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KM to the rescue—Helping companies help their customers

Knowledge management is an essential component of the efforts of companies to better manage their relationships with customers.

TrueCar, an auto pricing research firm, provides users with prices for new vehicles and locations where consumers can buy those vehicles. Consumers can search for cars by price, model and other various criteria.

What separates TrueCar.com from other websites like it is that it enables the consumer to print out a “certificate” for the given price of the chosen vehicle at a specific dealer, who will then honor the price. The certificate is good for 30 days. There’s no haggling, a very appealing advantage for many prospective auto purchasers, according to Mike Swinson, TrueCar VP of analytics.

Yet, research showed that fewer deals were closed than were expected. The most common cited issues were: The dealer was much farther away than indicated by TrueCar’s geocoding tools, and the given vehicle was not available when the consumer arrived at the dealership.

“We wanted to focus on better conversion of sales and to optimize our online marketing campaigns,” Swinson says. So TrueCar sought a better analytics system with improved algorithms that would provide more accurate information to customers. TrueCar found the solution that it wanted with SAS (sas.com) Analytics, which the company installed in the middle of 2010.

“With an eye on ensuring that TrueCar.com uses the best possible data resources, we measure and report weekly on how much data we receive from our providers and the integrity of that data,” says Mikhail Semenuik, who heads up the company’s analytics efforts. “We use SAS to analyze and report on customer traffic through our Web sites. We measure conversion rates in order to better understand evolving customer needs.”

Swinson says that SAS Analytics provides faster and more effective processing of data than the legacy system. According to him, the percentage of deals closed has gone up 15 percent, while the company’s marketing campaigns have gone from unprofitable to profitable. TrueCar.com expects to leverage its success with SAS Analytics when it expands to offer used car pricing and deals later in the first quarter of 2011.

Understanding management relationships

In business-to-business sales, having the basic details about prospects and customers is part of the knowledge a company needs to enhance its own CRM efforts. It’s also important to know the relationships between the top people within an organization.

InsideView provides users with an on-demand sales intelligence application, including name, title, phone number, address, size of the company, industry and other pertinent details. While that information provides users with excellent knowledge about prospects and active clients, InsideView executives wanted to take that information to the next level.

“We were providing an inferred reporting structure,” says Greg Brush, InsideView VP of sales and customer success. “We provide information on the chief financial officer, vice president and other executives of the organization. But a lot of salespeople are calling on director-level executives, where the reporting structure isn’t so clear.”

So InsideView wanted an application that would integrate seamlessly with its own to provide organizational charts so that customers, including internal salespeople, could quickly recognize the relationships between different managers and executives within an organization.

Knowing both the basic management information and an organization’s hierarchy saves times and improves sales productivity. Brush says, “It saves on account and pre-call research and improves the salesperson’s credibility. A salesperson is much more prepared if he or she understands the relationships of the people of the company that he is calling on.”

Shortly after InsideView started looking for a solution in spring 2010, Brush received a cold call from Mindjet (mindjet.com) about its Deal Navigator application. The installation in summer 2010 took only 30 minutes, according to Brush.

Armed with the Deal Navigator application, InsideView salespeople are saving 20 to 30 minutes per week on their own sales calls, according to Brush. “They are much more productive. It also helps us with team collaboration. As a prospect becomes a customer, we bring new people in on the account, and this helps us get them up to speed quickly.”

Easier access to KM improves CRM

Improved access to knowledge management resources is also essential for associations to serve their customers—their members.

The Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPA) is the third largest association of its type in the world, with more than 20,000 members throughout the province. To help ensure it’s meeting the needs of its membership, HRPA conducts a member engagement study. Respondents to the 2010 survey indicated that they wanted HRPA to help them with opportunities to further their career, enhance their capabilities and contribute to their profession.

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