As a startup, SunSmart Energy wanted a solid foundation for managing customers and sales, giving itself the freedom to expand rapidly across the United Kingdom (U.K.). It chose to subscribe to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to provide employees
with expert customer relationship management (CRM) tools, but without the need to invest in expensive hardware. The system has helped the firm attract 80 customers in 2011, and will support sales at three new offices in 2012.
SunSmart Energy is a U.K. startup company that designs, sells, and installs solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert solar energy into electricity. To install one requires a capital investment of up to £10,000 (U.S.$15,800), which is offset by a significant
reduction in power costs and tax-free income from Feed In Tariffs—a scheme that pays people for creating their own electricity—over a minimum 25-year life cycle. The Winchester-based firm has already completed 80 installations of the product since it began
in April 2011.
||By using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, we avoid maintenance and support expenditure. It’s an effective purchasing model for our business.
Exceptional service is part of the company’s strategy for rapid growth. Matt Thornington, Managing Director, SunSmart Energy, says: “Solar energy is a technology that most people aren’t familiar with, so we need to be professional and reassuring. We want
customers to know that we do things properly—from our initial communication and quotation to PV installation. This gives customers the confidence to proceed with modifications to their homes.” The company has realised success with this strategy, enjoying a
high number of customer referrals.
Thornington spent several months researching and planning operations, including the company’s CRM options. He wanted to manage referrals and sales opportunities with short and long-term goals in mind. “We looked not just at the size of our customer base
when we started up, but the plans and ambitions we had for growth. We wanted a solution that could scale easily as the business expanded,” he explains.
Thornington wanted SunSmart Energy to outsource IT as much as possible, giving the business the time and resources to develop its customer services and marketing activities.
During the planning phase, Thornington attended a conference for StartUp Britain, a U.K. Government initiative aimed at supporting entrepreneurs through technology and advice. Microsoft is one of the major supporters of StartUp Britain and offers new businesses
the use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online free for 90 days.
In addition to providing an initial boost for fledgling companies, it gives potential customers a chance to decide whether Microsoft Dynamics CRM is right for their businesses. The solution was exactly what Thornington was looking for. He says: “With Dynamics
CRM Online, the time and expense of managing IT is taken out of the equation. I don’t budget for server maintenance and IT staff—or have to plan for business continuity and data recovery. This is all taken care of.”
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online provides the same customer management and sales lead tools as the on-premises version of the software, but is accessed over the Internet and purchased on a per-user, per-month basis. The company uses the solution from the first
customer contact through to quotation preparation, and the job information sheet used by its installation experts. Thornington says: “After we’ve qualified a lead, our sales staff contact customers and arrange onsite visits. Integration with Microsoft Office
Outlook means that sales staff can book appointments directly into a consultant’s calendar and include customer and job descriptions in the appointment.”
Microsoft Partner Cloud9 Insight supported SunSmart Energy to set up the solution and also helped the company customise workflows to fit its requirements. For example, job data captured in the pre-installation consultation is always attached to the relevant
customer. “When the installation team goes to our warehouse to pick up supplies for the job, they know exactly what they need because the details are on the job sheet,” says Thornington.
With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, SunSmart Energy is equipped to manage rapid growth without having to invest in expensive infrastructure or develop in-house IT capabilities. The predictable payment model supports the startup to manage costs in line with
sales targets, while end-to-end tools ensure that staff can deliver exceptional customer service throughout the sales life cycle.
Cost-effective purchasing model. Thornington’s capital investment is minimal because the firm pays for software on a per-user, per-month basis. “By using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, we avoid maintenance and support expenditure. It’s an
effective purchasing model for our business,” says Thornington.
Scalable for future growth. The company is set to launch a second office in Cheltenham, and also aims to open two offices in south-east England. “With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, I don’t need to think about the logistics of setting up
IT at new offices—we can give staff laptops and they’re ready to go,” says Thornington.
Increased profitability. As a small business with ambitious growth plans, Thornington needs to control costs tightly. “We’re planning to integrate the CRM solution with Microsoft Dynamics NAV business management software in 2012. The integration
means tight alignment between our accounting systems and sales data, which will help us boost profitability,” he says.
Staff equipped to deliver exceptional service. Customer feedback on the company website is testimony to the fact that installations are carried out seamlessly. “Our technicians arrive at the warehouse and pick up everything they need that’s
outlined on the job sheet. They’re always equipped with the right resources to carry out jobs quickly and efficiently,” says Thornington.
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