Drew Sellers, president of the Utah Flash, an NBA Development League franchise, says he had been consistently frustrated by Excel's limitations. "We had our spreadsheet of season ticket holders on one person's computer. Sometimes people would leave Post-it notes on that person's monitor with sales updates or e-mail him [piecemeal] updates. Regardless of how efficient the spreadsheet holder was, that system was completely inefficient," he says.
For instance, Sellers could never confidently say how many of the team's 1,000 season ticket holders had been contacted to see if they were re-upping or not, because the data was inherently out of date and subject to human error. "It's five times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to retain an old one, so we had to fix our customer database," he says.
Using CRM instead
Sellers ditched the spreadsheet and started using SugarCRM, a Web-based customer relationship management tool. He has given role-based access to his executive and sales teams so they can instantly see a client's status. If an executive speaks with a season ticket holder, he or she can put notes about that conversation in the client's record and alert the salesperson to quickly close the deal.
Users can also run reports on inventory and provide incentives to current season ticket holders or actively pursue other prospects. Most important, Sellers says, since the system is Web-based, the sales team can log onto the pay-per-user service from anywhere at any time to update critical information. "Now we are sure that no information has slipped through the cracks," he says. Pricing for SugarCRM's Enterprise edition starts at $600 per user per year, according to the vendor's Web site.
Spreadsheets were also creating headaches for users at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Each month, the insurance company had to make available customized reports for clients' disease management programs. These reports detail cost savings, program adherence, quality-of-life enhancements and other key measurements.
To do this, one employee had to manually compile custom data and copy it into a 13-page Excel template, according to Mike Occhipinti, manager of informatics. "Once the client base needing these individual reports reached 50, the tedious process would take almost the entire month and the person would only be able to work on that one task," Occhipinti says.
Clients access their own real-time data