CRM Gears Up For Manufacturing

Software firms improve service, parts, dealer contact functions.

Improving sales management, tightening contacts with dealers and keeping better track of service parts are a few of the business functions that customer relationship management (CRM) software companies are emphasizing in their latest offerings.

"We need more than just traditional CRM," says Sally Bell, vice president of special projects at ice cream maker Cold Stone Creamery. With some 1,000 franchised stores in the U.S., the Scottsdale, Ariz., company chose Netsuite's online CRM package to enable it to improve support to its retail network. "This CRM tool will enable us to understand our customers' wants and desires better, and to support our franchises better," Bell says.

Cold Stone plans to use the on-demand, online Netsuite service to manage such things as franchise applications and leases, store compliance, employee training, equipment standards, and maintenance records.

Just keeping track of franchisee applications is a major task. Last year the company received more than 29,000 applications. Says Bell, "This tool will help us understand who is applying so that we can accelerate our business decisions and sell more ice cream as a result."

Better sales management capabilities and improved monitoring of service parts are a couple of areas of concentration for enterprise software leader SAP.

For sales managers, mySAP CRM2005, set for release in October, will include some new role-oriented functions. For example, account managers will be able to more effectively manage their daily sales from wherever they are located, leveraging sales analytics against territories, accounts and sales prospects. "We continue to build out the number of roles available," says Cathryn Rheiner, vice president of CRM Solutions at SAP Americas.

SAP worked with Kimberly-Clark to develop some new functions for consumer package goods manufacturers. "These include initial brand planning through marketing and trade promotions to field sales execution," Rheiner adds. "It allows marketers to have greater insight on how to plan and execute their marketing and to develop an entire calendar for all brands."

Similarly, SAP also worked with Caterpillar Inc. and Ford Motor Co. to develop a service parts management capability. "This gives manufacturers better complete end-to-end process for their parts logistics," Rheiner says.

Finally, new key performance indicators and some new technology that enables users to build their own business performance dashboards on the spot. "You have to have good analytics with CRM," Rheiner says.

For example, one manufacturer assumed it was losing customers because its products were priced too high. As it turned out, some careful field research showed the problem lay elsewhere. "They found the real reason they were losing customers was service difficulties," Rheiner says.

Another manufacturer was able to lean out its product returns process by using SAP's CRM system to put more detailed and product-specific service information in the hands of its call center staff. "In the last two years, this company was able to reduce the number of returns by 4%, while also reducing the cost per call," Rheiner says. "All they needed was better access to a knowledge base in order to reduce their returns.

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