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Why CCS Printing inked a deal for its first CRM system

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Challenge: CCS Printing wanted strong customer relationships but struggled to keep track of clients and accounts. The company, based in Bellevue, Wash., lacked a centralized customer database, which prevented the sales team from easily sharing its customer information with the rest of the company and robbed CCS of key marketing opportunities.

The lack of data infrastructure meant that when someone left the company, they took all their customer knowledge with them. To prevent data loss, CCS created a long and tedious debriefing process to capture this information.

Solution: After shopping around and researching different customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, CCS came up with criteria for its final selection. Because CCS used Microsoft Outlook—and because most of its contacts were already scattered throughout that e-mail program—a starting requirement was CRM software that ran effectively within Outlook.

Ultimately, CCS chose Avidian Technologies' Prophet over Microsoft Corp.'s Dynamics and began installing the platform in January 2009.

Avidian is a smaller company with a strong track record working with other small businesses, said CCS Printing President Kevin Sullivan.

“We're a small company and thought we'd have a better relationship [with Avidian] in terms of support and having them help us maximize the system's potential,” he said. And since Prophet ran in Outlook, it was a good fit, Sullivan added.

Nevertheless, the implementation process was not seamless. GIven the various methods employees had previously to save information, achieving a standardized database required a few tweaks. Sullivan said some of those were self-inflicted. Mixed among their business contacts, CCS employees had kept contact information from their friends and family, and Prophet synched everything together into the new system—mother-in-laws alongside prospects.

While it took four to six weeks to work out the kinks, the overall benefits of Prophet were quickly apparent. Specifically, having an organized CRM system gave CCS access to critical customer analytics it was previously missing.

“Now we can see how frequently we're talking to customers, what products they're buying, the average size of the sale (and the) number of orders on a monthly basis,” Sullivan said. “Having all of that qualitative data is a huge benefit slicing and dicing where your business comes from, not to mention where your prospecting efforts are going.”

The improved contact database has created new marketing opportunities such as direct mail and e-mail campaigns that previously would have been impossible for CCS to implement. “Now when we want to reach out and talk to (our customers), we can do ‘micromarketing' and have a salesperson communicate directly with someone in the database or we can go macro and hit the whole database at once with an offer to drive sales,” Sullivan said.

Prophet has also eased the debriefing process when a salesperson leaves the company and another employee needs to be brought up to speed on an account. “Before, we had to go out and reconstruct those relationships from nothing, just from notes and orders put through in the past,” Sullivan said. But now we can actually see the quality of the relationship and the frequency of contact, so we can move an account to new people with a smoother transition.”

Results: Although Sullivan hesitated to quantify Prophet's impact at CCS, he said investing in a CRM system helped the company survive the recession and leaves it better-positioned for the future.

“We didn't lose any customers in the brutal economy last year, and part of that is because they were correctly engaged by our people,” he said.

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