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Trucking company lightens its load with data sharing

Who wouldn't want better lead tracking, real-time information sharing and up-to-the-minute customer information? Acme Truck Line managed to achieve all three in a CRM deployment.

It's every salesperson's nightmare: walking into a client's office only to be blindsided with problems or to learn from the client about an order that the rep wasn't even aware of. And it's every manager's nightmare to see viable leads fall through the cracks because information housed in disparate databases and multiple locations isn't getting to those who need it.

Acme Truck Line Inc., Harvey, La., was facing such scenarios. It was a challenge to find a way to share data among the flatbed trucking service's 70 offices, which are peppered pre- dominantly throughout the Southeast. Each office's dispatcher served as an independent inside sales rep, taking orders resulting in 4,000 hauls per week. Acme had been relying on separate LANs for each of its offices, but that didn't do the trick, says Mike Coatney, president. "The information stayed right there -- we had to print and mail it [if we wanted to share it]. We tried a couple of times to interconnect [offices], but it didn't really work, so we put it on the shelf and waited for technology to catch up."

About two years ago, the company realized it needed to provide a consistent face to the customer. Coatney says he was also looking to share access to data among employees, since they frequently share loads. The goal was to develop a better lead-tracking system, real-time information about customers' orders and needs, and an accurate view of all customer activity to avoid surprises when meeting with company representatives. The firm chose eCRM from ACCPAC to overhaul its operations (ACCPAC competes with Sage Group, Intuit and Microsoft).

The new system went live in summer 2002. Now all offices share one central database, originating with the dispatch system, the source of many leads. All leads, regardless of origin, are funneled through the database and automatically sent to regional sales managers who assign them to relevant sales reps equipped with mobile PDAs. If sales reps don't complete the appropriate reports -- designed by Coatney and national reps to be as simple as a series of pull-down windows and a 'memo' field -- within the specified time frame, the system reminds them.

Improved leads, better relationships

Coatney says he's been surprised by the number of leads -- up to 10 per week -- captured by the database from the dispatch board. Leads come from a variety of touchpoints, but with the new system, Acme can quantify and consistently handle its lead interactions. The company also is now able to differentiate its customers based on revenue (or potential revenue) and order history, says Coatney.

The sales force loves getting real-time information on their PDAs while out on the road, he adds. For instance, if Acme gets a big job from a customer, a sales rep out in the field will be notified, and can visit that MVC to say 'thank you.' Because the system is integrated with back-office applications, reps can also see what kind of truck was ordered, who ordered it, where it originated and where it is headed, among other things. And national reps that might meet with a customer in Houston or Dallas have details about a rig Acme may have moved for the client in southern Texas, or a service problem it handled in Georgia, explains Coatney.

He believes many of the changes are invisible to customers, except that sales reps now know more about their customer firms and about the business they do with Acme. The company hasn't compiled cost-savings figures yet, but Coatney feels the primary impact will actually be increased revenue, because the sales force now has customer information literally at its fingertips.

To read more articles like this one, visit Peppers and Rogers Group's Web site at

All materials copyright 2003 Peppers and Rogers Group - 1:1 Marketing.

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