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April 2003
Correcting More Than Eyesight
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New mobile tools help world’s largest toric contact lens maker see eye-to-eye with on-site customers.  

By Eric M. Zeman




If you wear contact lenses, then you know how tedious they can quickly become. It almost seems as if they purposely jump off your fingers right at the moment you get them to your eyeball, only to vanish as they fall to the ground. And of course, you’re blind without them.

Helping people see better is the mission of CooperVision, the largest toric contact lens company in the world and the fourth largest overall. CooperVision’s primary business is to manufacture contact lenses for people suffering from astigmatisms and spherical vision conditions, which have special requirements beyond those of normal vision correction. CooperVision then ships its products to more than 30,000 doctors’ offices and distributors worldwide.

Pie in the Eye

Unfortunately, CooperVision’s salesforce was facing a problem that both impacted sales productivity and tied up customer service, costing the company both time and money. CooperVision placed customer information in a Baan ERP system, and used a third-party software program to enable its sales force to access relevant data such as sales history and competitive information needed to close sales.

Effectively blinding the reps, the software was too complex and problematic; the reps rarely used it more than once a month to get their sales numbers. It also became inefficient for the reps to constantly rely on the sales support team at headquarters to obtain the accurate customer details they needed for calls. Dragging their laptops to every remote location caused unnecessary wear and tear. And if their laptops were being serviced, sales reps were often left without access to any sales information for days at a time. CooperVision knew it needed innovative technology to give its sales force real-time access to accurate customer information and, thus, increase both sales efficiency and productivity.

To begin, CooperVision looked at off-the-shelf CRM solutions. The company quickly determined that most of the packages were overkill for its needs, knowing that the sales reps didn’t take orders or use a quoting system in their line of business. In the end CooperVision decided it would be simpler to just create a custom application.

CooperVision turned to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Fullscope, a mid-market e-business solutions provider, to help improve its sales force automation capabilities. Already a consulting and technology partner, Fullscope helped CooperVision personalize and customize programs and features for its Baan system and to build a tool to give the sales force access to critical customer data while on the road.

An Eyeful for Reps

Fullscope spent 15 months designing an intuitive, PDA-based CRM solution for CooperVision’s Baan back-end to enable the sales reps to directly access information from a Handspring Visor or Palm m515 PDA. Technology for PDA adapters solved many issues for the sales team, and Fullscope developed a Web-based rep portal for salespeople to perform more extensive reports and queries when they worked from home. Once the solution was devised, it took approximately 30 days for all the reps to learn how to use it. CooperVision’s total capital outlay was $150,000.

The solution provides the reps with timely, daily access to the customer data they really need, including contact details and sales history. It also gives them new reporting capabilities and the ability to write queries and add notes using the sales portal. And because the solution’s interface is so easy to use, the entire sales force of 50 adopted it quickly with no stragglers. CooperVision plans to roll out the solution to its Canadian subsidiary next, which will add another 15 reps to the user group.

The new solution improves functions and eases decision-making for sales managers and execs by enabling reps and managers to make calls based on up-to-the-minute sales data. The ability to bring the PDA application into a client’s office also contributes to more effective decision making.

When reps take their PDAs on the road, any updates or changes to customer and sales information are synchronized via cable with their laptops or desktops when they return to the office or hotel. This spares the more expensive PCs from dings—and worse. The company plans to roll out a wireless version of the solution, but has not set any target dates.

Seeing Clearly

According to Lorrie Watson, VP of information technologies at CooperVision, the sales group is now much more industrious. “The feedback from our sales team has been great. It’s been so much more productive for them to have access to this kind of customer information every day. And with its reporting and query capabilities, it’s been a more efficient tool to help them meet their quotas on a daily basis,” she explains. The new solution helps reps plan their days more efficiently and gives them daily, accurate customer details wherever they go.

Watson also notes that the solution has saved money by eliminating calls to sales support. “We have probably reduced calls to the support center by the sales reps as much as 40 percent on issues such as customer orders and status. They now have access through the rep portal to look up this information themselves.”

Fullscope also provided a vision for ways of using the PDAs that CooperVision can continue to develop. CooperVision has already built a contact lens calculator application to allow doctors to download and convert patient measurement readings. It is also in the process of developing an application to help doctors and/or sales representatives record orders on their PDAs, which can then be later synced to the laptop or desktop.

With the new solution fully in place, CooperVision is experiencing 20/20 vision once again. And they fully intend to keep their prescription up-to-date.







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