Choosing the right CRM solution

27 May 2004

When it came to choosing a company-wide customer relationship management (CRM) system EBS went to Irish banking and insurance software specialists Fineos. “We’d been using lots of small ad hoc systems, which meant that depending on how you approached the society, you might get a different answer,” says John Fitzgerald, project manager for Business Intelligence and Member Services with the EBS. “We wanted to have one process and a certainty of service, and we did that by providing a single view of the customer.”

EBS has been using Fineos Front Office to provide CRM capabilities in its branches for about a year now. According to Fitzgerald as a mutual society where customers are members of that society, ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction is key. Some 11 CRM vendors were initially assessed at a high level and these were quickly cut down to three that were evaluated in more detail. “Fineos is a niche player but it is in our niche,” he says.

The CRM project took place after a major strategic review of activities at the EBS, which ensured senior management bought into the project and saw the value of it. Staff members at the coal face who were carrying out the processes that would be effected by the changes were also involved in drawing up the processes and provided valuable feedback. “It was an IT project but the bulk of the effort was in process definition, training and getting people to see that what they were doing was a link in a larger chain,” says Fitzgerald.

The Fineos software is now used to maintain all customer information in a central repository and is integrated into applications at branch level using web services technology. The project has been extremely successful according to Fitzgerald because business and IT requirements were aligned from the start. Management also laid the ground work by ensuring that all staff were aware of the benefits of becoming a customer-centric organisation. “If things went wrong it was because the message wasn’t right not because of a problem with the technology,” he concedes.

While the EBS project took a total of eight months to implement, smaller organisations looking to drive the complexity out of a CRM rollout are turning to software companies such as Rather than selling a product that customers install on their own site, provides a hosted service with the software and customer data sitting in its data centre.

Two early-stage Irish software companies – Cape Clear and Similarity Systems – are amongst those who have embraced this new model of CRM delivery. According to Martin Whelan, information system’s manager with web services company Cape Clear, most clearly matched the requirements it had for a CRM solution. Given its own background it had the in-house expertise to quickly integrate it with internal applications such as email so that data didn’t have to be rekeyed. It uses to track customers from when they are a prospect to when they become a customer and require support. Because sales, marketing and customer support are all using the software, everyone is aware of any potential issues with customers.

“The sales team access it constantly to see if there are any new leads in their regions,” says Whelan. “They all have laptops on the road and once they have an internet connection they can check in. It’s very popular at Heathrow as there’s wireless access at the gate so they can spend their time checking email and Salesforce.”

Whelan says Cape Clear never had any concerns about not hosting the customer data themselves and were assured by about the security of the data. They also extract a copy of the data once a week so that they have something on their own server.

Similarity Systems, which provides software to large corporations to allow them check the integrity of the data in their systems, had been tracking sales leads using spreadsheets but once the sales team grew past three, these became a nightmare according to sales director Tommy Drummond. The company briefly considered installing its own CRM system but the cost, maintenance and overhead it would place on its internal IT department pushed it in the direction of a service model.

“The pricing model is superb because rather than a large upfront cost it’s a monthly drip feed,” says Drummond. “Because it’s on the web there’s no excuses for not using it and users happy to use it as a central depository for information.” It uses primarily for sales and marketing and has nine users of the software. Similarity’s salespeople are generally on the road four out of five days a week so a product that can be accessed from any internet connection was extremely attractive.

Northern Ireland power generator manufacturer, part of the international Caterpillar group, has achieved the holy grail of CRM — customer self-service. It has deployed SAP’s mySAP Customer Relationship Management to support its Gensets Online website, which provides a build-to-order facility for its network of 170 distributors that are located around the world.

Ordering its products is not a trivial task — FG Wilson has 75 different products with 128 different configuration options. It was not unheard of for the sales team to take two weeks to finalise an order but the online system does it in minutes. Dealer error has been reduced significantly as the site only allows generators to be configured that FG Wilson can build.

“This has been excitedly embraced by our dealers with a massive gain for us in time saved on processing orders, allowing us to be more professional to our customers and to have more time to focus on marketing and selling,” says Ted Jensen, director of e-business at FG Wilson. “We have seen efficiency savings within a very short-time frame and it’s already contributed to an increase in orders. Internal order-entry efficiency improvements of around 400pc have been recorded and our order processing happens in real-time and is fed directly to the factory floor, improving effectiveness there also.”

The success of the project has also been recognised externally with the company receiving three major accolades including a Frost and Sullivan Award for Internet and E-Business Innovation.

By John Collins