Farmers see unifying effect of Notes-based CRM

The CRM implementation includes event and marketing management as well as the original requirement for sales lead management

Patchy network connections led rural co-operative purchasing company Combined Rural Traders to opt for a custom-built Domino/Notes-based customer relationship management system.

Dunedin-based Combined Rural Traders (CRT), a co-operative purchasing organisation owned by farmers based in the South Island, uses its bulk-buying power to provide farmers with everything they need to run their farms, from irrigation equipment and electric fencing to gumboots and mobile phones, all at the lowest possible prices.

The co-operative is organised into nine specialist divisions, each with its own sales representatives who visit farmers throughout the year. While this approach has allowed the sales reps to build detailed knowledge of their own product areas, CRT began to realise it was also resulting in missed sales opportunities. For example, a seed specialist might learn that a farm was about to come up for sale, but would neglect to inform CRT’s real estate division.

CRT needed a single system that would store all of this information in a central repository that was available to everyone. After surveying the market CRT commissioned a semi-bespoke CRM system from Crossware, a company which specialises in building systems based on IBM’s Domino/Notes server client platform.

Crossware sales and marketing manager Ken Fairgray says one of the reasons why Domino is an excellent engine for CRM systems is because it offers “unsurpassed disconnected functionality” — in other words it allows users to work while offline.

Fairgray says this was an especially important consideration for CRT as mobile data connections in the South Island are patchy. “A couple of our competitors who were demonstrating solutions that relied on a Vodem or Telecom 3G cards to be able to work were laughed out of the boardroom,” he says.

Crossware has recently completed the final phase of a two-year CRM implementation for CRT which includes event and marketing management as well as the original requirement for sales lead management.

“Farmers still see multiple sales representatives, but the sales people have much greater awareness that they are the eyes and ears of the company, and they are capturing information into a system that everyone shares,” says Fairgray.

At CRT’s central call centre, the system’s telephony integration features mean that operators now see pop-ups containing information on the farmers as they call. Any changes to this information usually filter through to the sales people’s laptops within 24 hours. Similarly, when the sales reps log in, typically from a landline at the end of the day, any changes or sales leads they have captured become available to the rest of the organisation in a two-way replication process.

According to Fairgray the “cohesive effect” of the system has been the single most visible benefit to CRT.

“Farmers have always seen the sales people as representatives of the same company, regardless of whether they are specialists from one of the divisions. Now the sales people feel the same way.”

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