United Asset's CRM effort pays off

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United Asset Coverage Inc. is using customer relationship management software from Oracle Corp. to oversee its entire $35 million operation.

The 77-person company, based in Naperville, Ill., contracts with businesses that need network telecommunications and data-communications network servicing and matches those companies with vendors that supply those services.

When a client calls with a problem with its network equipment, United Asset operators use an Oracle CRM system to determine the status of that company’s contract, then match the client with a service provider that can fix the problem.

United Asset also monitors network equipment remotely, using the Oracle CRM database to keep track of whom to contact if there’s a problem with a client’s equipment.

"The core of our business is a service contract," said Brad Snook, VP-client relationship management for United Asset. "Generally, each client has multiple sites. We need to understand what equipment is at the site, its make, model, brand and version, and what service a client buys for a particular piece of equipment at a site. A particular hospital location might have emergency response 24 hours a day, whereas a professional services firm might have coverage from eight to five."

The company started five years ago with a homegrown CRM system; by the end of 2001 it had several thousand clients and 12,000 sites. The Oracle CRM system, deployed in August 2001, is maintained by a three-person IT staff that works with hosting service and database support from Agilera Inc.

Billing is a major component of the CRM program. The Oracle software allows United Asset to send customers a single, quarterly bill itemized by piece of equipment and by price. Previously, United Asset sent bills on a per-site basis, which clients found confusing. Worse, the company had to manually intervene and correct about 40% of those bills. Also, because it now provides the level of billing detail that clients want upfront, United Asset gets fewer queries about its bills.

The company’s biggest challenge in shifting to the Oracle CRM system was data conversion. Previously, it maintained multiple databases without format and consistency control for data such as addresses and zip codes. It needed to clean up four years of legacy data. "That was a big effort," Snook said.

A major commitment to a CRM project, like United Asset’s implementation, is often the key to success, said AMR Research analyst Lindsey Sodano. "It works if it’s an integral part of the business," she said. "When people have been successful, they are really, really successful."

Businesses like United Asset that implement a full suite of CRM products are likely to find implementation relatively simple, Sodano said. "At least with a suite, it’s integrated within itself. People integrating with four or five different systems have a tougher time of it," she said.

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