E-tailer finds hosted CRM providers weren't created equal

CRM trailblazer Salesforce.com is not a one-stop shop for customer relationship management (CRM), according to the experience of one Australian e-tailer.

CRM trailblazer Salesforce.com is not a one-stop shop for customer relationship management (CRM), according to the experience of one Australian e-tailer.

Travel agency Travel.com.au will deploy RightNow Technologies' hosted CRM product this week to serve "intelligent" frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages to handle growing numbers of customer enquiries to the site.

The company already runs the competing Salesforce.com suite, but opted against extending it in preference for RightNow's customer management module.

The new FAQ section will incorporate an answer-feedback system, so that responses are automatically adjusted according to query trends. Qantas and Vodafone use similar FAQ systems for their sites.

Chris Meehan, chief operating officer of Travel.com.au, said while extending the company's Salesforce.com system was considered -- among other options -- it wasn't looked at in great detail because it is used for different purposes in the business.

"There were options that were purely FAQ-based. There were options that were less integrated into the customer service department, and I guess we wanted to see them both."

He declined to name other vendors considered.

However, he insisted that the company was not replacing its Salesforce.com deployment, just complementing it.

"This is not a CRM system," he said of the RightNow rollout, adding it would not be used for direct sales. "This is purely around customer management, incident management."

The premise of the RightNow rollout was "that people that contact us via online and offline [channels] are managed well", he said.

Travel.com.au's customer service staff field 4,000 calls and 1,300 e-mails from customers per week.

Until now, these were managed on an internally developed system with deficiencies, according to Meehan.

"We were unable to identify the reasons they were actually contacting us. We had no record of why they were calling us or e-mailing us except via our Outlook system."

Similarly, the old FAQ section was developed manually and based only on "gut feel", said Meehan.

Under the new system, customers will use a Web form for inquiries. As they type, the system will "read" their inquiry and automatically point to FAQ items that might help.

Customers can still choose to submit a query to customer service if this doesn't resolve their problem. In this situation, the new system will direct the query to the appropriate customer service department.

"We believe this will improve efficiencies and result in faster response times as we grow the business," Meehan said.

This would also mean not having to increase customer service human resources, he added.

"We'll be able to rate the quality of responses being sent to our customers, and measure the number of e-mails received, [and] the average handling time of our customer service time.

"From a sales and marketing perspective we'll be able to understand what customers are asking for which will put us in a better position to target them with more relevant travel deals."

Meehan said he expected the system would show benefits, what he called "payback", in the first 12 months.