NetSuite Sweetens the Pot

By Patricia Fusco | Posted March 04, 2004

Customer information is not worth being collected if the data can't be used to drive additional sales. NetSuite this week released a major upgrade to its hosted business software service that squarely puts the "customer" back into customer relationship management.

NetSuite 9.5 includes advanced customer relationship management features, which are based on the programs ability to handle line-item billing. NetSuite now provides a more detailed view of each customer's sales history. Businesses can drill down NetSuite's improved search tools to data mine for gold — new sales opportunities from existing customers.

NetSuite's new and improved search functions are rooted in advanced expression building technology. This allows a small business to easily setup complex search criteria across a combination of fields. Mini Peiris, NetSuite director of product managers, said customer mining for purchase or services histories is a great way to look for potential up-sells.

"NetSuite's expression builder allows for preparing nested queries. These search functions include and, or and not, and can sort data across any combination of data fields," Peiris said. "As a result, businesses can capture a more flexible, yet more detailed picture of their business."

For example, a cross-analysis of customers' buying history of a particular product or service via NetSuite 9.5 could produce a target group. This group is a snapshot of customers that purchased an item within a specific time frame or geographic area. These customers can be sorted into a parenthetical group and targeted to receive promotional material regarding add-ons for the item they purchased.

Yet another data mining excursion could provide details about sales minimums, maximums and averages, or even hot products. The information can be compiled as a mini-report and placed on a Dashboard for every NetSuite user in the company to view. This is a much more efficient way to handle data, than trying to patch together QuickBooks sales information with details from ACT! to prepare for a marketing campaign or sales promotion — a project that some small businesses might find all too familiar.

Do Away With Double Data Entry
NetSuite's upgrade goes beyond customer mining and data segmentation tools. Also included in the new release is no-click e-mail integration for popular e-mail systems such as Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Mail and America Online. Improved e-mail functionality allows a business to coordinate communication between an e-mail system and a CRM system. In the past, users had to manually move e-mails from one system to the other. With NetSuite 9.5, all e-mail correspondence is automatically tracked both in the e-mail system and the CRM system. Peiris explained how e-mail integration works with NetSuite 9.5.

"If a customer responds to any NetSuite-generated e-mail that's sent — whether it's a marketing campaign, sales follow-up, or service trouble ticket — the e-mail is automatically logged into historical customer notes in addition to being delivered into the inbox of the user's e-mail system," Peiris said. "This includes the capture of any file attachments in the e-mail reply. These capabilities add unprecedented ease of use and eliminate the time spent copying, pasting and toggling between e-mail and business applications. Communication records are now more accurate because nothing needs to get entered into the system twice."

Speaking of double data entry, NetSuite touts its service as the only on-demand CRM solution with integrated order management. This eliminates a major limitation of some traditional CRM systems. The new order management features built into NetSuite 9.5 allows contract terms to be reflected automatically in customers' billing details. This means accounting is cued with a customer needs to be re-billed for subscription based services, be it on a monthly, quarterly, annual, or even fixed-date basis. It also means that sales commissions can be paid either upon order entry, or upon collection in part or in full.

Peiris said cumbersome and disjointed businesses processes in some order management systems are to blame for creating new problems for small businesses attempting to manage stand-alone CRM systems.

"In traditional CRM systems, when an order is placed, the user leaves the CRM system and enters the actual order elsewhere. This disconnect decreases the effectiveness of sales people who need to know customer purchase history, or marketing staffers who want to create up-sell campaigns, or service personnel trying to determine the best way to support a customer," Peiris said. "Having to double-enter data can really add to the cost of a CRM system, since order information often has to be re-imported into the program, this drives up IT integration costs, maintenance fees, and data cleansing expenses."

NetSuite 9.5 has the capability to deliver next generation billing functions that can handle a variety of contract terms and subscription renewals, while other CRM systems have yet to deliver this level of integrated order management.

Would You Like Fries With That?
As part of NetSuite's continued commitment to customer satisfaction, NetSuite 9.5 also includes the fulfillment of over 250 customer-requested enhancements. Peiris said these changes include small adjustments to NetSuite's real-time Dashboards, as well as sweeping program enhancements, such as NetSuite's new and improved search expression capabilities.

"We have more than 7,000 customers now. Since our last upgrade was released in October 2003, we had a few customer-requested changes to fulfill," Peiris said. "Some changes may be small, but we listen to what our customers want and respond in a way that can help them better manage their key business processes."

The company's products include NetSuite, NetCRM, NetERP and Oracle Small Business Suite. Only NetSuite 9.5 offers the new line-item billing capability. However, all NetSuite business productivity services and the Oracle Small Business Suite now feature the enhanced search functions and related customer-requested enhancements.

NetSuite enables small business to manage core business operations in a single, integrated, hosted system. NetSuite 9.5 is available now, a two-user base license starts at $4,800 and additional user fees run $75 a month, or $900 a year. There are no extra fees associated with upgrading to the new release for current subscribers. New subscribers, however, may find that one-time data migration fees apply. NetSuite's "Getting Started" packages are quoted based on the volume of data, configuration and training involved in the setup process; pricing starts at $1,500.

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