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Customer magnets

New customer relationship management applications are driving more revenue while cutting down on staff and operational costs.

Gary Walker, former IT manager of Freedom Air, was watching his children use instant messaging (IM) while surfing the web. He realised this multitasking activity using various media so common among youngsters could be transported to the office. He figured office staff can use IM to book online during work hours and check their details using Messenger rather than make a phone call to the airlines, which their colleagues and their boss, could hear.

Freedom Air's current IT manager Brett Colman says this was how the airline got ideas for some of the major features of its new customer relationship management system (CRM).

The airline wanted live chat bundled into its system using a hosting provider as this promised and delivered ease and speed of implementation. Freedom Air observed sales were lost when people terminated their online connection and contacted Freedom Air's or another airline's contact centre because they wanted more information.

Colman says Freedom Air worked with Datamail in developing a system that would include all the features that would make it easy for online customers to book their flights. US-developed RightNow CRM tool was chosen to provide a more comprehensive 'frequently asked questions' section on the website, and an online chat capability between customers and Freedom Air staff.

Since the system went live a year ago, Freedom Air claims 95 per cent of some 80,000 visitors who went to the 'help' section found an answer to their question, without ringing the contact centre.

As a result, the number of calls to the contact centre has dropped from 9000 to 6000 a week, while airline sales have increased. The CRM software also acts as an automatic junk mail and virus filter, thus providing more savings from staff costs for the airline.

"It's simply an out-of-the-box application. Just plug and play. There are no real surprises," says Colman.

Qualmark, New Zealand's assessment organisation for tourism facilities, credits the doubling of its customer base in three years to its CRM system.

Systems and support manager Adi Hansell says the company used to have a manual system, which would involve hand-written assessment and Excel spreadsheets.

Qualmark

In 2002, Qualmark chose Saleslogix to automate the system, including its campaign management modules. Hansell says all Qualmark staff now use the system for the lifecycle of a licence holder's business.

Business prospects like motel owners, for instance, are sent email or mailmerge campaigns to generate interest. The businesses can then sign on for a Qualmark rating. A Qualmark assessor will visit the outlet and use a laptop to send back the details, which are synchronised with details in the office. From this, the relevent invoices and certificates can be sent out.

Hansell says Saleslogix was chosen because it was affordable and was easily customisable. While there have been issues with laptop users synchronising data, this was more the users' fault than the system.

"Maybe we should have tried it out with a small group first," she says. "There was quite a bit of set-up needed beforehand, templates put in places and contact processes."

Qualmark says the new system has reduced each core business process by an hour and helped revolutionise its operations. Assessor itineraries can also be planned more effectivlely and the quick reporting features mean the organisation has a clearer picture of sales.

Hansell advises organisations moving to upgrade their CRM systems: "Work out what you want from the system, then write out your requirments. We were trying to do the thinking for the systems integrator. Let them think about how it should happen."

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