Don’t ask Tony Sampson about his first brush with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. It didn’t go well.

After being supplied with a CRM system that was not fit for purpose, the Cornwall Solar Panels MD embarked on a long quest for a customisable solution that could help his business grow and keep pace with the demands of a fast-changing industry.

“I spent two years investigating the CRM software market,” Sampson says.

“During that time, I noticed that Microsoft Dynamics CRM was making huge strides on a regular basis, reaching a point where it was neck-and-neck with the marketleader, Salesforce.

“That’s when I stumbled across Ashley. Ashley can talk in 1s and 0s and speak Human. He’s a Dynamics ninja!”

Ashley Childs, director of Falmouth-based XRM PRO, takes up the story. “It wasn’t hard to see that Tony’s CRM solution was creaking at the seams,” he says.

“His business is expanding but his systems just couldn’t cope. And his solution was costing him money because Tony’s workforce was doing a lot of the processes that ought to be automated by the system.”

Sampson and Childs began to investigate exactly what Cornwall Solar Panels needed.

Childs explains: “Although Dynamics CRM can be used out-of-the-box for sales, service and marketing, it can also to be customised to do pretty much anything.

“Like all businesses, Cornwall Solar Panels had ways of doing business that were unique-in this case due to renewables industry compliance. So Tony decided to customise Dynamics CRM to meet his company’s needs.

“I had such a good time going through all the aspects of CRM,” adds Sampson.

“What it could do for us, how it would be able to smooth out our operation by reducing workload and vastly reducing the possibility of human error.”

Involving the business in the management of its requirements was key to the success of the project, as was giving clear guidance and costings throughout the process. XRM PRO used the Agile methodology, delivering new functionality every two weeks.

“When the client’s satisfied with the system, we’re done,” says Childs. “And there’s no downtime while the system is upgraded.”

This approach allowed Cornwall Solar Panels and XRM PRO to collaborate constantly over the requirements.

Childs adds: “With traditional methods, the software consultant gets the requirements then goes away and delivers something six months later. If what you’ve delivered isn’t what the client actually needs, it’s too late to fix it without extra cost and frustration.

“With Agile, the client watches the system taking shape before their eyes. And it’s perfectly possible to go in new directions if they spot new opportunities.”


So what does Sampson think of the new system?

“So much of our compliance paperwork is now automated,” he says. “It’s easily going to pay for itself inside of a year. We’ve got much clearer visibility of to keep on top of their workload. Nothing slips the net.”

And it’s opened up a world of possibilities. “We’re only just scratching the surface of the capability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” says Sampson. “We’ve got more that we can automate like booking out surveys, automatic online payments, screen popping customer details before you answer the phone to them.

“And we’re aiming to allow customers to buy their system and book their installation completely online. It’s so exciting looking at the possibilities.”

The new system also comes with outstanding customer support. Childs says: “XRM PRO is a Microsoft Partner, so we know first-hand that Microsoft provides really great support. And in addition to Microsoft’s support, XRM PRO will be here to guide and advise Tony as he takes his business to new places.”

So don’t ask Sampson about his first experience of CRM solutions. But what does he say if you ask him about his second experience? “Recently we’ve been working at triple our normal capacity. We couldn’t have done that without Microsoft Dynamics & XRM PRO. Finding them was a real game changer.”

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This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Business Cornwall magazine.

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