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What are you using to collect and organize new customer information?

The Dude

Hot Rolled
Joined
Oct 19, 2010
Location
Portland, OR
This question is mostly pertinent to job shops where multiple people are involved in the "NPI" (new product introduction) process. I'm curious to know what kind of newer technology (if any) you use to keep track of all the information related to the process from initial customer contact through successful launch of a product and, to some extent, how you archive information for those that don't pan out.

Just some background: we are a 12 person job shop and we might do about 5-20 quotes per week (high acceptance rate) and many of those are for new customers. We have a quote "check-out" Excel sheet that basically is manually updated, we write quotes in Word and email out as PDF's. If successful, almost every job requires new tooling, drawings to be filed, data to be entered, etc. To date, this has been done through "brute manual force" (lots of verbal communication) but, thanks to business increases, we need to "get our act together" a little better. The only thing we "for sure" are going to do to improve in the future is to perform our quotes with much greater automation in our ERP system. That will reduce a huge amount of manual work but there's still the whole "tracking" issue of making sure tooling & raw material gets ordered, inspected, stored and all those other little details that are mostly after an order is received.

About the only example of potential new technology that I intend to investigate is salesforce.com or similar. My only experience with this was for time tracking in a former consulting agency I worked for. It can gather and organize information but, beyond that, I don't know much about it and wondering if anyone uses it in a job shop. Outside of that, just wondering if someone out there has found some good organizational tools, whether they are on-line or manual. I've also thought about a manually updated white board just to track NPI stuff where we have a daily stand-up meeting just to talk about exceptions (i.e. stuff that's late, etc.).

I understand that many shops don't do a lot of quoting and/or are real small so that one person can "do it all". Just to repeat, this is more pertinent to shops that do a lot of NPI and have several people involved that all need to be informed and coordinate their activities so that things happen in a timely and accurate manner.

Thanks,
The Dude
 

Perry Harrington

Titanium
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Location
Klamath Falls, Oregon
The common approach is to use a product called a CRM. There are free versions like SugarCRM (open source community edition or paid commercial edition), one of the guys who did SugarCRM started X2CRM, my last company worked with him to customize the product for our uses, he's a really sharp guy and I understand the product is good. There are big expensive products like SalesForce, then there are lower priced products that are cloud based like Zendesk (the feature set was impressive, but I was skeptical for our application).

Mind you my experience with these products is going on 3 years ago, but a CRM is the standard way to track leads that turn into customers and to track how productive those customers are to the business.
 

The Dude

Hot Rolled
Joined
Oct 19, 2010
Location
Portland, OR
The common approach is to use a product called a CRM. There are free versions like SugarCRM (open source community edition or paid commercial edition), one of the guys who did SugarCRM started X2CRM, my last company worked with him to customize the product for our uses, he's a really sharp guy and I understand the product is good. There are big expensive products like SalesForce, then there are lower priced products that are cloud based like Zendesk (the feature set was impressive, but I was skeptical for our application).

Mind you my experience with these products is going on 3 years ago, but a CRM is the standard way to track leads that turn into customers and to track how productive those customers are to the business.

Good point. I would like to stress that, while I see a value in CRM, most (over 90%) of what we are needing is after the sale is complete. We do have an extremely short (and simple) sales cycle (what we do today could be a lot most construed as just quoting and very little "selling" although that may change in the future). So, short answer, I don't mind considering a CRM as long as it works effective for NPI.

Thanks,
The Dude
 

Perry Harrington

Titanium
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Location
Klamath Falls, Oregon
A CRM is used as a customer lifecycle tool, that's why it's called Customer Relationship Manager. If used properly, all communications and interaction with a customer from cradle to the grave is logged. New people can see what previous people did with sales and other things. For instance, customer is saying "but we got a break on this 2 years ago", well you can check the CRM and verify that they did get a break and any logic as to why. Perhaps they were told at that time they got a break because you were trying to unload some material you were carrying?

The other thing is, when you setup a CRM, you really should input all the historic information too, so you don't start with a blank slate.
 

SimonArthur

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 14, 2008
Location
Atlanta, GA, USA
I don't think CRM is useful for what you need at the moment, though it may be useful.

You should look into project management software which will allow you to set up and re-use template projects with pre-defined resources, etc. Teamwork.com is one, though I've used it for other purposes.

Here's a list of over 100 different options for project management, with ratings:
Best Project Management Software - 2015 Reviews
 

The Dude

Hot Rolled
Joined
Oct 19, 2010
Location
Portland, OR
I don't think CRM is useful for what you need at the moment, though it may be useful.

You should look into project management software which will allow you to set up and re-use template projects with pre-defined resources, etc. Teamwork.com is one, though I've used it for other purposes.

Here's a list of over 100 different options for project management, with ratings:
Best Project Management Software - 2015 Reviews

Thanks, I will definitely look into it. From what I know about PMS (lol), it's highly "resource" oriented and the key for us is going to be tracking tasks/milestones but they are designed for that as well. Actually, come to think of it, might be nice to track resources as well. We do so much NPI that there could potentially be conflicts with that as well.

Thanks again for the tip and the link.
The Dude
 

The Dude

Hot Rolled
Joined
Oct 19, 2010
Location
Portland, OR
Interesting follow-up, thought I'd ask my daughter, who works at one of these fancy high-tech software companies (free breakfast, catered lunches, gym membership, unlimited vacation gotta stop listing my job looks pretty bad!) what they use for project management and they use salesforce. Asked her if it tracks tasks and some other things (apparently it does all that), sounds like it might be worth checking into as well). Gotta watch out for those "per-conceived notions", they can sure get you into trouble or at least limit some options!

The Dude
 








 
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