Getting the ROI from CRM

By Heather Baldwin

In April 2001, the North American division of Bohler-Uddeholm, the world’s leading manufacturer of tool steel, deployed’s online CRM solution; by November, it was reporting an ROI of more than 250 percent, including a 10 percent increase in employee productivity, vastly improved sales forecasts, a reduction in cell phone costs and the ability to train new hires more quickly. And all that with an implementation that required no capital investment and took less than 30 days.

How’d they do it? For starters, the company knew exactly what business problem it wanted to solve: communication. Its sales force for years had used a paper-based system of record keeping so all notes, call reports, account records, etc., were handwritten and rarely where the person needing the intelligence could access it. “Information was in desk drawers, in trunks of cars – everyone had pieces of information about a customer but no one had the complete picture,” says Mark Appleton, marketing support manager at Bohler-Uddeholm’s North American division. There also was a problem with information lag time. Each Friday, outside sales reps would mail in their schedules for the following week but sales managers wouldn’t receive them until Tuesday or Wednesday, when it was too late to be of influence.

Upon implementation of the solution, Appleton says a number of benefits were quickly apparent, largely because complete customer information was available at the touch of a few keys. For instance, managers’ planning and forecasting abilities have been “drastically improved.” Prior to, managers created reports based on past sales; now, says Appleton, they have current, accurate information about where customers are in the buying process. At the same time, sales reps have a better handle on time management to ensure they’re not spending 70 percent of their time with customers who generate 20 percent of their sales. And marketing was able to clean up its data, reducing the number of people to whom it sends material by about 20 percent.

Finally, with a few taps on the keyboard, reps can find out if a customer has called in with a complaint and see what stage of resolution that complaint is in. “Before,” says Appleton, “it took three or four phone calls.” The result: “Cell-phone usage is starting to decrease because employees are communicating through This reduces costs as well as frees up the phones to take more inbound calls from customers.” Which, Appleton concludes, should in turn boost revenues.