CRM systems: Unitec and Localist adopt different strategies

Unitec opts for an on-premise solution, while Localist embraces the cloud

According to IT analysts, the CRM systems market is buoyant, providing a raft of solutions for organisations looking to upgrade. In this article Computerworld looks at two very different CRM implementations.

Unitec picks PeopleSoft

Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland implemented an on-premise Oracle/PeopleSoft CRM system last November. The tertiary institute wanted to make centralised student centres more effective, says Unitec’s David Coltman, executive director of student and community engagement. The organisation was going through the process of re-implementing its over-arching ERP system, also PeopleSoft.

“That is when we really became aware of the possibility of CRM to meet our business needs,” says Coltman.

The objectives for the institute included enhancing the experience for students; providing better online communication; achieving a greater transparency over the various relationships that students have with the organisation; and having a 360-degree view of relationships and communication from the student’s or stakeholder’s perspective, says Coltman.

The CRM system has enabled the organisation to target its communication with students, in terms of demographics and different stages of their interaction with Unitec, and also in terms of which campus they are studying at, whether they are inquiring about possibly becoming a student, or whether they are enrolled or graduates. Previously, the institute tended to have to communicate in a “blanket” way to all students, he says.

“We also had an awful lot of staff engaged in low-value work – managing databases, manually communicating through letters and sticking brochures in envelopes,” says Coltman. “This has enabled us to redeploy that resource to more value-adding roles.”

Unitec looked at a few different solutions, but ended up choosing PeopleSoft, partly because the enterprise system was also PeopleSoft.

“We felt that the Oracle product was developed to meet the requirements of a number of leading service providers internationally. We were able to see how it tangibly would realise some of the benefits we were hoping to achieve,” says Coltman.

Unitec was also able to network with other users to learn how they were using the solution, which “extended our thinking”, he adds.

Unitec hadn’t done any upgrades for more than a decade and the organisation was operating on a system that was designed for 1999, says Coltman. The organisation is now in the process of moving to the latest version of PeopleSoft and CRM was the first module to go live.

“It was seen as our ‘quick win’,” says Coltman. “We used it to get the business enthusiastic about the [upgrade]. We saw it as a relatively easy part to implement effectively, and we did it quickly.”

The financials module upgrade went live in May and next up is human resource management, which is planned for roll-out in October.

The main benefits of the CRM system so far include visibility over processes, says Coltman.

“It has allowed us to see and measure service levels accurately. We can see how long it is taking from student enquiry to application to enrolment. It allows us to be more responsive, more efficient.”

In the past, the organisations had to put resources where “the wheel was squeakiest” rather than where there was an identified need, he says.

The process of responding to enquiries for information has been automated. Brochures and information requests are now responded to electronically and immediately, says Coltman. This has allowed staff to focus on areas that really add value, such as face-to-face communication and advising. While he doesn’t have the data to prove it yet, he believes that conversion rates are going up.

For students the CRM system means faster service, he says. Unitec is now able to communicate with students in the medium they are comfortable with – online.

“It is an expected norm,” says Coltman. “And it needs to be immediate. It is not OK that we clear through the emails in the afternoon and deal with them the following day.”

At the moment most online communication is via email, but the team is now looking at all the possibilities, including chat features, he says.

Initially, there was some resistance from the organisation with some wondering if the CRM system really would deliver the expected benefits, Coltman says. There was some concern of losing the ownership of the relationship and communication they had with the students.

“But now I have a list of functional areas within the organisation that want to start using the CRM to improve their operation,” says Coltman. “So using it as a ‘quick win’ has bought into a much bigger project – the ERP upgrade.”

The enthusiasm from the business means that the project is not solely being led by IT, he says.

Next on the agenda is a workshop to draw up the future roadmap for the CRM system. Many parts of the business now want to explore further possibilities, such as chat rooms and more automated functions, says Coltman.

Localist opts for the cloud

NZ Post-owned local directory and networking site Localist has gone in the opposite direction – implementing Google Apps, a cloud CRM system and even putting its call centre in the cloud.

Once Localist got the go-ahead from NZ Post, the business had to get up and running fairly quickly, says Ken Holley, head of technology at Localist.

“We had to do it as if we were a start-up,” says Holley. “We didn’t have a single customer at that point, so cost, scalability and time-to-market were among the concerns.”

Localist did a formal RFI process among NZ Post’s suppliers and one of those suppliers, Fronde, presented to the company. The credibility of Salesforce, the ability to implement the solution quickly and Fronde’s understanding of Localist’s business requirements made it an easy choice, says Holley.

With the Salesforce CRM system in place, Localist went out to look for a telephony solution for its contact centre. Holley and his team weren’t very keen to buy a costly PABX system and a large amount of servers to support the contact centre, he says.

“We were building our systems from the top down, starting with the customer requirements and putting infrastructure at the bottom, rather than starting with a whole layer of hardware and databases and putting capability on top of that,” he says.

Fronde again introduced Localist to IPscape, an Australian contact-centre, cloud-technology provider. IPscape offers a cloud-based solution that integrates with Salesforce.

Localist had a couple of months to deliver a fully working solution, says Holley. It was a big challenge for the traditional players, but not for IPscape, he suggests.

“They demonstrated they really understood contact centres,” he says. “We also liked the pricing model – a subscription, cloud-based model where you pay for what you are using rather than pay for a large chunk of infrastructure and then hope you’ve got enough.”

The contact centre solution had to be fast-to-market; with low, long-term total cost of ownership and it had to be scalable. So far, the solution has ticked all the boxes, says Holley.

From a functionality point of view, the integration with Salesforce shouldn’t be taken lightly, adds Holley. Call centre operators have one screen in front of them with the Salesforce widget integrated into the toolbar, so they can see all information related to the customer they are talking to.

“It is a very easy system to configure in terms of designing IVRs (interactive voice response) and making changes on the fly. It is not reliant on me having to build a large IT team to support and manage it,” says Holley.

The business unit can manage the system and make additions and changes to it through an easy-to-use admin interface, he says.

“It allows us to focus on, not so much the technology, but the customers and giving them a better experience,” he says.

The Auckland contact centre has 45 staff that handle outbound sales calls and inbound queries.

The ability to quickly scale up call centre staff or outsource to a call centre provider is also valuable to the company. Localist can easily scale out to call centre staff working from home, or in the event of a disaster, the call centre can relocate to an internet café if required. All staff need is a PC with an internet connection and a browser, Holley says.

But what about the risks of placing CRM and the contact centre in the cloud? To Holley, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

“Yes, there is risk, but it is no different from dealing with an internal IT department,” he says. “Now we work in close partnership with all our cloud providers. In my view, the risk is probably less [with a cloud provider]. You just need to recognise what the risks are and plan for it.”

Another benefit is a reporting feature that pushes information and statistics out to managers’ iPhones, Android phones or tablets, says Holley. By integrating call information from IPscape and activity information from Salesforce, managers can keep track of what is happening and see opportunities to improve the process, he says.

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