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CRM hosts promise top-notch customer service plus better access for mobile salespeople. Of the six we examined, our Editor's Choice impressed us with its well-designed interface.
Our mission for the vendors: NWC Network Services wants to gain control of its sales process. The problem: NWC Inc. uses disparate databases to store customer data. For example, presales lead information resides in Excel spreadsheets, Outlook contacts and mobile devices within the sales department. Existing-customer info (contracts and post-sales data) is stored in a Microsoft SQL database at company headquarters. A separate SQLdatabase contains inventory information for our regional offices.
To qualify for this review, the services must provide CRM features without requiring any serverinfrastructure at the customer premises. The products must provide back-end integration with existing enterprise data stores and support offline activity with two-way data synchronization. We limited our offline and synchronization tests to Outlook. Other desired features included customization, integration, extensibility, customer support, marketing and usability.
Entellium Corp., NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, Sage Software (formerly Best Software), Salesforce.com and TriVenture answered our call to provide a hosted CRM service that would let NWC Network Services migrate NWC Inc. data to the service provider, then off-load support for our customers and field sales staff, both connected and disconnected. TriVenture resells Microsoft's CRM offering through its CRM OnTarget service. Siebel declined to participate.
We specified that the services give users access from unknown and changing IP addresses, as would be the case with a mobile sales force, and chose Microsoft Outlook as our mail client, primarily because of its widespread enterprise adoption. We did not test PDA support.
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