CRM System Lets Online Retailer Stop Singing the Blues

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As Andreas Katsambas built his music business -- an independent record label as well as an online music store -- he found that providing his growing customer base with the personalized service they expected from small, niche businesses was becoming a daunting feat.


With just one other employee, Katsambas struggled with disparate front-end Web site and back-end customer service systems that supported The End Records (www.theendrecords.com), Salt Lake City. Orders received through one system had to be downloaded, re-keyed and processed through another system. New product information had to be entered in both the Mycart.net and QuickBooks systems, and products being discontinued from inventory had to be deleted from both as well. Information for credit card orders needed to be entered at yet another site.


Katsambas said he spent two to three hours daily entering data to keep up with orders and changes to the product line. Managing his expanding business through these multiple data touch points had become too time consuming.


But that all changed five years ago, when Katsambas began working with NetSuite to create an integrated system to meet the needs of his customers, who span 30 countries and regularly visit The End Records' Web site.


The company's online store, which gets 500,000 hits a month, offers 10,000 record titles from its own artists and those of other record labels, and it serves as The End Records' main source of income. This made integrating and automating its online processes a necessity. Adding to the challenge was a guarantee that The End Records advertised: Orders would be sent out in 24 hours. To meet that goal, Katsambas worked as late as necessary to process the orders.


"It was killing us on the back end," he said. "And when you're working at 2 in the morning typing data, there is room for error."


Yet if Katsambas fulfilled his promise to send orders within one day, customers didn't know it. And they had no idea that it took 20 minutes to process one order. With NetSuite tools controlling processes from accounting to customer service and distribution, orders are processed in five minutes or less, he said.


Also before NetSuite's solution was adopted, customers had no way to check their orders, but now "NetSuite creates an account so they can see every step of the process," Katsambas said. Customers benefit from the efficiencies even before they make a purchase. They learn immediately whether a particular title is out of stock.


Customers automatically get an e-mail when their order is processed and another when the order is shipped that includes a package-tracking number so they can follow the shipment's progress from The End Records to their doorstep. Customers no longer have to ask about their order status, and Katsambas has freed the time he usually took to respond to those customer inquiries.


"The more data you give customers, the better. They like to know what's going on," he said, adding that customers typically notify The End Records when they notice incorrect information, such as a misspelled name, in an e-mail communication, thus helping the company maintain a clean customer database.


Along with providing information on order status, e-mail gives Katsambas another way to communicate with customers. Since 2003, he has sent a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting additions to the site as well as promotions and discounts. About 30,000 customers get the e-letter, and Katsambas said he notices a spike in orders after they're sent. Every morning, he can view such data as the top customers of the month or the top-selling items of the week. He also can track sales by item, style of music and supplier.


"I can break [sales data] out in any way," he said, adding that the online system lets his growing staff of 14 access it remotely. He now has 10 employees based in Salt Lake City, but his buyer and accounting personnel are in Virginia and his marketing specialist is in Florida.


Katsambas said the system has grown with The End Records' business, which began in 1998 with fewer than 1,000 customers. It now gains 2,000 new customers every quarter. One feature he hopes to add to the site is an online auction service, much like eBay's, that would connect The End Records' customers who wish to buy and sell their used music collections.


Marji McClure covers CRM and analytics for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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