Clientele banks on self-service strength
Web services extensibility perks up Epicor CRM suite, but lack of workflow automation shows room for growth
Although it lacks some of the finer touches of e-service-focused vendors, such as auto-resolution suggestion and live chat, Clientele does offer polling, a document repository, and discussion threads. It also integrates nicely with existing Web site branding.
Unfortunately, administering the portal interface is a chore. The only way to accomplish the task was via a Web browser that, rather than make use of DHTML, required constant page updates and scrolling. Administration would be better served by a native client or, at least, better integration with the primary suite interface.
When it comes to sales-force automation, Clientele has the requisite record-keeping tools: contact management; lead and opportunity tracking; and easy access to historical references, which can include attachments, correspondence, and alert messages from co-workers.
I found that the suite lacks the degree of automated workflow and customizable alerting facilities standard in many of today’s CRM offerings, but does allow manual routing. Also nice is the ability to manage sales structures that span multiple territories and the ability to create, preview, and generate quotes — a real time saver.
Clientele’s sales-force tools do offer pipeline and forecasting opportunities, but I found the interface rudimentary and lacking the graphical, heads-up insight found in competitors such as SalesForce.com.
Mining for Change
The one area that does sport graphical insight and metrics is the reporting facilities. Business Objects’ Crystal Reports supplies reporting, and the tool comes prestocked with 30 basic reports.
The features for building new charts were clumsy, however, and lacked a database table column picker. Once built, the reports offer meaningful analysis and can be exported in a variety of formats including PDF and Excel. You can also customize report definitions using Visual Studio .Net or Crystal Enterprise.
In the end, I found that Epicor’s database-centric tools performed acceptably, but it lacked the attention to detail that would improve usability.
For the price, it weighs in light on functionality. But its record-keeping prowess and the cost savings of a self-service portal will drop right to your bottom line.
With the addition of better inline usability features and some real-time insight, Clientele’s extensible Web services platform could grow into a CRM market contender.