Health-care recruiting services agency Provider Management in Portland, Oregon, outgrew its early ACT! database and began to look for a larger, more complete solution. President and founder Stan Smith, 54, faced the challenge of bringing not just one, but five offices around the country together under one system. They settled on SalesLogix because they found the company "open to working with our needs vs. using a canned database off the shelf. They helped tool it for us," says Smith.
Training over the Internet with conference calls got all his employees up to speed on using the software, no matter where they were located. Now, all the remote locations synchronize through the Internet daily to keep everybody up-to-date. CRM is helping Provider Management tie information together and pair customers and candidates in better and more efficient ways. It's a far cry from the pencils, papers and folders Smith started out with in 1997. "We were limiting ourselves. We couldn't do what we do now if we didn't have this kind of support," he says.
Meanwhile, down the coast, Ron and Dana Jiron hope that the third time's a charm. The co-founders of electronics components reseller Inland Empire Components in Lake Elsinore, California, have had two failed attempts at CRM. When we spoke with them, they were just about to embark on a third try with a new and different application: Surado's SCM SQL solution. Their motivations are straightforward. "We need to have better software so we can provide services for our customers to bring us in line with what we aspire to," says Ron, 42. "We want to be like the big guys."
The Jirons see CRM fitting in with the strong customer service philosophy they've had since they first opened for business. "CRM means all the components it takes to develop a relationship with the customer long term and manage that relationship from the beginning of the sales cycle, all the way to the follow-up and the repeat business and the back end," Dana, 41, says.
After dealing with two separate contractors--neither of whom could deliver on their CRM promises--the Jirons feel that Surado is the answer. They did their due diligence and are going with a program that will sync up with their Great Plains accounting software, integrate with their Web site and handle some industry-specific customization they need done.
No matter what kind of business you're in, both Selland and Outlaw make the point that CRM is an ongoing activity, a constant process of improvement. The CRM industry is maturing past the hype stage, recovering from early mistakes and reaching a new level of affordability. Recent news-making mergers are also changing the landscape of offerings. No matter who you go with, there should always be room to grow with a full-fledged CRM solution. Remember that the technology itself plays a supporting role in the big picture of CRM, so rely on your vision, and let your CRM strategy help take your business to the next level.
Where to start? Try narrowing down whether you want an on-site program or a Web-hosted solution, and think about any special features you simply can't live without.