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Case study: Establishing harmony

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Back in 1998, Alta Resources Inc.’s Chief Technology Officer Bill Parry spent a great deal of time worrying about what he saw as his company’s greatest liability: an overstuffed ACT! database. The Neenah, Wis.-based telemarketer had used it to gather and share client information since the company’s 1995 inception, and the database—a sales contact input system developed by Interact Commerce Corp.—was teeming. The company needed a customer relationship management platform to manage it, fast.

"We were clearly bursting at the seams; we kept building out that database," said Parry, whose company handles outsourced teleservices programs for clients such as FedEx Corp. and Energizer Holdings Inc. "We’d networked over 100 people into it, but the vendor said that maximum size was 50 people." At the time, Alta had 20 clients, but its executives feared that its bulging, dated database would scare off any new ones. "The bigger companies wouldn’t have looked at us; we would’ve had to hide our data infrastructure."

After a nine-month review of 21 CRM vendors, Alta chose Vantive Inc. (Several months later, the vendor was acquired by PeopleSoft Inc., which still manages the account.) Alta has since been able to grow its customer base significantly, increasing 33% to 30 clients, with several major additions including Sam’s Club. Every client the company has gained since 1999 is a direct result of successfully implementing PeopleSoft’s CRM suite, Parry said.

PeopleSoft means personalization

Alta chose PeopleSoft’s CRM software for its open architecture, scheduling capabilities and personalization—the last reason being Alta’s most important. The com-pany’s reps become intimately familiar with the their clients’ issues and those of their customers.

It’s a key point of differentiation from most telemarketing firms, whose employees often know as much about their clients’ business strategies as they might know about, say, the reproductive cycles of Komodo dragons. At Alta, more than 400 employees use the new platform and are keyed into each client’s business needs.

For example, employees working on a multimillion-dollar global services account that Parry would not name needed a CRM platform that would not only track client transactions, but also provide information for doing customer analysis on tier pricing opportunities during outbound telesales calls. "[Alta was] looking into bringing in analytics," said Robb Eklund, VP-CRM marketing at Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft.

Since implementing the PeopleSoft platform, the number of Alta telemarketers representing the account has tripled, which is significant since Alta is paid per representative. The CRM savvy of the team helped boost credibility with the client and, more important, helped boost the client’s sales.

Straight to video

The PeopleSoft CRM program—a version of the Vantive 8.5 software platform—also helped Alta nearly double the business of another client, the home video subsidiary of a Fortune 100 media company that Parry also wouldn’t name.

Since taking the account in 1997, part of the job of Alta’s reps working on the account entailed calling retail store managers and pitching them on newly released videos. Their efforts were regularly stymied, however, when managers informed them they weren’t interested in buying anything new until old problems—problems that Alta was unaware of—were fixed.

"We would call the store manager and ask if he wanted to buy a new video, and he would say ‘Yes, but only if you fix the display I called about a week ago,’ " Parry said. "We had no view of that situation."

Since implementing the PeopleSoft platform, Alta’s reps have been able to track online customer requests to fix damaged displays, and then they’d call them only after the problems had been solved, thus increasing the likelihood of a sale. "We call, and say, ‘I see the display was fixed Thursday, would you like to buy some videos to put on that new display?,’ " Parry said. "That’s not nearly as bad as saying, ‘Oh gee, I didn’t know we didn’t show up.’ "

Today, 30 Alta reps work on the account, handling 30,000 retail store clients. That’s a 50% improvement in efficiency from 1997, when 18 reps handled 9,000 retail stores.

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