FCSA empowers field reps with data

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Case Study 2 Company: FCSA, Omaha CRM provider: Pivotal Corp. Lesson learned: It helps to name staff ‘champions’ to drum up excitement for the implementation.

Farm Credit Services of America salespeople spend much of their time in the field, visiting the company’s more than 55,000 customers, businesses that own farms and ranches. Most customers are located in rural regions of the Midwest, primarily in Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

While the locations are idyllic, communication on the road isn’t. Before the company implemented a CRM system, it was nearly impossible for a salesperson in the field to contact FCSA’s Omaha headquarters. This lack of connection meant salespeople often walked into client locations without the latest customer data.

Jim Greufe, FCSA’s director of CRM, said the company’s customers often like to do business in places where remote Internet connectivity isn’t an option. "When we started looking for a CRM package, we knew right away it had to be mobile," he said. "We wanted our 350 people who are on the road to be untethered to our environment but still [able to] take all of their customers’ information with them."

Greufe had another directive: Find a CRM package that every one of the company’s 850 employees could use on a daily basis. Greufe wanted every piece of information about the customer—whether it’s a small ranch or a large multinational bank—logged and analyzed.

The reason was simple: FCSA builds long-term customer relationships that often last up to 30 years. The best way for the company to make more money is to mine its existing customer list and sell deeper into it.

This plan is so important that employees get bonuses for what FCSA calls relationship depth.

In his quest for a CRM program, Greufe contacted more than 100 vendors, eventually selecting Pivotal Corp., Vancouver, B.C. FCSA installed the Pivotal program in November 2001, spending $900,000 on the software and an additional $600,000 to $700,000 on integration.

Now, FCSA employees have hundreds of pieces of information about every customer, and they can access the data even when they’re on the road. Everything can be stored on a laptop and consulted offline. Salespeople can call up information such as interest rates, product data, premiums and customer-specific details.

The results have been impressive. For example, in 2001, the company saw a 5% increase in relationship depth. Last year, after the introduction of CRM data analysis tools, that number increased to 10%.

Customers are getting better service no matter whom they speak with, and the company is seeing less churn, although Greufe said he couldn’t provide specific statistics.

Part of the success came from FCSA’s work prior to the installation. For instance, company executives chose 80 local "CRM champions" who helped build anticipation for the project and explain its benefits.

Greufe said Pivotal’s CRM program has changed the way the entire company looks at customer data. "One sales leader just told me how critical he feels the CRM program is to our business. He said, ‘I can’t imagine how we ever got along without it,’ and that feeling is pervasive throughout the company," Greufe said. "We’re finally providing as much information as our employees need."

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