TechWeb

CRM Goes Wireless

May 26, 2002 (08:05 PM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=6502315


Catering to its largest commercial customers is a priority for Alliant Energy. More than half of the $1.8 billion utility company's revenue comes from industrial and commercial customers, the largest of which are manufacturers.

The Madison, Wis., company's customer-relationship management strategy has centered on face-to-face contact with those large customers, says Mike Nutt, manager of sales systems support. Account managers and support personnel on the road have remote access to Alliant's Saratoga Systems CRM software with all relevant customer data and billing information, yet not all customer support is of the highest caliber.

The time-sensitive process of letting companies know when a power interruption would occur wasn't happening in a timely fashion, but that should change when Alliant introduces a new notification service in the summer.

Alliant has tariff agreements with 250 of its largest customers, which get incentives if they agree to curtail energy usage during periods of heavy demand. Alliant's service agents call these companies to let them know about power interruptions. But this system is ineffective, Nutt says. The sheer volume of customers that have to be called or the inability of an Alliant service agent to reach the main contact on the first try and secondary contacts on the next few attempts, means that it can take more than an hour to let a customer know that it needs to shut down production lines or send shift workers home. Without enough notice, business customers could lose revenue from an interruption in power.

"It wasn't good for us, and it wasn't good for our customers," Nutt says.

This summer, Alliant will use the real-time message alert and delivery service it recently implemented from EnvoyWorldWide Inc., in combination with the CRM software, to send messages to business customers' wired and wireless devices about impending powerdowns. The system can notify multiple people within a company by fax, E-mail, pager, or PDA. "Now we can alert 20 people or more from each company" at once, Nutt says. To ensure that businesses receive the notification, business contacts call a number that's hooked into the Envoy system. Alliant can monitor the responses online and in real time to ensure that all customers acknowledge receipt of the notification.

The new service isn't necessarily cheaper for Alliant, Nutt says, but he expects it will improve service to the company's largest customers. Alliant is using the Envoy applications to spark interest in new products as well. The company imports customer contact data from the Saratoga software into an Excel spreadsheet. The Envoy software takes the data from the spreadsheet to send out fax blasts of advertisements for new products, such as standby generation.

Maintaining close relationships with customers is a top priority for Alliant. The company hopes the new technology investment will help it improve customer retention and sales.