Supporting start-ups through CRM

Supporting start-ups through CRM

Customer information management was becoming a big headache for Many Rivers until it implemented a CRM platform

Many Rivers CEO John Burn.

Many Rivers CEO John Burn.

A growing number of field workers, coupled with expansion into Western Australia and Queensland, was making customer information management a big challenge for not-for-profit organisation, Many Rivers.

The organisation helps people who are disadvantaged and want to start their own business with business advice and a start-up loan from its financial partner, Westpac.

Field workers are sent into remote communities in NSW, WA and Queensland to work closely with their clients. However, the not-for-profit wants to expand its field officers from 14 to 40 by June 2016.

The organisation opted to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Its CEO, John Burn, said prior to rolling out Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it was using Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.

“We had grown from helping 20 clients per year to 200. You can’t keep doing that on an Excel spreadsheet,” he told CIO. “When we started to grow, we were replicating the same things in different locations and we didn’t have a central source of information that we could go back to.”

Field officers use the CRM to file reports about clients and their progress towards starting their own business.

“Our business plans are generally two pages long and it is a to-do list of what people need to start in business such as customers, products and how to sell it [the product],” Burn explained.

Many Rivers engaged Microsoft partners, Avanade and Accenture, in December 2012 to work on the CRM system with a SharePoint offering program. Implementation began in February 2013 and was completed in August 2013.

Accenture provided the CRM solution to it for free through the vendor’s Skills to Succeed program.

“That was big because as a not-for-profit, there was no way we could have afforded the CRM ourselves,” Burn said.

Some of the information contained in the CRM includes details of loans provided to clients, and approval documents are pre-populated with certain information. Instead of taking two hours to complete the forms, a field officer presses a button and all the loan documents are produced in two minutes.

These are given to the client who can print the documents off, get them signed, scanned and sent to Westpac.

The CRM has also proven useful for training new field officers. One of the challenges of working remotely is that officers often only talk to each other over the phone.

“The pre-population [of documents] brings efficiencies and gets rid of error, which is critical when you are writing a contractual document for a client,” Burn said. “It needs to be right every time.”

Field workers use their laptops to access the CRM system, and tablet access is being considered.

“We had to design it [the CRM] for laptop access because a lot of field workers are going to places where there is no Internet access and the CRM system also needs to work offline,” Burn said.

For example, before a field officer heads into a remote location, they can access the CRM to replicate the data to the laptop. When they can reconnect to the Web, data is updated.

Following the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), which passed into law on 12 March, Burn said it is “very conscious” of its responsibility working with sensitive client information.

“Once we get to the point where they have a real idea, we go through a process of mutual consent,” he said. “This is where we agree on how we are going to work together and that covers all the important issues about how we are going to hold their information or aggregate it.”

John Burn, CEO, Many Rivers Problem: With plans to expand the network of filed officers from 14 to 40 by June 2016, not-for-profit Many Rivers needed a CRM to standardise, manage and scale client data capabilities Solution: Implementing a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system has given field workers access to information about clients while out in remote areas of Australia and improved productivity

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