Xerox calls on CRM to help bolster turnaround attempt

Xerox Corp. is investing in two new customer relationship management (CRM) applications as part of its effort to boost sales after two years of big losses.

The Stamford, Conn.-based maker of copiers and other business equipment plans to install call centre and channel management software that it hopes will help cut costs and increase sales. Xerox said it expects the CRM technology to deliver a return on investment six to 12 months after the rollout is finished early next year.

The CRM project is a key piece of Xerox’s initiative to regain market share following losses of US$293 million last year and US$384 million during 2000, said Mary Donato, vice-president of the company’s TeleWeb sales unit. That operation has been planning for the rollout since May to “make sure we don’t make the same mistakes other companies have,” she said.

For example, Xerox included a three-week system simulation and business modelling process for the call centre applications, she said. End users did trial runs with the software so they could see how it works and suggest ways that it could be customized for Xerox.

The call centre and channel management applications are from San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc.

The Siebel call centre software should let TeleWeb’s 800 online and telephone sales workers in North America access customer data from back-end systems more rapidly than they can now, Donato said. The rollout is scheduled to start in April with a pilot installation at a call centre in Saint John, N.B., that has about 150 users. If all goes well, Xerox will expand the applications to 13 other call centres this year and wrap up some secondary project work next year.

A Xerox spokesman said the company plans to install Siebel’s eChannel software later this year. Xerox will use the channel management application to collaborate with its network of more than 3,000 dealers and resellers and to give them access to lists of frequently asked questions, customer service templates and other tools.

Integration Challenges

Donato declined to disclose the budget for the CRM project but said it will cost millions of dollars. The call centre software will replace homegrown Windows-based systems, but TeleWeb will continue to rely on some existing applications, such as a customer data warehouse built around an Oracle Corp. database.

Creating the integration hooks needed to tie the Siebel software to back-end systems and the data warehouse will likely be the toughest part of the project, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif. Such integration efforts are expensive, time-consuming and easy to botch, Greenbaum said.

Xerox’s direct sales force isn’t included in the CRM project. The Xerox spokesman said the company hasn’t announced any new CRM plans for that unit, which now uses a series of proprietary applications.