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Big River rolls its CRM across the company

The regional telco has extended SalesLogix across its operation support system to unify customer views.

Big River Telephone Co. in Cape Girardeau, Mo., hires employees who were raised in the rural communities the company serves in southern Missouri, southeastern Illinois and western Kentucky.

"I call 'em my high school heroes," said company president Kevin Cantwell. "When they walk down the street, everyone knows who they are."

And they in turn know SalesLogix. All 50 employees of the regional telco use the CRM system in every customer interaction, Cantwell said.

Cantwell and his partners bought the local carrier three years ago and changed not only its name but its customer approach. Previous to becoming Big River, all the company's records were on disparate systems. Customer service agents used to take information from customers and call them back once they had a chance to dig out the right information out of the filing cabinets, Cantwell said. After a number of acquisitions, the sales order, work order and trouble ticket process were all on different networks.

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So Big River elected to run its operation support system through SalesLogix. Now, employees in billing, sales, customer service and technical support can all access customer information from the system, which employees call Aviator.

"We built our operational support system platform around the customers as opposed to around other systems," Cantwell said. "The customer is the center of our existence."

So far the Aviator seems to be paying off. Big River has achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 98.6%, well above the 70% industry average for the telco industry. Additionally, it automated account management processes and was able to reallocate 21% of its customer service resources to higher revenue generating activities. Licensing, development and training have cost the company about $150,000 to $200,000, Cantwell said.

The real return on investment, however, has come from customer loyalty, Cantwell said. For example, about six months ago, a T1 line went down and about 250 customers were without service. Big River sent out e-mails to all the customers on that line and told them about the problem. It then sent regular updates as work progressed on repairs.

"Customers were delighted to know what was going on and they weren't calling us all day long, bombarding our customer service agents," Cantwell said. "That's a return on investment. We didn't lose anybody."

With all employees accessing the system, dirty or missing data become a key area of concern. Every day at 4:30 p.m., employees are asked to review what they did for the day, double-checking if they got all the information they needed and entered everything in the system.

Additionally, compensation is run through Aviator. If an order isn't in the system, people don't get paid, Cantwell said.

The project has required a fair amount of customization and there is currently one full-time developer working on Aviator and another part time. Yet when Big River goes through a SalesLogix upgrade, that customization can essentially be removed and placed back on the top of new system.

"Every Friday I'm bigger than the previous Friday," Cantwell said. "It has to be a flexible solution."

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