Warwickshire councils hope to save £1m with cloud CRM switch

A group of four councils in Warwickshire expect to save about a million pounds by replacing their Northgate customer relationship management (CRM) system with one from Firmstep.

Warwickshire Direct, a customer services partnership comprising Warwickshire county and district councils, plus Rugby Borough Council and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, launched about a decade ago and jointly acquired a CRM system from Northgate soon after.

Martin Court, technical manager at Warwickshire Direct, said: “To be fair the system had served us well over nine years. But it had become very expensive to maintain and was a very large and monolithic product.”

As a replacement the partnership opted to buy Firmstep’s cloud-based CRM via the G-Cloud framework.

Savings via G-Cloud

Court explained: “We expect that to save us half a million pounds over three year, in purely cashable savings. But we know we’ve also made huge savings by increasing efficiency. We think we’ve saved half a million extra.”

The group have completed a number of procurements through G-Cloud and “absolutely love” the framework, Court says.

The CRM implementation had a tight timescale of 56 days for all four councils, something Court says he “would not advocate for anyone to attempt to do”.

He said: “It was the most bonkers project I’ve ever done. The bottom line is we did do it, though it wasn’t without pain and grief to be honest.”

Integrating telephony, CRM and website

Warwickshire Direct also replaced its telephony system from Mitel, which Court said was "no longer fit for purpose".

He said: “Our telephony was just falling over. It was hopeless…so we replaced CRM and telephony. In a customer services environment both bits of tech need to be in a good place to deliver customer services and work together.”

The partnership has started to integrate the Firmstep CRM and new cloud-based telephony from Ctalk so it has a single view of citizens calling in, according to Court.

He also plans to integrate the platforms with web chat capability on the councils’ joint website.

Rapid alterations

Court says that one of the huge benefits of working with Firmstep over Northgate is that you don’t have to wait so long for alterations to the system.

He explains: “If you want an enhancement to any of the traditional, large scale, monolithic products, you have to go through the user group, and there’s a 12 to 18 month wait. There are also cost negotiations.”

“Now we’re with Firmstep they update their system every single week. We’re able to sit down with them, say “right this is something we want to do”, and they’ve done it for us very quickly. If you take cost element out, that’s the single biggest advantage of working with Firmstep.”

‘Complacent’ incumbent suppliers

Court says he specifically sought out an SME for the CRM project as he wanted someone agile with a pay-as-you-go contract.

He adds: “We need to work with suppliers who will listen to us, hear what we want to do and work with us. We’re trying to move at pace and we have got money to save.”

Court said that he expects SMEs to do increasingly well in the public sector market, which he says has suffered from “complacency” from a finite number of suppliers in the past “treating products as cash cows”.

“That has undoubtedly stifled innovation. But with SMEs, like Firmstep, you have the opposite paradigm”, he added.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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