Four-way CRM shootout
We fire up the top hosted CRM solutions from RightNow, NetSuite, Salesnet, and Salesforce.com and put them through their paces
Inline editing makes working with data much easier. Data objects are keyed to live data, making them directly accessible without jumping to a detail screen or popping up a lookup list. The one major flaw in NetSuite’s interface -- its lack of the guided, step-by-step nurturing found in other solutions -- could increase initial training time.
The homepage is fully customizable, with dashboard insight into pipeline status and key performance indicators definable across a variety of criteria. Comparative and threshold-based triggers can be set to draw managers’ attention to potential trends.
One unique feature allows dashboard placement on any screen. Changes to the date range are among the possible modifications you can make without having to navigate away and redefine the whole dashboard. The process for tailoring my interface -- simply dragging a screen element to a new location -- does away with fumbling, list-based screen formatters, too.
In addition to the usual SFA tools, NetSuite throws in basic customer support and issue tracking, a self-service portal, and outbound marketing, as well as a document repository for marketing collateral and product documentation -- plus a solutions knowledge base to help agents answer common service questions. Bells and whistles add to the appeal, including expectation management tools for quotas, forecasts, and commission payout, group calendaring, and multicurrency translation. On the downside, NetSuite comes up light on contract management, telephony integration, and comprehensive workflow.
A new component, Upsell Manager, helps create sales pattern analysis from which some BI and lead planning can be derived. Using the tool, I easily paired customers to potential cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Analysis can be seeded by either customer-specific criteria, such as sales history, or by inventory, which allowed me to push specials from warehouse overstock, for example. The upsell wizard generated a customer list that I pushed into the queue, where sales reps could retrieve and follow up on these potential moneymaking leads.
Outbound marketing campaigns can be directed fairly easily. The progress metrics, however, were lackluster and short on detail. Quick access to delivery stats, response rates, and click-throughs -- which RightNow provides -- would improve the campaign interface.
NetSuite’s reporting analytics were formidable, with a wide variety of reports across a swath of metrics. The NetCommerce Analytics engine can also be integrated with your customer portal or Web store to track and report on customer click-stream data, helping to distill data for issues or customer needs before they get away from you.
As did Salesforce.com, NetSuite allowed me to fine-tune reports with Boolean filters. But the process for inputting formulas was more cumbersome in NetSuite because I couldn’t simply type a formula as I could with Salesforce.com. Worse, NetSuite failed to check the validity of my filter definitions.
If you don’t need ERP-ware, NetSuite may not be for you. For one thing, NetSuite’s Web services API, although it exposes most CRM functions, provides less ERP and inventory accessibility. Pricing on this hosted solution also bears scrutiny: Low thresholds on storage and e-mail, as well as on add-on modules, can quickly escalate the total cost. That said, NetSuite makes a very good choice for SMBs looking to address CRM, ERP, and inventory tracking in a single, integrated suite.
Salesnet Extended Edition