Desjardins to improve account tracking in software rollout

BOSTON — A Quebec-based credit union is replacing the little green folders that currently hold customer information with a customer relationship management system that will allow account managers to be more proactive with their clients and better manage sales.

Desjardins Group is currently piloting Siebel 7.7 at two of its 57 business centres across the province in Laurentide and Yamaska and plans to start a full rollout early next year. Given the decentralized nature of Desjardins, it’s important to make sure employees have easy access to the system and that the system itself is built around the sales department, said Nathalie Larue, vice-president of commercial banking marketing at Desjardins.

“It’s hard to make sure that we have the customer centre group organization centred around best practices,” said Larue.

One of the main benefits, said Larue, who is attending this week’s Siebel Systems CustomerWorld conference, which attracted over 2,500 customers from around the globe, is activity tracking of customer accounts.

“If the account manager leaves the company, we lose track of what they have done with clients, what products the client was offered and what their preferences are,” she said. “We’ve invested a lot to make sure the credit applications are transferred to head office.”

The CRM system will also enable Desjardins to gather information about the business issues its customers — mostly small and medium sized enterprises — face. With that information, account managers will be able to measure the customer’s potential of buying a particular product or service such as credit or investment products and increase their ability to cross-sell.

“We’re a dominant player in the small business market,” said Larue. “We want to make sure our service is better and we can do cross-selling more efficiently and treat customers better.”

Putting the customer at the centre of the business equation is a main theme at this year’s conference, which had a 13 per cent up-tick in attendance from last year. The proof is in the numbers. A recent study from Accenture identified a 40 per cent difference in revenue growth and 38 per cent of shareholder value is derived from customer loyalty. In his opening keynote to conference attendees Monday, Siebel chief executive officer George Shaheen said it’s not a sustainable advantage for businesses to solely focus on product innovation and efficiencies.

“It’s clear that customer approach pays off in a big way,” said Shaheen. “Companies around the world are focusing on new and innovative ways to serve their customers.”

While CRM does that by helping employees reduce the amount of time it takes to answer a customer’s question, systems have traditionally not done as good a job helping the large number of employees performing knowledge work, said Bruce Cleveland, senior vice-president and general manager of products at Siebel. Cleveland said knowledge work differs from process work such as call centre employees in that it requires employees to rapidly perform a situational analysis based on a set of different data and act upon that analysis in real time.

“Current CRM applications have not adequately addressed this particular area,” said Cleveland, referring to knowledge work. “That has been the fundamental root cause of low CRM adoption rates.”

To address this, Siebel this week announced a new strategy called Customer Adaptive Solutions that includes four elements: outcome modeling, informed action, predictive insight and rapid realignment that will appear in next-generation systems. Informed action, for example, allows employees and applications to make real time decisions based on their role, their customer’s specific profile and their organization’s goals.

Product strategy and news, however, has been overshadowed at this year’s conference by last month’s news that Oracle will acquire Siebel for US$5.8 billion. At a customer panel Tuesday, Siebel customers generally described the merger as something that’s mutually beneficial for both companies.

“Both companies have a lot to learn from each other,” said Rob Martens, global director of front office technology at Ingersoll-Rand, both a Siebel and an Oracle customer. “From a support perspective, Oracle has a tremendous support function that we’ve benefited
from for years now.”

The tone of customers is in stark contrast to that of PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers following Oracle’s hostile takeover of PeopleSoft last December. EDS, also both a Siebel and an Oracle customer, is confident that Oracle will continue to support Siebel applications across heterogeneous environments, furthering interoperability capabilities between competing vendor products.

“The value to service providers is greater integration across platforms,” said J.R. Jesson, chief technology officer at EDS. “The integration of the PeopleSoft application suite as part of Oracle’s Project Fusion is great for us.”

Likewise, Warren Shiau, analyst at marketing research firm the Strategic Counsel in Toronto said Oracle has changed its policy from forcing customers to migrate to its platform to one that embraces a multi-vendor approach.

“In order to keep its acquisition customers, Oracle has to support their applications or else someone like SAP for example will take customers away,” said Shiau.

While some people initially believed that Oracle’s takeover bid for Siebel was primarily a market share play to compete against SAP, Oracle’s actions have spoken differently, added Shiau. Oracle, for example, is still putting out updates for PeopleSoft software. “They’re making a play to keep customers happy,” said Shiau.

With Siebel being a dominant vendor in the CRM space at approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the market based on its worldwide installed user base of 3.7 million users, Oracle is better off using Siebel’s technology than its own. In the hosted CRM market, however, Shiau said Oracle will likely fold Siebel’s OnDemand product into its own hosted CRM offering.

“I don’t imagine this is going to be canned,” he said.

CustomerWorld continues until Thursday.

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