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Paging made easy with CRM

How many prospective customers are you managing? CommtechWireless has 30,000. CEO Nathan Buzza explains how this fast-growing wireless paging company keeps up.
Written by David Braue, Contributor

How many prospective customers are you managing? CommtechWireless has 30,000. David Braue explains how this fast-growing company keeps up.


Most of us find more than enough to look at with just one monitor -- but not Nathan Buzza. The CEO of fast-growing Western Australian paging systems developer CommtechWireless, Buzza has a desk adorned with three portrait-mode LCD screens that, respectively, let him monitor incoming e-mail, use his normal desktop applications, and monitor the customer-related support and sales activities going on across the company.

This last view is courtesy of Microsoft CRM 3.0, to which CommtechWireless recently upgraded after installing Microsoft CRM 1.2 a year ago to replace an older, inhouse-built CRM system that was struggling to keep up with the company's growth.

Decade-old CommtechWireless, which designs and manufactures a range of paging and wireless telephony systems, opened a US office in 2001 and acquired a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer in 2002 to support its expansion. Since then, it has branched out to reach 4,500 customers in 53 countries, with its continued fast growth earning it a slew of small-business and export awards as well as a perennial position on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, a ranking of Australia's fastest-growing technology companies (based on percentage revenue growth over three years).

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The Patron Pager restaurant pager
by CommtechWireless is an easy
way to contact patrons or guests.

The company keeps innovation in-house and relies on its network of local distributors -- its own customers -- to handle end-user relationships and support.

Interactions with those distributors were initially managed with an in-house-developed system, which was built on top of a Microsoft SQL Server database to the company's specific working requirements. When the company expanded to the US, its operation there instead chose to adopt the GoldMine CRM application, which Buzza says soon felt "cumbersome" to use.

"Our challenge in growing the business is to go out and find the most appropriate distribution network," Buzza explains. "That requires a lot of direct mail, marketing services, and handling of the Web enquiries we get coming in. Being a bit of a software house, we initially thought we would just crank out something to do what we wanted it to do."

Over time, however, it became clear that both operations would benefit from a more capable commercial solution to help the company's customer management keep up with its rapidly expanding operations.

The single-customer view
A survey of the market turned up many options, but none had the breadth of functionality and usability of Microsoft's then-new CRM 1.2 application. Microsoft CRM 1.2 was implemented separately at both CommtechWireless offices a year ago and has -- as is clear from its prominence on Buzza's desk -- quickly become one of the company's most critical systems.

Any time a company employee deals with a customer, a record of that interaction is stored against the customer's record in the centralised CRM system. This information is then used to provide intelligent support for activities such as ongoing case management, lead tracking and conversion, and automatic generation of management reports.

Nathan Bruzza

Direct cost savings from the system have been hard to quantify, but the company has saved a fair bit of change by being able to re-purpose the dedicated CRM system developer that CommtechWireless previously kept on staff. The biggest benefit, however, has come from the ability to access integrated views across the company's many marketing campaigns, giving Buzza and his managers unprecedented insight into daily activities.

For example, Buzza can instantly pull up a view showing all current customer support calls, find out which new leads have been added over time, monitor sales performance, and identify areas where targeted marketing campaigns might be particularly effective. Regular reporting has provided similar benefits for all sales staff, particularly in the tracking of customer leads from their first contact with CommtechWireless.

"It gives me a nice, high-level overview of what everyone's up to, and that enables me to manage our resources more effectively," he says. "A growing knowledge base of common issues is increasing the efficiency with which we deal with customers, and there's no need to manually generate reports and keep on top of everyone to know what they're up to. It has, in some ways, almost replaced the manager because all that information is available to me at the click of a button."

Better marketing
With information on all customer-related activities now indexed against a single customer record in the CRM system, CommtechWireless has found it is far more able to run smaller, more effective marketing campaigns than it could in the past. Highly targeted marketing can be directed at small groups of potential customers based on their past interactions with CommtechWireless.

"At the moment we've got around 30,000 companies we believe are potential resellers, and the way we convert those leads and opportunities into a sale is by bombarding these guys with promotional material," Buzza says.

"The prospecting database we use comes from a whole range of sources, and our product lines are relatively diverse, so all of our sales and account managers needed to feed the data into one central platform. By customising about 50 of the fields in the CRM system, we can target our marketing campaigns. Using CRM in that fashion we get much higher direct mail and e-mail responses."

Our challenge in growing the business is to go out and find the most appropriate distribution network

Nathan Buzza, CommtechWireless CEO

The system has also automated the process of lead collection, automatically generating new sales leads from incoming customer enquiries. Integration with the company's Google advertising, for example, means that Google-generated clickthroughs, as well as clickthroughs from the company's own Web site, are automatically added to the CRM database as prospective customers.

"Previously, Web site enquiries would come in as e-mails, and I couldn't get any metrics to know whether or not they had been dealt with," says Buzza. "Now I can ensure they're followed up, and the flow of information between anyone dealing with that customer is logged at a central point. It has just made my management of the sales department a lot easier so we can get metrics out faster and easier."

Having quickly come to appreciate the benefits of the unified CRM database, late last year CommtechWireless upgraded its system to Microsoft CRM 3.0, which among its many benefits has improved workflow processes through better integration with Outlook. Now, for example, the CRM application uses Outlook to send and manage e-mails that were previously -- and much more slowly -- handled through the CRM system.

The system has also been integrated with the company's Avaya IP Office PABX, which automatically reads caller ID data to extract information on the customer from the CRM system. Now well established within the company, the CRM system has given CommtechWireless a new infrastructure for supporting its continued growth here and overseas.

"As the business was growing, we had more people being employed and were experiencing communications breakdowns because there were no work processes in place to get that information," Buzza recalls. "CRM has allowed us to grow faster but still maintain those lines of communication."

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