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.

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

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 is located in multiple databases, says Balas.

Omron Canada looked at more expensive client-based CRM software 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.””

Most of these leads are gleaned through marketing campaigns. By using features in Salesforce.com, Omron Canada is able to link leads to specific campaigns.

“”Every contact that goes into the system is tracked under certain campaigns depending which one it was,”” says Balas.

Cary Fulbright, senior vice-president of marketing at Salesforce.com, says it’s not unusual for divisions or subsidiaries of larger organizations to implement Salesforce.com of their own accord.

He says Salesforce.com’s technology model means less investment in software and hardware is required.

“”Client/server software tends to have a fixed overhead which is fairly significant,”” he says.

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

“”Salesforce.com has momentum right now,”” she says. “”It’s replacing a lot traditional client/server applications. The slam-dunk part of it is in user adoption because it’s on the simpler side to use.””

Another major benefit, says Kingstone, is around professional services, in part because the application is not as customizable as software packages from ERP vendors. Salesforce.com also avoids data discrepancy caused by poor synchronization, she says, which has led to low user adoption of traditional CRM packages.

One of the main cons, says Kingstone, is data is hosted offsite from the customer, which is a cultural issue for companies, as much as anything else. As well, there is a risk that a customer’s data will be accessible to the wrong people. The other con, she says, is the lack of richness in the offline functionality, which pales a little in comparison to client/server CRM.

Balas says the benefits outweigh any potential pitfalls. “”We don’t have to purchase expensive hardware and have people to maintain it.””

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