Taking business to the Web with Oracle

Inter-Tel wanted to improve customer satisfaction and the sales growth of the company.

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ABOUT THE VENDOR Oracle Corporation is a supplier of software for information management. The company offers its database, tools and application products, along with related consulting, education, and support services, in more than 145 countries around the world. Headquartered in Redwood Shores, California, Oracle is the first software company to develop and deploy 100 percent Internet-enabled enterprise software across its entire product...

line: database, server, enterprise business applications, and application development and decision support tools. Oracle implements complete global e-business solutions that extend from front office customer relationship management to back office operational applications to platform infrastructure. ABOUT THE CUSTOMER Inter-Tel has been creating telecommunications products, including traditional PBX to IP telephony, for more than 30 years. ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY Oracle iStore allows merchants to build, deploy, manage, and personalize powerful and scaleable Internet storefronts. iStore offers the flexibility to accept multiple payment types such as credit cards, purchase orders, and invoices, and it also leverages Oracle Marketing Online (includes eMerchandising functionality) to effectively display personalized offers and advertisements to customers. Oracle iStore delivers: - Multi-lingual and multi-currency capabilities to increase market reach and online revenue -- Integrated and streamlined order management, fulfillment, and post-sales service to improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and increase profitability - Rapid setup, deployment, and administration for faster time to market, lower deployment costs, and increased profit margins Inter-Tel wanted to improve customer satisfaction and the sales growth of the company. SearchCRM spoke with Norman Stout, Co-CEO, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Inter-Tel, about the project. ----------------------------------------------------- SearchCRM: Did you look at more than one CRM vendor? Stout: Yes, we looked at several. There are other good people out there. We chose the solution we did because of our comfort with Oracle and because we have a relationship with them that's been very satisfactory. We've done business with Oracle on the database side. SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a vendor? Stout: We wanted to make it easier to do business with Inter-Tel while allowing Inter-Tel to improve its efficiency and sell more to the customer. The Oracle suite has allowed us to do that. We're implementing module by module, which is another aspect that we like. If you take it in projects or modules, you can establish clear targets and a clear work plan, get that done, then start on the next one. SearchCRM: Were there any challenges to the software evaluation? Stout: Yes. The number one issue is that when you're trying to look into ROI, there are a lot of things that are hard to put a firm number on. As an example, as you improve your accuracy on ordering, how much does that save you on credit? It certainly has to save you some, but it's difficult to determine what the actual payback is. SearchCRM: So how did you meet that challenge? Stout: We measured the number of times the order was wrong before versus the number of times it's wrong today. We know what that number is, and then we extrapolate that to a per-transaction cost. So we've come up with our own savings per unit. It may be off a little, but there's no question that the savings are there. SearchCRM: Have you met ROI? Stout: The first module we've implemented is very successful. Our first module is working with our dealers who buy products from us, allowing them to order on the Web, and we can mine into that data. In December, 60 percent of our dealer orders were done on the Web without any human interaction from the point of the dealer all the way to the shipping. It has allowed us to allocate people resources to other areas. We think the payback will be somewhere between six and twelve months. SearchCRM: How did the installation go? Stout: We did the installation principally on weekends so we didn't interfere with our normal business. On one side we had some long hours, but they were very satisfying to our implementation team, because as they saw it they were very excited. As they got it implemented, they personally called our top customers and trained them. They also offered rewards like shirts and hats that they put on the Web site -- so as the customers went through there and used the technology we developed, they could win prizes. SearchCRM: Did you encounter any internal resistance? Stout: Yes. Some people are always reluctant to change. But interestingly enough, because they saw that our first module was very successful, the second and third modules are going extremely well. SearchCRM: Can you tell us how the system works on a day-to-day basis? Stout: The customers are dealers -- a dealer buys product from us and installs it. The dealers log in to our Web site, which is password protected. They can go into their order entry area, and they have a shopping cart where they can pick out everything they want to buy from us. If they need to see a picture of the product or its specifications, they can click on the product. They make the order, and at the end of the page it totals up the order, applies their unique discount, and lets the dealer pick how they want the product shipped. Within 15 minutes, they get an order confirmation. The same day, if it's before 2 pm, they get a confirmation of the status of their order and whether it's been shipped. If it's been shipped, they get a copy and a link to a bill of lading so they can continue to track the order via the Internet. They can also check the status of their payment through their dealer account on the Web. SearchCRM: What are your plans for the future? Stout: We have two other modules in progress right now. One is a tech support module, which is 50 to 60 percent complete. We're already using it a bit, and we've seen our hold time on tech support go down. The second module is a sales configurator, which is still early in its testing phase. This will allow our dealers to increase the productivity of each of their sales people while allowing us to increase the efficiency of our sales network. We're very excited about it. SearchCRM: Do you have any advice for companies thinking of starting a similar project? Stout: First and foremost is to clearly set expectations as to what you want. Second, do it in a modular or project basis. Don't go for the big bang theory and do everything. Pick one thing so you get a win under your belt and your people can see the success of it. Lastly, do weekly monitoring of your first project so you don't fall behind on your time frame. Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at linda-eric@lserv.com, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net

This was first published in February 2002

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