posted 19 Dec 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 4
CRM and KM
Knowledge 2.0 – CRM and KM
Knowledge management is becoming embedded in existing business processes. This is the first in a continuing series following KM to wherever it has gone.
By Trevor Wilmot
Traditional on-premise customer relationship management software and knowledge management applications have never really delivered on the promise of an easy-to-deploy ‘turn key’ integrated solution for sales organisations or contact centres. But the acceptance in larger enterprises of open platform software as a service offering of CRM and KM (e.g., Salesforce.com, Right Now, SAVO) is paving the way for more tightly integrated CRM-KM solutions.
Turn-key integration finally here
According to Wikipedia, “On-premises software is installed and run on computers on the premises (in the building) of the person or organisation using the software, rather than at a remote facility, such as at a server farm somewhere on the internet. On-premises software is sometimes referred to as ‘shrink-wrap’ software, and off-premises software is commonly called software as a service (SaaS) or ‘computing in the cloud’.
Many large enterprises have invested in on-premise CRM software, such as Oracle’s Siebel CRM, to provide contact management support for their call centre representatives. Integration with proprietary knowledge base systems or other off-the-shelf KM software typically requires years of integration work and/or investments of at least a million euros.
The advent of SaaS solutions for CRM provides a new alternative to deployment by leveraging the internet, thus removing the need for the user to install any software on premises. A SaaS solution provider takes responsibility for running the software remotely on their servers (and taking responsibility for the associated data centre management and scaling), maintaining and upgrading the software all the while charging the users a subscription based pricing.
Because this approach can result in a considerable reduction in the initial cash outlay for software and because of reduced staffing, maintenance, power consumption and other factors, large enterprises are starting to take notice. But advantages can go beyond these specific benefits.
Because of their approach to delivering software over the internet, another key benefit of SaaS solutions is their ability to integrate with other enterprise systems and data. Most are ‘open platform’, providing their users with published APIs which enable IT organisations to easily ‘hook into’ the software. This is giving a boost to the challenge presented by CRM-KM integration.
One of the most popular SaaS vendors, Salesforce.com, has provided a whole eco-system of aftermarket software through its AppExchange that is already integrated into their base CRM application and can be quickly ‘plugged in’ to provide additional benefits such as knowledge management.
This year in August, Salesforce acquired InStranet, with software that specifically provides knowledgebase support for call centres. While it is a relatively small company, InStranet has a number of high-profile customers, mainly in Europe but also in North America, including 3M, Comcast, Manpower, Business Objects, Credit
But how does this work in reality?
Fully integrated SaaS CRM and knowledge management solutions are still in their infancy, but there are a few encouraging examples. We can site European firms using these latest techniques to obtain rapid benefits.
A major financial service firm with operations across the Middle East and
These Ideas were: rated by the system users; tracked and acknowledged by the project IT team; and finally some of the best ideas were incorporated immediately into the project rollout. This ability to leverage the wisdom of the crowd made the implementation much more effective.
In another case study, the world’s leading source of commercial information and insight on businesses, whose most critical job for their clients is to provide ‘knowledge’, recently integrated two different SaaS solutions to gain enhanced CRM for their call centre representatives without losing their self-serve knowledge base solution for their clients.
Both of these case studies illustrate the ability of SaaS offerings to enable rapid deployment of integrated CRM and KM for large enterprises.
Case Study: Global charge card and travel solutions provider uses knowledge base platform to improve SaaS CRM adoption during rollout of new software.
The world leader in credit card, charge card and travel related services chose Salesforce.com for its global international payments team after a previously failed attempt at implementing a competing CRM solution to track their foreign exchange transactions with clients. With this previous experience behind them, the company needed to have system up and running in record-breaking time. The goal was able to implement, customise, test and train all users in eight weeks.
This company’s legacy CRM application was a home-grown proprietary solution that was complex to use – and having been designed as a standalone application, had no integration with other back office systems. But the main pressure to replace the system was that the application was out of compliance with software policies recently introduced at the firm worldwide.
The department wanted to integrate these retail foreign exchange transactions with its back office foreign exchange transaction tracking system. The long term IT roadmap includes integration with the document and knowledge management system on SAVO, another software as a service offering that the firm is using.
The international payments group set an extremely aggressive timeline of moving from localised databases to an enterprise level CRM platform in eight weeks. The goals for this migration included:
Transitioning all users and functions to salesforce.com, including:
- Relationship management;
- Customer service;
Account setup (including credit checks, etc.);
Executive level reporting;
Migrating sales and customer support data;
Training users on location in London, Singapore and Sydney;
Integrating with backend transaction processing systems;
Providing a user-friendly and efficient sales and marketing tool that would integrate smoothly with existing customer service processes.
The retail bank implemented and configured Salesforce.com globally under the eight-week goal with the assistance of Acumen Solutions, a systems integrator specialising in SaaS-based CRM. The CRM solution provides a complete end-to-end process management and business process automation from initial client contact through the first client transaction and beyond. It also manages the client setup process. Furthermore, the integration with specific client transaction data allows for robust reporting and lead targeting capability.
