StemCell Technologies didn’t waste much time figuring out that a 500 per cent return on a $20,000 customer relationship management investment made a lot of sense.

The Vancouver-based biotechnology company develops and sells specialized

cell culture media to a global customer base that includes professors and researchers at universities, hospitals and biotech companies. It is in the process of deploying Maximizer Enterprise 8, a CRM application suite from Maximizer Software Inc., also located in Vancouver.

The product will be used by StemCell’s sales, marketing and technical support teams in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and France to track customers, prospects and

leads, synchronize contacts and calendars, access pertinent information about accounts, and much more.

StemCell has already completed a test installation and updated its database, which currently includes some 60,000 contacts.

“”We accomplished that in a few hours,”” says Cam Buschel, sales and marketing analyst at StemCell. “”Staff training and updating remote sites will take a month at the most.””

For a project of this magnitude, the price tag is relatively modest. Buschel estimates a total project investment for software, consulting and maintenance in the neighbourhood of $20,000. While a formal cost-benefit analysis has not been done, StemCell is predicting a five-fold ROI, at the very least.

“”That’s not unreasonable when you factor in the price discount we got as an existing Maximizer customer, and the new version’s powerful features,”” says Buschel.

One of these features is Crystal Reports, a business reporting tool that offers users pre-formatted reports on the effectiveness of sales, marketing and customer service staff and programs. In the past these reports were run off StemCell’s centralized database. With Crystal Reports bundled into version 8, field reps can generate them on their own, without relying on central office.

“”The sales staff at StemCell Technologies (can) use this information to generate detailed customer profiles, interact with their contacts more quickly, and create stronger client relationships,”” says Maximizer spokesperson Tom Bennett.

He says Maximizer Enterprise 8 will allow managers to leverage the business intelligence capabilities to precisely calculate metrics on sales, marketing and technical support activities and promptly seize opportunities before the competition does.

StemCell’s foray into CRM began around five years ago, and coincided with major changes in its organizational structure, including the launch of satellite offices and remote sales teams.

Until then, field staff used applications such as Outlook to store and communicate customer data. The challenge, says Buschel, was to synchronize all of that information and make it available in a meaningful format to the technical support and research departments at head office. He says around that time, Maximizer launched version six of its product with synchronization capabilities.

Two years ago StemCell upgraded to Maximizer Enterprise 7, taking advantage of that version’s more extensive capabilities to set up global marketing campaigns and track responses.

Since then, explosive business growth in StemCell’s sales revenues rose 15 to 25 per cent a year triggered the need for an even more robust CRM solution.

Senior company managers met with sales and technical support staff to discuss their requirements.

“”We wanted to get as much user buy-in as possible,”” says Andrew Knowles, assistant sales manager at StemCell, and a key advocate for the company’s CRM program. “”We knew our CRM investment would only provide value if those it was meant for actually used it.””

StemCell also investigated CRM offerings from other vendors including Salesforce.com Inc. in San Francisco, as well as Tier 1 products from San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc. and Waldorf, Germany-based SAP AG. The SAP and Siebel products, Buschel noted, are feature-rich and also offer integration with ERP systems.

“”That’s something we would love to do, but those products are priced beyond our range.””

IT spending among global small and medium-sized businesses will increase almost seven per cent by 2005, according to a recent study by Boston, Mass.-based AMR Research. The firm says the primary driver behind this spending boost is “”the ongoing quest for superior customer management capabilities.””

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