Melbourne-based Smart Connection Training is enjoying better relationships with its customers since it began using cloud-delivered Maximizer CRM Live.
When Smart Connection Training set out to find a replacement customer relationship management (CRM) system earlier this year, in one sense it didn't end up looking far afield. In another sense, it couldn't have strayed further from its starting position if it had tried.
The Registered Training Organisation, which offers sport and recreation, fitness and management courses from school-based to diploma level, was an existing Maximizer CRM user.
After a fresh look at the market, it has stuck with Maximizer, but migrated to a subscription-based cloud service.
After about 18 months of running the system in-house, Smart Connection's four-person customer service team had become dependent on Maximizer CRM's insights into interactions with the company's 17,000 clients, and the new sales opportunities it revealed.
"It enabled us to track leads, funnelling them into the opportunities pipeline. That told us who we needed to follow up with and at what stage in the pipeline they were so we could forecast sales and put in place remedies if sales needed to be lifted," Lize Biermann, CRM manager, said.
It could also be used for monitoring sales consultant activities, says Biermann, who became hooked on CRM system functionality in a past role at a recruitment agency.
"And it means other people can pick up where you left off — if someone leaves, all the customer information isn't stored in one person's head or in some obscure spreadsheet that no one can access."
But Biermann knew Smart Connection could be getting more from its CRM software if it had closer support. As she began looking for alternatives, her eyes lifted to the clouds.
"I wasn't that familiar with cloud services. We did some research and considered three cloud-based offerings. The one we ended up going with was CRM Live."
Maximizer CRM Live, that is, provided by Maximizer Software in Sydney, a subsidiary of a Canadian company.
"It was easy to stick with Maximizer because it didn't take much additional training," Biermann said, "which was a big plus."
Angela Gutierrez, Maximizer's Sydney-based channel account manager, says Smart Connection Training is one of a growing number of organisations for which the cloud delivery model has appeal.
Apart from the convenience of per-user per-month based licensing, which is easier on the pocket than the one-off capital cost of buying the software to install on an in-house server, cloud delivery has the benefit of guaranteeing access to the latest Maximizer version.
CRM Live, which is $49 a month excluding GST for one to four users, and $39 for fi ve or more, also spares customers the cost of hardware. The fee buys access to a hosted database of up to 1 gigabyte, with additional storage available for a further charge.
Gutierrez says once users understand the cloud-delivery model, it is a no-brainer for most. However, some have misgivings about handing over their customer database to a third party.
But those qualms generally fall away when it is explained that CRM Live is hosted in the Microsoft data centre in Chicago from which the software giant provides its Azure cloud service.
"The data centre has full redundancy and backups are taken care of," Gutierrez said.
Smart Connection's Biermann wasn't troubled by the remote location of the company's customer records.
"We were intrigued by the hosted solution — the fact that our sales consultants could update the system live from the road. We were also attracted to the automatic version updates, giving us the latest functionality."
Knowing it was hosted in a fully redundant Microsoft facility was also reassuring, having once lost a number of sales leads when a backup failed.
"Via the cloud we can get backups pretty quickly. But that wasn't really a driving factor, because we don't have a big database. I can imagine for other users it could be more important."
Gutierrez says a typical CRM Live customer is set up inside a week, with the primary effort around data migration.
"As soon as the migration is completed the customer is up and running."
"Database migration was simple — we really haven't had any issues there."
The one hiccup was the speed of Smart Connection's internet service, Biermann says, necessitating use of a memory stick. Gutierrez says CRM Live is enjoying success across the spectrum, but is particularly popular with "entrepreneurialtype" customers.
"It gives them everything: they sign up, they get mobile access, they're guaranteed to have the latest version and they have all the sales, customer service and marketing modules."
What's more, says Biermann, Smart Connection is now getting the added support it was looking for.
"One thing we've really appreciated as a result of going to CRM Live is the customer service. Maximizer has been really helpful, and can just go on our screen to sort out any problems."
Not that Biermann, who was handed the CRM management role despite having no systems experience, finds CRM Live difficult to use.
"The manuals are really easy to understand. It's very user-friendly."
And the end result for Smart Connection Training, Biermann says, is exactly that – smarter connections with customers.