January 18, 2007

Sterling PCU's develops customer relationship with Sugar CRM

Author: Tina Gasperson

Sterling PCU sells refrigerant systems to the automotive and appliance industry. It names among its customers Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, General Electric, and many others. Sterling had an extensive collection of customer information, but much of the data was stored in disparate locations: email, spreadsheets, and incompatible databases. When Sterling decided it was time to consolidate, its first choice was Salesforce's customer relationship management (CRM) product. However, high costs and restricted access to the company's own data forced a reassessment, and this time, Sterling chose an open source product.

PCU needed a CRM backed by a company that could provide the personalized support it needed. Whether it was open source software or not wasn't much of a concern. "We weren't too caught up in the specific technology," says Christopher Edwards, general manager of sales for Sterling PCU. "We just wanted a company that could help us deploy and customize, with one number to call."

When Sterling was using Salesforce Professional, a hosted CRM application, it found out there were some hidden costs. "That was a really big deal for me," Edwards says. "Just the complexity of the whole experience. We had to bring in a second party integrator and really needed another to handle the email integration. Extra cost, extra cost, extra cost. The straw that broke the camel's back was the quoted charge of $450 to back up and share our own data."

At that point, Edwards knew that Sterling would have to find another CRM solution. "I just happened to be thumbing through Selling Power magazine and came across the ad [for Sugar On-Demand]," he says. "First thing I did was sit down with the management team. We did a 30-day test drive, and said, 'Yup, that's it.'"

Sugar's On-Demand is an open source, hosted CRM application with different levels of support depending on the number of users. Customers pay an annual fee to have their CRM hosted on Sugar's servers, and for technical support.

Edwards says the migration from Salesforce to Sugar On-Demand forced Sterling to clean up its data, something he says "needs to be done anyway. The challenge any time you're dealing with data is making sure that it is clean. We went back to the source files and cleaned those up, purged any inactives or DOAs. That was probably it." Sterling had Sugar do some customizations, such as coding Sterling's in-house quote numbering sequence.

Sterling's been with Sugar for two years now, and Edwards says he doesn't see Sterling moving to another product anytime soon. "This cut our CRM costs in half."

Companies that may be considering an open source CRM should test it thoroughly. "Run it up the flagpole and check," Edwards says. "Our corporate office had a concern about security." Sugar convinced Edwards the data was secure. "We sent it up to corporate, they came back and said, 'No problem.'"

"Before you spend a dollar, take the test drive," he says. "You don't go out and buy a new car sight unseen."


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