Asteco sales force gets automated with Soffront CRM

Metadata deploys Soffront CRM solution to enable Asteco to better manage its sales processes

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By  Mark Sutton Published  March 31, 2003

CRM speeds sales processes|~||~||~|Dubai property management company Asteco went live at the start of this year with a Soffront CRM solution provided by Metadata Technologies.

The company is responsible for a large number of retail, commercial and residential properties in the UAE, and while its sales force had been using email and their own departmental databases for some time, the lack of a unified sales solution was causing problems. As the company, part of the Bin Sulayem group, is also responsible for Palm Island, the massive new development off the coast of Dubai, the company decided it was time to find a solution.

With a large, pro-active sales force, management of sales leads was becoming a headache, according to Ajith Mathew, IT administrator for Asteco. Many leads were either going to the wrong sales people or going to the sales people’s mobiles, and with no proper tracking of leads or managed co-ordination between departments, the Asteco management found that as many as 20% of leads were lost.

Maintenance of Asteco properties was also a problem, as many calls were not acted upon, and co-ordination with third party contractors for maintenance was not automated.

To remedy the situation, Asteco decided to take two modules from Soffront’s CRM portfolio—a sales force automation module (SFA) and a ticket-tracking module. Metadata worked with Asteco for the deployment, which took around twenty days. One project manager and a technical consultant handled the work on Metadata’s side, and the company also used resources from its Calcutta-based development centre.

The speed of deployment is one of the main selling points for Soffront, said Rasheed Muhammed, managing director of Metadata. “If you look at our competitors, like Siebel or SalesLogix, they take a long, long time to deploy, months not days, and they charge a lot for their services,” he said. “Because they have a long implementation cycle, their charges for implementation can be almost the same as the cost of the product—we can do [deployment] for a third of the product cost.”

The Soffront system was also able to sit on Asteco’s existing server, meaning that there was no need for additional hardware, just software and services. As a web-based solution, it is able to serve all of Asteco’s offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Alongside the low cost of ownership, Asteco was also keen on the level of customisation that was possible with the solution. Only around 20% of the product had to be tailored directly to Asteco’s requirements, but the system is open enough that the company will be able to handle any modifications itself. Also, the query functions of the system are independent of the programming, meaning that sales staff can set up their own queries and so on, without having to call in external support, Mathew said.

||**||Making the sales force truly mobile|~||~||~|Metadata worked with Asteco to train the initial batches of users, carrying out five or six training sessions, and there are now twenty sales people and ten managers using the system. For this contract, Metadata handled the training itself, but the company is also looking to sign a training partner to manage it in future. The reason for this is the need to create a cultural change within the client organisation, to get the most from the system, Muhammed explained.

“Especially with CRM implementations, we need to bring in different attitudes. The sales people’s first reaction is to try and protect [themselves] because they feel that they are being watched—you have to make them understand that it is helpful for them as well,” he said.
The system has certainly made an impact with Asteco’s sales force. Although the team had to get used to entering their sales data into the system, it has actually cut the time taken for the sales cycle by 50%, by allowing for much greater management and transparency.

“This is one of the factors why we selected Soffront,” said Mathew. “It is the sales force driving the system, it is customised to them.”

The ticket tracking system is also proving to be a success. Often in the past requests for maintenance would get lost in the system, and not acted upon, Mathew said. Now, the ticketing system ensures that requests are sent to the correct person, and monitored every step of the way, to make sure that the proper action is taken.

Where maintenance contracts are held with outside companies, these companies are also given access to the system, so that they can track and record their activities. A link from the CRM to the company’s web site allows customers to log maintenance requests 24 hours a day. A service department is being established to provide 24x7 coverage for these requests.

Another important gain from the system is that all of the different departments—residential, commercial, retail and sales—have consolidated their different databases, to provide a single repository of data on the company’s 152 properties. This allows Asteco to have greater visibility of its assets.

The company is using this data to launch various marketing projects. Automated email and fax marketing campaigns, also part of the Soffront solution, are being used for a variety of different functions, such as automatically contacting customers that lease properties, to ensure that discussions with Asteco’s sales team begins before the end of the lease, so that they can either renew or find new tenants.

While the system is web-based, meaning that the sales team can enter their data through any Internet browser, Mathew is also considering introducing more mobile functionality. By implementing another module of the Soffront system, the sales team will be able to use GPRS-enabled PDAs to access the system while they are on the move.

“We are looking for the PDAs,” said Mathew. “There are a couple of models available, [but] the price is high, so maybe six months down the line we will be fully mobile on the system.”||**||

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