whistles. We just wanted to replicate what we were doing and make it mobile.”

The organisation went looking for an off-the-shelf solution but couldn’t find one that met its requirements. While many vendors could offer a mobile CRM solution as an add-on, no one was specialised in the area, he says.

The more research Doherty did the more it became obvious that Salesforce had what the organisation was looking for, he says.

Doherty wasn’t at all worried about going for a cloud-based solution, he says.

“We weren’t too paranoid about the cloud, bearing in mind that the alternative was a piece of paper, which arguably was more obtainable than getting access to the cloud,” he says. “Now we are looking at putting other areas of our business in the cloud too.”

The company’s expectations of the CRM system were minimal, he says. The simple process of making “that piece of paper” mobile and live was achieved very quickly. “I think we underestimated the power of Salesforce,” he says.

Salesforce’s social network and collaboration platform, Chatter, for example, is one of the features that Southern Hospitality is using heavily but hadn’t expected to, he says. The reporting system, internal review system and follow-up processes of Salesforce have also proved unexpectedly useful.

“Even now, we are still learning and understanding the impact it can have on our business,” he says.

The top benefits of the solution include the ability to connect and communicate with the team, “and the fact that it’s live information”, Doherty says. The biggest challenge is adoption and user-training. “That’s an area we could have done better internally.”

MTA

The Motor Trade Association (MTA) has also gone for an online CRM system. The Wellington-based organisation implemented a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system just over a year ago, says MTA CFO Kaetrin Stephenson.

The organisation initially looked at what its sister organisation in Victoria, Australia, was using, but that was a “very bespoke system, a high-risk strategy for us, even though it promised integration with the Office suite”, Stephenson says.

Southern Hospitality is a supplier of products and services to the hospitality and food service industry. The company deals with around 600 calls a day and the 100 mobile staff visit eacch from five to 15 customers a day, says Andy Doherty, CEO at Southern Hospitality.

“It’s quite a powerful beast, and to manage that and get the most out of it is obviously a big part of our business.”

Two years ago, the company chose to implement a Salesforce.com CRM system. All mobile staff were equipped with iPhones, with Salesforce.com’s app running on them.

“[The app] was the main reason for moving to Salesforce.com,” says Doherty.

The previous solution was “a lovely piece of paper, which we recorded our calls on”, Doherty says. In addition to being a very manual process, there was also a lot of reluctance within the team to actually fill out the form, he says.

“We knew the technology was changing. With mobile phones delivering more and more, we could see the ability to take that piece of paper and put it on the phone,” he says.

However, Salesforce wasn’t “top-of-mind” when the organisation started the search for a CRM system – Southern Hospitality actually looked at building a system in-house.

“Our requirements were very simple – we wanted to take that piece of paper and effectively put it on the mobile phone,” Doherty says. “We weren’t looking for too many bells and whistles. We just wanted to replicate what we were doing and make it mobile.”

The organisation went looking for an off-the-shelf solution but couldn’t find one that met its requirements. While many vendors could offer a mobile CRM solution as an add-on, no one was specialised in the area, he says.

The more research Doherty did the more it became obvious that Salesforce had what the organisation was looking for, he says.

Doherty wasn’t at all worried about going for a cloud-based solution, he says.

“We weren’t too paranoid about the cloud, bearing in mind that the alternative was a piece of paper, which arguably was more obtainable than getting access to the cloud,” he says. “Now we are looking at putting other areas of our business in the cloud too.”

The company’s expectations of the CRM system were minimal, he says. The simple process of making “that piece of paper” mobile and live was achieved very quickly. “I think we underestimated the power of Salesforce,” he says.

Salesforce’s social network and collaboration platform, Chatter, for example, is one of the features that Southern Hospitality is using heavily but hadn’t expected to, he says. The reporting system, internal review system and follow-up processes of Salesforce have also proved unexpectedly useful.

“Even now, we are still learning and understanding the impact it can have on our business,” he says.

The top benefits of the solution include the ability to connect and communicate with the team, “and the fact that it’s live information”, Doherty says. The biggest challenge is adoption and user-training. “That’s an area we could have done better internally.”

MTA

The Motor Trade Association (MTA) has also gone for an online CRM system. The Wellington-based organisation implemented a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system just over a year ago, says MTA CFO Kaetrin Stephenson.

The organisation initially looked at what its sister organisation in Victoria, Australia, was using, but that was a “very bespoke system, a high-risk strategy for us, even though it promised integration with the Office suite”, Stephenson says.

“I sensed that we would be caught in the middle between vendors, or wouldn’t understand where the potential points of failure could be. I’m not an IT specialist so I’m very dependent on my provider.”

So instead, MTA chose the Microsoft solution, implemented by local company Intergen. With only a small in-house IT capability, it was important to the organisation to be able to hold one vendor and one solution accountable, she says.

Strong usability was another requirement.

“A lot of our users are very confident with Microsoft Outlook and the CRM system has a similar look and feel,” she says. “Some of our users are remote, which means supporting them and keeping them upskilled can be problematic.”

And although the organisation is not a leading-edge adopter of technology – “we are very much a follower” – it has gone into the cloud.

“The cloud has worked very well for us. The plusses have outweighed any initial concerns,” Stephenson says.

With a number of staff working on the road and from home offices, the cloud-based system is valuable, she says. All remote staff have data plans on their netbooks or laptops.

“They don’t have to come in through our firewall to access our servers. Just being able to go to the website and work remotely has been fantastic for the team.”

On-the-road staff can see any interaction with members up until they go and visit them. They can then immediately update and refresh the information. Previously, staff would have sent data to the head office and wait for it to be updated. The new system has eliminated that double-handling of data, as well as taken away the dependence on information kept in spreadsheets “on the side”, or just in the heads of staff members. It has also empowered staff, as they can update any record in the system and take responsibility for it being correct, she says.

MTA was initially going to go in Microsoft’s cloud in Singapore but opted for a local cloud, hosted by Intergen in Wellington, she says. The main reason for that was speed concerns, and although there is no financial data in the CRM system, there were also concerns over data sovereignty issues. She says it was probably more a fear of change rather than any specific issue. “But we felt much more comfortable knowing the data was on-shore rather than off-shore,” she says.

IDC: Compare security with cloud

Security concerns have been part of the cloud CRM conversation from the beginning, but “the change in tone has been pretty drastic in the past couple of years,” says IDC’s Vern Hue.

“The reality is that CRM on-demand providers boast an impressive security posture, and more often than not, better than what most organisations can deliver [themselves],” he says.

Many cloud-based solution providers have strong security measures in place, such as dedicated security staff and advanced response systems that detect any suspicious activities at the on-set, he says.

“If security is the only key concern facing an organisation, I would suggest that they compare their own internal security framework and policies against that of the CRM cloud provider,” he says. “Chances are that the cloud CRM provider would have a very compelling security framework.”

Social media and mobility have driven transformation in many parts of business, and the CRM space is no exception, says Hue.

“While traditional CRM was reactive in its nature, social CRM tries to make sense of the noise generated from social media, understanding customer preferences and addressing issues that arise with disgruntled customers,” he says. “In essence, social CRM helps organisations become more effective at interacting and leveraging intelligence from various sources, particularly the web.”

1 Comment

Mark Fowler

1

A very useful series of local CRM case studies. Thanks and Well done.

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