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Avis Sees Hosting As Key For Sales-Force Automation

One Avis exec had a short time to get a large, diversified staff all working off the same technology page. She chose to go with a hosted service.

When Barbara Kogen took the job of director of sales training and development at Avis Rent A Car System Inc. a year ago, she was charged with selecting and installing sales-force automation for the car rental company's 140 salespeople with tenures up to 30 years, who at best were using Act contact-management software.

That task was made more challenging in August, when Avis' parent, Cendant Corp., acquired Avis competitor Budget Group Inc. Not only did the software system have to be able to adapt as the two sales forces converged, but Kogen also had to accept that other post-merger integration projects would come first. So she decided that hosted sales-force automation from Salesforce.com Inc. would be the best solution that she could have up and running in 30 days without too much involvement from her IT department. "There were about 5,000 other priorities that the IT organization had, which gave Salesforce.com a leg up," she says.

A hosted service looked good for other reasons, too. "Because our sales force wasn't used to automation, we had a tool that we could open up as they were ready," Kogen says. The first salespeople began using the system in November, and the adoption rate is growing much faster than Kogen had expected. The package, which generally costs $125 per user per month, also leaves room for growth as salespeople become increasing comfortable storing customer information in a shared environment. It also allows management to closely watch customer-salesperson relationships and monitor progress.

Salesforce will eventually be used for forecasting and to improve customer relationships, once the Avis and Budget legacy data systems are integrated and can share data with the Salesforce service.

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