BACKGROUND: Minolta Corporation, headquartered in Ramsey, New Jersey, is the largest subsidiary of Minolta Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan. The company's Business Products Group (BPG) develops, markets and supports a complete line of printers, copiers, facsimile machines and document imaging hardware and software systems throughout North America. BPG's product development activities are based on maintaining an awareness of the diverse requirements of the company's customers, particularly the need for responsive after-sales services. In order to stay ahead of the competition and ensure the highest possible level of customer satisfaction, we have standardized on Saratoga Systems Avenue customer relationship management (CRM) Software.

PLATFORMS: Avenue runs on a Compaq Proliant server with a Windows 95 operating system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Prior to the installation of Saratoga Avenue software, Minolta's sales force relied on briefcases full of computer reports, notebooks and folders filled with marketing promotions and customer bulletins. Our internal staff wasted vast amounts of time on unnecessary phone calls, faxes and express mail. Sharing information between time zones was an additional challenge to staying informed. The time and effort spent manually maintaining customer records was a recognized burden throughout Minolta's sales management team.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Saratoga Avenue provides an easy-to-use productivity system that can be employed and utilized enterprise-wide. Sales and sales management, whether remote or in the office, can use Avenue to increase productivity, stay better in touch with customers and other sales team members, provide more accurate forecasting models and, subsequently, close more business. From a single application, Avenue allows the sharing of information from corporate laptops to LAN-based PCs.

STRENGTHS: Avenue offers the industry's most sophisticated database synchronization capabilities, making it easy to support large numbers of remote and mobile sales people. Avenue features a Windows 95 interface, so users are immediately familiar with the software's intuitive design.

WEAKNESSES: The one weakness in the system is the fact that the current version of Avenue relies on a hierarchical database structure, as opposed to a relational database. Each field has to be defined, so administratively it's very time-consuming. Fortunately, Saratoga is getting ready to release its relational database structure which will overcome this limitation.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Minolta selected Avenue because it could be easily customized to meet our sales and customer management processes and because of its synchronization and communications capabilities. Because the interface is so intuitive, users are able to quickly and easily learn the basic functionality of the system, minimizing training time.

DELIVERABLES: Our sales teams use Avenue's complete user-defined reporting facility to produce a variety of reports including customer profiles and quarterly performance and quota reports. Our marketing team uses Avenue to track the ranking of our sales representatives and distributors, and our training department uses the system to maintain records of who has received training. Avenue allows us to select and report on any field or combination of fields within the Avenue database. In addition, the query tool's search and analytical capabilities are extremely robust. You can search by keywords as well as partial names and words. What started as a 60-user project has now grown to include 137 remote licenses and more than 120 LAN users in departments throughout the company. First thing in the morning, everyone logs onto Avenue to review the latest sales, forecasting and account data. Both our internal and external communications rely on the fast, organized and up-to-date information the system provides. Saratoga's technology has been instrumental in providing Minolta with a storehouse of mission-critical customer data. This repository of information provides our salespeople with complete, real-time information and has been a strategic component in our successful communication with Minolta customers.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Saratoga's technical support is possibly the best part of working with Saratoga. They are extremely responsive and provide excellent technical support before, during and after the installation. During implementation, we were able to talk directly with developers to solve any issues.

DOCUMENTATION: Although Saratoga provides excellent, accurate documentation, we found it helpful for Saratoga's support team to walk us through the setup and operation.

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