Oracle: Stewarding Siebel
Customers of Oracle's on-demand customer relationship management software credit the database giant for integrating Siebel Systems—where most of those customers originated—without a hitch.
And without any merger-related bugs, those customers say they were able to focus on using the software to save time across their sales and service processes.
Until 2004, customer relationship management at Specialty Sales and Marketing, a Mississauga, Ontario, firm that sells aftermarket automotive parts and hardware, consisted of an Excel spreadsheet that grouped customers with the car manufacturers they usually bought from, says Bruce Hipkiss, president of the heavy-duty division.
Hipkiss pushed for hosted software so traveling salesmen could more easily enter leads and closings. One requirement was that the software be able to translate numbers and reports from suppliers—which came in different formats—into Specialty Sales' Access database. Siebel in 2004, Hipkiss says, was the only vendor that could do the conversions itself, without help from third-party software.
Now, when salesmen log new sales and prospects into the system, the data automatically aggregates in the database, giving Hipkiss and company executives a clear view of the sales pipeline.
And today, representatives can spend more time on sales. Hipkiss says each salesperson used to log at least four hours a week writing reports or researching leads. But now, with all sales data logged right into the system, monthly sales reports are created instantly, so each rep now has at least 16 hours more per month to spend on face-to-face sales meetings.
Hipkiss credits the merged company for listening to its customers' needs; Oracle has added to the product every suggestion Hipkiss has made, he says. Oracle has also maintained Siebel's reliable support, he adds.
For Idaho Technology, growth spurred the need for sales and service management software. The Salt Lake City firm tripled in size after Sept. 11, as demand grew for its biological agent scanners, says sales manager Kim David.
As a result, the company wanted to more closely monitor sales—from finding leads to closing deals—in order to dole out commissions at a faster pace. At the same time, Idaho Technology's quality assurance representatives wanted to replace their manual customer-complaint logging with a software system.
Siebel's hosted suite appealed to David because she says Siebel's file tab system was similar to the one Idaho Technology used on its in-house finance system.
Before getting the software, processing monthly sales figures to determine commission payments was, at times, a month-long process. With Siebel, the firm cut that time frame by two weeks. On the quality assurance side, representatives could take up to a week to create and log a customer-complaint record into their database. Siebel's workflow system helped them do it in a single day.
David says she noticed some hour-long service outages during the integration, but none that halted business. Otherwise, she says she appreciates that Oracle hasn't changed the "look and feel" of the tools.
Rob Reid, group vice president for Oracle's CRM on-demand, says the company didn't go dark unexpectedly during the integration, and that the vendor tells its customers of any planned outages.
He adds that he's seeing the highest retention rate (he wouldn't be specific) in the more than three years since he joined Siebel.