To ensure the 100 per cent user-adoption, the team chose to capitalise on Salesforce.com’s innovation management tool set called Ideas. The Ideas tool set allows users to input ideas and suggestions into the web-based interface and then collaborate with other employees and vote on their favourite ideas.
The Ideas section was used throughout the design and user acceptance testing (UAT) process and the project team regularly reviewed the ideas with the most votes to consider for implementation. During the design and testing phases end users were encouraged to try out the bespoke implementation we had designed and give their feedback using the interactive Ideas forum through Salesforce.com. Over half of the sales team contributed to the Ideas forum with even more commenting and voting on their colleagues’ ideas.
The team will continue using Ideas to foster innovation and generate new business ideas internally and to decide which products to roll out to customers.
Return on investment
The global foreign exchange group experienced a significant and immediate return on investment including:
100 per cent visibility into timelines and process flows for customer service actions where extremely limited visibility existed in the past;
Streamlined process flow allowing for customers to be set up quicker and more efficiently, allowing them to generate revenue through trades sooner;
100 per cent visibility for the sales team to view where their clients are in the account set-up and customer service processes allowing them to give customers accurate feedback on queries.
By utilising the Salesforce.com Ideas functionality, the global international payments group was able to launch the solution with outstanding success including several key milestones:
Fastest time-to-market technology implementation in the history of the business group;
100 per cent adoption during the first week of core sales and customer support staff.
As the company continues to expand the CRM solution, including migrating US sales teams, and further integrating with back-end systems, the Ideas functionality will play a vital role in implementation success.
Case Study: Two SaaS applications merge to support best of breed CRM and knowledge management.
The world’s leading source of commercial information provides solution sets that meet a diverse set of customer needs globally. Customers use the solutions to mitigate credit and supplier risk, increase cash flow and drive increased profitability. Another information product offers increased revenue from new and existing customers and its internet solutions convert prospects into clients faster by enabling business professionals to research companies, executives and industries.
The firm had adopted Salesforce.com to support their call centre representatives who were taking phone calls.
The firm was also using RightNow, another SaaS CRM solution, to manage its e-mail-based customer service and case management tracking. RightNow’s solution was also being used to provide clients with a ‘self-service’ knowledge base on the internet. With call and e-mail support representatives in Manchester, Canada and India, web-based SaaS solutions had been selected in order to grow and deploy rapidly.
But by launching two disparate SaaS systems, the contact centre representatives were not gaining a ‘whole picture’ of the customer because the systems were not sharing information. The firm wanted to bring all channels of support under one single system to provide a 360-degree view of the customer to its representatives and provide better tracking and analytics for executives.
Additionally, by standardising on a single CRM platform, the firm would save expenses on seat licenses and have more leverage for future negotiations with a single vendor.
For its particular needs, the firm chose to migrate all the CRM functions to the Salesforce.com platform. The open nature of both platforms enabled a very rapid migration of data. The flexible customisation of screens and user interface features allowed the developers to quickly replicate the functions of the RightNow e-mail management system in the new application.
By writing web API classes to call data from one system and pulling that data into the other CRM system, the data migration challenge was simple. Salesforce.com also had specific AppExchange classes for e-mail communication handling that solved some feature development challenges.
While the firm had already decided to choose integration on Salesforce for cost benefits, there were other strategic reasons for choosing Salesforce.com over other platforms. Its IT roadmap called for expanded customer portals and the company planned to leverage the Partner Relationship Management module of Salesforce.com to enable that functionality in the future. It also planned to eventually leverage the knowledge base features that Salesforce.com offers with the recent purchase and integration of InstaNet into the Salesforce.com Service and Support module.
Delivering quantifiable results
With over 300 contact centre representatives in India alone, the firm is saving money by reducing licenses for the e-mail support by 60 seats. Having all support channels under one system gives both the representatives on the phone or answering e-mail a 360-view of customer concerns. But it also enables the firm to deliver comprehensive data via the self-serve customer service channel on their internet website.
For executives, dashboards of critical tracking information are displayed on-demand to tell them average case times, call resolutions, total case time and per cent in each queue. This allows them to better manage their contractual service level agreements with their outsourcing partners. It also allows them to see where there are operational bottlenecks and they can address problems before their customers complain.
Workflows enabled by flexible SaaS-based software allow them to pass customer information from one queue to the next. In the previous architecture, the clock in that case would have ‘started over’ each time the customer passed from one queue to the next. Now under an integrated system, the full time to resolution is tracked and accurately reflected in management reports.
Both of these case studies reflect that the ‘promise’ of SaaS-based solutions is now being delivered by these solutions for the large enterprise. The flexibility of open systems enables rapid data migration and rapid feature development – not only through APIs but also through open platforms with their own programming languages such as ‘Force.com’ which enables programming across the platform.
In other words, all aspects of business applications can be addressed not just as specific customer relationship management functions or just knowledge management. And that is good news for those of us looking for the fastest way to deliver best of breed integrated CRM-KM solutions for business. ?
Trevor Wilmot (email@example.com) is a senior consultant specialising in CRM and on demand applications at Acumen Solutions