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Doing CRM a service

Two recent announcements focus on providing CRM capabilities for services companies.

Not every customer buys products, and two recent announcements hope to provide services-based businesses a CRM solution of their own.

This is the year of the services company for NetSuite Inc., according to its CEO Zach Nelson. Today the company released its NetCRM Services Edition. According to Nelson, nearly two-thirds of businesses in the U.S. economy are services companies and have unique needs in their respective industries.

"Creating a product designed just for services companies is a big initiative for us," Nelson said. "Companies can take these features and then customize it for their particular industry like medical, accounting or legal."

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Other vendors are also seeing a market for CRM in services-based organizations. Last week, IBM and SAP reached an agreement to develop and market case management applications for social services and social security agencies. The agreement brings together case management from IBM and social service ERP and CRM offerings from Germany's SAP AG.

"In general, this is a whole new effort we're seeing in the CRM market and the hosted market in particular -- client-centric versus opportunity-centric," said Liz Herbert, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "With a project like a package of consulting hours, the problem with opportunity-centric CRM is it makes it difficult to track."

NetSuite has answered this problem by offering item management, job tracking, and activity and time tracking, Nelson said. For example, calendaring functionality could show whether an X-ray room was open for an appointment and time tracking allows users to enter a 15-minute period of work, which then integrates with NetSuite's billing system.

"NetSuite is prepackaged, out-of-the box, including terminology you use in these industries, like something as simple as calling it a client and not an account," Herbert said. "It offers prebuilt reports and dashboards, anything where you really want to manage a person. If you compare to Salesforce.com's model, it gives people a much closer starting point."

That's what convinced Greg Hanson, CEO of GuildQuality Inc., a firm providing sales and marketing services to the building professionals' community based in Atlanta, to sign up. The firm had been using Salesforce.com for about a year, but wanted more billing visibility and back-end integration.

"If it's not integrated, it's essentially useless," Hanson said, adding that he didn't have the resources to customize other CRM offerings to his needs.

The new edition is priced at $79 per user per month and available immediately.

SAP and IBM will initially target child welfare agencies with their combined offering and will expand to other social services and social security organizations.

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