For too many years, hardware and software manufacturer Kingway CAPS was the victim of its own antiquated technology, juggling paper reports and several versions of two out-of-date customer tracking software programs.
When sales representatives for Kingway CAPS, a division of Kingway Material Handling Co., had to report their activities, an executive assistant had to type new orders and customer contacts into a computer. Worse, if a customer called headquarters and reached a different service technician from before, the customer would have to start from the beginning and re-explain his or her problem.
Perhaps worst of all, sales representatives worked under an every-man-for-himself approach to managing individual accounts. In the distribution industry, that can be fatal.
"Our regional sales managers used to have their own tracking systems in [Sage Software SB Inc.s] ACT or [Frontrange Solutions USA Inc.s] Goldmine, so visibility was limited or took a lot of manual effort to combine the various spreadsheets," said Stephen Small, CEO of Kingway CAPS, a material handling company based in Exeter, N.H.
Today, Small tracks everything from his computer, including updated forecasts. His sales reps, meanwhile, enter their information to a centralized database via laptop while traveling on the road.
"Our integrator provided us with standardized processes and a central location for all information. In addition to tracking all customer interactions and improving the efficiency of our support team, our sales force now has visibility to customer issues," Small said.
Along the way, Small said he learned that a new CRM (customer relationship management) system—even with all the bells and whistles—had to work hand in hand with cooperative sales reps and overhauled business processes.
Kingway CAPS has 20 employees and an annual revenue of $4 million. It produces hardware and software to help companies pack and ship their products—known in the industry as picking systems. (The "CAPS" in the companys name stands for Computer Assisted Picking System.)
"We supply picking systems for distribution centers," said Small. As an example, he said, "Picture cardboard boxes coming down a conveyor belt. We help improve the picking speed and accuracy for pickers." Kingways customers include Avon Products Inc., Kmart Corp. and J.C. Penney Corporation Inc.
Kingway sells its products through two sales channels: regional sales managers and VARs. Kingways four regional sales managers crisscross the United States and serve as Kingways traditional sales channel, while the eight VARs are relatively new to the company.
"The VARs tend to deal with the tier of companies below the Wal-Marts of the world and negotiate on their own," said Small. "They also need help designing, installing and maintaining our systems."
To resolve Kingways sales tracking woes, Small said he knew he needed a new CRM system. He also had several needs from such a system, but the largest was visibility in the channel. Smalls sales agents each had their own system for tracking leads. If the sales reps failed to update headquarters about their progress, Small said he had no way of knowing if a sales lead was dead or close to closure.
"On our server we would attach costing sheets, but getting quotes from our sales reps laptops to our server was hit and miss," said Small.
It was obvious to Small that Kingway needed to centralize its order and contact tracking system, especially with a new team of VARs coming on board.
Small said he wanted the new system to include all company employees so that everybody could see customer service requests that had yet to be solved. In short, Small said he wanted sales and service issues to stop falling between the cracks. And a new solution outside the company was critical because no CRM product that Smalls representatives used at the time solved his needs.
The first step Small said he took was to hit the Internet and educate himself about potential vendors that might offer a solution. He said he and his marketing manager looked at a Microsoft Corp. product as well as several other Internet-based solutions. Thats when Small said he looked hard at UpShot Corp., of Mountain View, Calif., a hosted CRM services provider. "My marketing manager and I had experience using UpShot, and thats what got me tuned in to it," he said.
Smalls timing wasnt perfect, however, since UpShot was in the process of being sold to Siebel Systems Inc., in San Mateo, Calif. Small said he was unfamiliar with Siebel, so he wanted to learn more about the new parent company and its solutions integrator before committing to UpShot.
In talking with Siebels solutions integrator, Small said it was clear that he wanted a more sophisticated CRM product. What Small didnt realize at the time was that Kingway would need to re-engineer some of its business processes to make the most of a new purchase.