Trevor O'Sullivan, General Manager at DTS International, recently wrote us:
We have officially switched over to the 37signals Suite as of the last 3 weeks and we're loving it — thanks for building such an awesome product and taking the useless shit and clutter out of productivity solutions.
We followed up with Trevor to find out more about how his team is using the Suite. His response is below.
The search begins
We are a multifaceted company with several focuses all within the training and development market. Initially, we werte only looking for a CRM and I started looking at products around the place like Highrise and other online CRM tools - we were then using a product hosted on our own server. This search started in late 2009 during our Christmas holiday season in Australia but never went anywhere as I decided it was all too hard!
On initial review, I thought Highrise was too "entry level" and simply lacked features we needed like reporting and other common CRM features. This year we hired an absolute gun of a sales person and she has made a huge difference to our business. Since most of her time is spent telephone prospecting she came to me with her concerns/challenges with the CRM and how difficult it was making her job to fill in lots of fields or data we never used, the slow search capabilities (as we had around 20000 contacts) and the all around cumbersome nature of our existing CRM.
Hence I started looking again at CRM options and came back to Highrise. Still thinking it lacked key features without using third party applications and API function development from our end we decided to "try it out" it for a week. Once that week was over, our team was begging me to make the switch all the way. So we did!
Just after upgrading to a paid account 37signals came out with their new Suite offering and we had to have it — as we had started to play with the free version of Basecamp and Backpack and had fallen in love with them too!
We have a database of around 10,000 customers and prospects (since making the switch we did a massive data clean and removed useless and duplicates from our CRM). For us, it is about tracking the interactions with customers and prospects, hence we use the notes and email dropbox heavily. We have started using the Tasks and Deals sections more and more to keep track of the deals we have in the pipeline and things we need to get done with different contacts.
We have just completed a business plan for our business (yes, I know plans are guesses!). But, for me, the business planning process is about the analysis and getting a feel for what we have to work with and then I can make better decisions in the moment. The plan/analysis produced around 8 pages of todos for us to work on to improve our business.
Every time I looked at the list is was so intimidated I stuck it back on the desk and looked for something else to keep me busy! One day I was watching the Basecamp videos and thought, "Let's set up a project." At that time, we only had the free version so had to use one project called "business plan todos" and divide up the list with our team, then create a rule in the business that at 4:30pm we stop what we are doing and spend 30 minutes to cross one thing of the list. It has been great we are so far in front of where I thought we would be. It is amazing and our team loves it because the can see how they are contributing to the business!
We have only just started with Backpack, however we are using it as a quick information store for our people internally. We get a lot of calls and since we have many tools and solutions it is hard for our to know everything about a product or service. So we have created some pages of FAQs so our people can use the search feature to locate answers to questions within these pages. They can also add questions that we can discuss and answer as a team and add them to the system for future reference. The answers are written in a way they can copy and paste them into an email or say them over the phone. We will continue to develop how we use Backpack as we go and I am sure will find other uses for it.
We are not using Campfire at this point as we tend to all work in the same place — however we are looking at how it could be used for our distributors to ask questions on the fly via a chat with one of our team.
Tips for other customers
Don't be put off by the simplicity of the systems offered by 37signals — they are simple for a reason: YOU WILL USE THEM! Anyone who has sales/service people know the biggest challenge is to get them use a CRM. With Highrise they want to use it because it is simple and not overloaded with ridiculous fields, functions, and reports you will never use anyway!
In the book REWORK (my new favourite book!), Jason and David talk about constraints leading to more creativity and I could not agree more. When we first moved to Highrise our biggest challenge was there was no ability to customise fields. This is something that would still be nice for us to have as they are useful in running our business, but we found a work around in that using the "tags" as a substitute for fields we did not have.
For example, one key piece of information for us is the type of customer/prospect contacts are. That is Internal HR, L&D and OD or External trainer coach and consultant. This was a field in our old CRM, so we added these as tags "Internal" and "External." Problem solved.
If you are considering the 37signals Suite of tools, stop thinking and start acting. You won't look back!
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting way? Let us know.