The volume of calls that came into its customer care center threatened to make Radio Systems employees feel about as uncomfortable as a dog ravaged with fleas.
After all, the manufacturer of pet containment systems, electronic pet doors, indoor fences and electronic feeders—sold under the PetSafe brand—received approximately 30,000 phone calls a month. And the company had no way to track the history of the conversations its harried staff had already had with repeat callers, according to Karri Lough, manager of worldwide customer care for the Knoxville, Tenn., company.
"We knew we needed to keep better track of our conversations with consumers," Lough said. "We werent getting any information. Every time a consumer called, wed have to ask them about their history."
Wanting to eliminate this time-consuming and frustrating process, Lough began to research CRM (customer relationship management) solutions. Some were too expensive, others were unable to meet her requirements and still others did not have a local solution provider. And no one, it seemed, was able to solve one of her primary dilemmas—how to integrate the long-awaited CRM solution with the current order management software.
"It was a deal breaker for me," said Lough. "I was not going to turn around and have my team type information in twice."
Radio Systems staff independently researched suppliers. They also tapped trusted advisers at Automated Accounting Associates for their knowledge of software and providers. A reseller and integrator of Sage Softwares MAS 200 and MAS 90, Automated Accounting, of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in turn contacted Sage executives for a referral, said Greg Talburt, president and CEO of Automated.
"The main factor is making sure the client is happy," said Talburt. "I called some people I trust at Sage and asked for someone who knew this stuff cold, who told it the way it was and was somebody who could deliver. It was very much my reputation at stake. This was one of my major accounts."
The same name kept cropping up: Extremely Productive, a Roswell, Ga., CRM solution provider, founded in 1990 by President Josh Ovett.
"Any time you bring in a new party, theres always trepidation," said Talburt, noting that a poor partnership choice several years ago cost Automated Accounting a number of its top customers.
"Josh [Ovett] and I had some very blunt conversations," Talburt said. "We put everything in writing upfront. After all, the guy you shake hands with may or may not be there six months later—even if theyre the owner."
Ovett did his own background check on Talburt by calling his contacts at Sage.
"I found he had a clean slate," said Ovett. "I called people I knew in the executive channel at Sage and spoke to resellers who knew of him."
Having spoken several times about Radio Systems problem and possible solutions to determine whether it was in Extremely Productives capacity, the CRM integrator put together a proof-of-concept for Automated Accounting and Radio Systems to review.
"I dont typically go to see somebody until Ive had at least a couple of phone calls with them, whether its a customer or a partner," Ovett said. "Some people dont like that. Those that dont, I dont work with."
To design the most appropriate solution, Extremely Productive peeled back the many layers of the companys call center processes.
Radio Systems faced several challenges, according to everyone involved. Before the integration, employees were forced to input the same data twice—a process that resulted in errors and wasted time. It was also extremely difficult for the pet product wholesaler—which sells exclusively through retailers—to track warranty service, product exchanges and the shipment of replacement parts, said Lough.