Benjamin Moore & Co. Ltd. is giving its own offices a makeover by introducing a CRM package designed to pool disparate sales and retailer data.

The paint company, headquartered in Toronto, deals with about 850 stores

across the country that operate under its name but are all independently owned. Benjamin Moore is in the process of rolling out Microsoft’s customer relationship management suite to its sales and customer divisions in order to expedite communication with each of those stores.

“”Throughout the course of any day, there are numerous people that have discussions with these retailers on various subjects,”” said Howard Cadesky, vice-president of finance, who also oversees the company’s IT strategy. “”They’ve complained in the past that they’ve sometimes been caught blindsided.””

The problem, said Cadesky, is that information related to sales and other business decisions from these stores is kept in different repositories or not followed up on at all.

“”We’re trying to get a common way of entering information about any contacts we’re dealing with. That’s not just retailers. It could be architects, contractors, specifiers, leads,”” he said.

Benjamin Moore went with Microsoft CRM because of its familiar interface — the company uses Outlook for e-mail — and the fact that most of its IT infrastructure is built from Microsoft components. Benjamin Moore also uses J.D. Edwards software, but to share business information with its parent company based in the U.S.

In Canada, Benjamin Moore uses MS Exchange Server 2000, Active Directory in native mode and SQL 2000. “”The MS CRM data is all going into a SQL database,”” said Karen Brodie, president of Brodie Computes Inc. The Guelph, Ont.-based integrator is putting the pieces together for Benjamin Moore.

“”There’s information that’s on their Web site, there’s other information that’s on their intranet, there are other databases — so we’re trying to integrate that into a single source,”” said Brodie.

Benjamin Moore will also be rolling out MS CRM to its customer service representatives. The company offers a service whereby customers can call and request decorators and painters to come to their home to offer tips or actually do the painting. The service is also available through Benjamin Moore’s Web site.

MS CRM will be installed to help customer reps keep track of these demands and log them in a database, which should also make it easier for follow-up, said Cadesky.

“”One of the main advantages is that it gives you workflow, so it will automate the process of assigning. We promise a customer we’ll get back to them within 24 hours and we want to make sure we can keep to those promises,”” he said.

Benjamin Moore was originally just going to use the standard edition of MS CRM but switched up to the professional edition when it was decided that the rollout would also include customer service reps.

Benjamin Moore may upgrade its current version of Microsoft Office — most users are on 2000 — to Office 2003 “”so they can get the benefits of Microsoft’s new information bridge framework (which) provides more functionality directly into Word and Excel,”” said Brodie.

The company hasn’t communicated the changes to its 850 retailers, but plans to do so closer to the actual roll out time. Cadesky said that the customer service portion should be ready by the end of this year with the sales portion to follow in early 2005.

The Canadian Benjamin Moore company is being used as the testing ground for MS CRM, said Cadesky. The American parent may follow suit, pending assessment. That model has been used for other programs in the past, he said.

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