ABOUT THE VENDOR
UpShot was created to alleviate the frustration of a sales executive whose team didn't have the resources to purchase an enterprise sales force automation application, and decided to build one himself. When he realized how much his own team was benefiting from increased productivity -- and how much more predictable and pleasant quarter ends were -- he realized he might be on to something. The company began hosting their application on secure servers in August, 1999. Users accessed UpShot with their standard browsers on an affordable subscription basis.
The company's customers include American Airlines, CDI, Hewlett Packard, Pfizer, Sanmina-SCI, and Xerox. Founded in 1996, UpShot is based in Mountain View, California.
ABOUT THE CLIENT
Recovered Capital offers The Capital Recovery Process, which is a start-to-finish, systematic process that recovers money and minimizes future expenses in telecommunications spending. The service includes a Refund Audit, where they analyze previously paid telecommunication bills in search of refund opportunities; Future Rate Reduction Analysis, where they analyze current custom telecommunication contracts to determine if their client is eligible for lower rates, promotions, or additional discounts; and Request For Proposal/Negotiation, where they use their knowledge of the best rates, promotions, discounts, terms and conditions that have been
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
UpShot XE provides an enterprise-level CRM solution that integrates with other best-of-breed applications, provides customized views of information, and automates business processes through a work-flow engine. UpShot delivers an offline capability that lets salespeople work while disconnected from the Web.
Recovered Capital was looking for a CRM solution that would help them increase productivity and efficiency in dealing with clients. SearchCRM spoke with president Russell Hann about the project.
SearchCRM: How many CRM vendors did you look at?
Hann: It was two years ago, and I think we started with half a dozen. We narrowed it down to three vendors including UpShot.
SearchCRM: What happened to the other two vendors?
Hann: One of our biggest concerns was the synchronization. One of the vendors came in and said synchronization was no problem. So they came in and ran a synch, and the system crashed. That's exactly what we were trying to avoid.
The other vendor was just getting into the small business market, which we were, and we just didn't feel their product compared to what UpShot had to offer.
SearchCRM: What kinds of things were you looking for in a vendor and a solution?
Hann: We were looking for responsiveness, ease of implementation, and the ability for us to train everybody internally right away. We're a growing company, and we wanted to be able to customize the application to our business as we grew. Along the same lines, we sure as heck didn't want to invest all this time and money in the new CRM solution and then spend weeks or months learning how to use it.
SearchCRM: So were you able to train everybody in house on the UpShot system?
Hann: Yes. No problem. The other systems are much more complex. If you can send e-mail and use attachments, you can learn how to use UpShot. And it wasn't that simple with other systems.
SearchCRM: How did the implementation go?
Hann: It went surprisingly well -- much better than we thought it would. We were using a custom built database as our CRM solution, so we had all the problems inherent with that. So what we did was we exported it into a text file and we read it into UpShot, and everything was there. Once that was set up, it was a matter of fine-tuning it. We had typos in our original database, and we had to add some additional detail. For example, we couldn't get our events completely read into each account, so we had to create one huge event and read in all the text from the past history of that account. So there were little things like that. Implementation took a weekend, then it took probably 30 days before it was integrated to where everybody was on UpShot all the time, and people relied on it.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Hann: Just the typical human resistance to change. A downside of UpShot was that using a CRM program that's on the Internet, people suddenly realized that it's a tool by which they can be monitored. If there are no events and no activity, you wonder what that person is doing. So there was some resistance there. But over time they realized it's a good tool that would increase everybody's productivity.
We set the program to a trial period for everybody. We said we're going to give this program 60 days and see how it works, so we really need you to use it. And if you're not using it, we're going to think something's wrong with it, and we're going to call you and ask you why you don't like UpShot.
SearchCRM: How do you use the UpShot solution?
Hann: We use it to manage pretty much all of our business activity, from selling through even internal processes like managing our vendors and agents. We have only 20 users, but those users are spread across seven different locations across the country. So the key for us to be efficient is that we all need to be on the same page. UpShot lets us stay on the same page in real time. The entire system is on the Internet, so you can log on at any time you have access to the Internet and see what's going on, enter events and new deals, schedule appointments, and those types of things. Multiple players on one account can see what's going on with that account in real time, whereas before they had to physically talk or hope that our database synched correctly.
You have your customer contact information up there all the time, and you can develop relationships between the different customers and the different sales territories that you have. You can create deals for those specific customers and you can link deals between customers. You can also link deals between joint venture programs that you may have set up with other vendors. Basically, it will manage your entire customer relationship for you, and it will keep that relatively simple.
A secondary aspect is that now we have a blueprint for what worked on an account in the past and what didn't work. We can print out that account history now and see exactly where we went wrong and see exactly where we went right. That was something we never thought of before we implemented UpShot.
SearchCRM: Are there any drawbacks?
Hann: They're getting to that fine line where the screen is starting to get kind of busy and they're starting to get capabilities on there that you may not fully grasp. But they haven't crossed that line yet.
SearchCRM: Have you seen ROI?
Hann: Oh, yeah. Cost was not a consideration when we did this. We figured we were going to spend anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000, and that was that. UpShot is so much less, I can't even calculate the ROI. It's in the thousands of percent.
SearchCRM: Do you have any success measures?
Hann: We increased the number of accounts we had by 50 percent the first year, and we did not have to hire a single person.
SearchCRM: What advice would you give to companies starting a similar project?
Hann: You have to know what you're looking for, so definitely put your criteria down on a piece of paper. Then be very careful when you judge the solutions that come to your door, because every single one will say that they can do everything. Prioritize what's important to you, and the ones that can't do it, just get rid of them. Don't even waste your time listening to them, because they'll always say they're working on it. There's enough out there right now that you can always find exactly what's going to be best for your organization.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in July 2002