The Canadian arm of a multi-national manufacturer is leading the charge in the adoption of an online customer relationship management system.

Omron Canada, a subsidiary of Japanese electronic components manufacturer Omron Corp., has taken

it upon itself to be the first to use Salesforce.com to better manage customer contact information and lead generation.

“We are the first one to try it out,” says Arkadiusz Balas, senior marketing information specialist at Omron Canada. “From what we’ve seen, no division of Omron actually had anything in mind with regards to customer relationship management.”

The driving force behind Omron Canada’s adoption of Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition was that its 150-plus sales force is spread across the country and the organization’s data was spread across multiple databases, says Balas. “We needed to find a system that would actually make it easy to put together and share information across all of the offices in Canada.”

Omron Canada looked at more expensive software-based CRM packages, but decided browser-based Salesforce would best serve its needs, particularly from a data integration perspective.

“Deploying it across the country was very easy,” says Balas. Salesforce.com’s primary role is to manage lead generation, he says. “We constantly receive new information and are bombarded by e-mails. Sometimes it was difficult to distribute all of these leads to sales people.”

Leads are easy to upload, and once they are qualified by a third-party provider, says Balas, the appropriate leads are converted into accounts on the system. Most of these leads, whether they are new customers or existing customers interested in new products, are gleaned through marketing campaigns.

Using features in Salesforce.com, Omron Canada is able to accurately link leads to specific campaigns. “Every single contact that goes into the system is tracked under certain campaigns depending which one it was,” says Balas. “We see readily which campaigns are useless.”

Cary Fulbright, senior vice-president of marketing and small business at Salesforce.com, says Omron Canada is fairly progressive in its use of the marketing campaign functionality, but it’s not unusual for divisions or subsidiaries of larger organizations to implement Salesforce.com on their own accord. “We see it as an opportunity where we can prove this will work,” he says.

Fulbright says Salesforce.com’s technology model – a hosted application versus client/server software – makes an on-demand business possible and means less investment in software and hardware is required.

“It’s a much lower cost on an ongoing basis,” he says. “Client/server software tends to have a fixed overheard which is fairly significant. It allows us to make an enterprise-class solution available not just to large companies, but small and mid-size companies who have very limited choices.”

Sheryl Kingstone, programmer manager for CRM strategies with The Yankee Group in Boston, says Salesforce.com’s model has both pros and cons.

“Salesforce.com has got a momentum right now of replacing a lot traditional client/server applications,” she says. It provides a lower total cost of ownership for the application and provided it very quickly. “The most slam-dunk part of it is in user adoption because the application is on the simpler side to use.’

The other major savings, says Kingstone, is around professional services, in part because the application is not as customizable as client/server software packages from the major ERP vendors. “You might not have control customize every ounce of the application, but you also don’t have the ability to make the same mistakes that people have made in the past.”

Salesforce.com also avoids data discrepancy caused by synchronization, she says, which have led to low user adoption of traditional packages. “It’s garbage in, garbage out.”

One of the main cons, says Kingstone, is that data is hosted offsite from the customer, something which is a cultural issue for companies as much as anything else, but beyond reliability and stability of the company is that risk of having one customer’s data mixed with another or someone getting access to it.

The other con, she says, is the richness of the offline functionality, which pales a little in comparison to traditional client/server CRM. “You are losing the benefits of avoiding synchronization, so it’s a double-edged sword.”

Balas says the benefits of the Salesforce.com model – including a low cost of ownership – outweigh any potential pitfalls. “We don’t have to purchase expensive hardware and have people to maintain it.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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