Business software service provider NetSuite on Wednesday released NetSuite 9.5, adding advanced billing, analytics, and communications features to its on-demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution with integrated order management.
The new features include line-item billing capabilities, customer mining and segmentation tools, and no-click e-mail integration for popular e-mail systems such as Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Mail and America Online.
"For us, this is a normal release, but for most companies in the industry it would be a huge release. The ASP model allows us to roll in a lot more functionality than we would from an old software model. The architecture is cleaner and developed quickly and more efficiently. The number of features we're able to bring out to our customers is greater than a traditional CD-based offer," Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, told ASPnews.
The challenge with stand-alone CRM systems is that they do not natively track customer purchase history, according to Nelson. In traditional CRM systems, when an order is placed, the user leaves the CRM system and enters the actual order elsewhere.
This disconnect greatly decreases the effectiveness of sales people who need to know customer purchase history; of marketing users who want to create up-sell campaigns; and of service personnel trying to determine the best way to support customers. It also adds to the cost of the system as this order information often has to be re-imported into the CRM system, driving up IT integration, maintenance and data cleansing expenses, Nelson said.
NetSuite's integrated order management allow the implementation of advanced capabilities like allowing contract terms to be reflected automatically in billing and allowing customer purchase data to be mined and acted upon within the CRM application.
For companies offering service contract terms or recurring subscriptions, keeping track of billing schedules can be a labor-intensive process. A customer might commit to a one-year membership billed monthly, or a three-year service contract with quarterly invoices. Keeping track of invoicing schedules, knowing when and how much to invoice, and knowing when and how much to pay reps for sales commission can be a challenge, Nelson said.
Continuing to enhance the concept of Advanced CRM, built around order management, NetSuite 9.5's Advanced Billing capabilities automate these billing schedules and commission payments. Billing terms can be entered into the system on a line-item basis, and commissions and revenue forecasting are managed accurately.
"It's not just creating a pretty order, but actually building that revenue model into future forecasts, so it automatically cascades into future forecasts based on your billing terms. It cascades through your commission schedule, say if you only pay your reps when the cash is obtained. That billing schedule will reflect itself in the reps' commission statement. And if you're using NetSuite, you can automatically generate the bills for those line items as they are specified in the original order. It's fairly complex CRM order management and contract management," Nelson said.
In this release, NetSuite enhanced both its real-time analytics and in-depth analytics. More than 30 new key performance indicators were added to the real-time dashboards. Any saved search or ad hoc analytics can be turned into a dashboard.
For in-depth analytics, NetSuite again took advantage of its integrated order management to look at what kind of queries could be enabled to mine customers' purchase history. By adding search expressions, a user can find, for example, all the customers who bought 'X' and bought 'Y', but did not buy 'Z', Nelson said. The user can then create an up-sell campaign on the fly, create a group out of the results, and then send an e-mail to the group with a targeted offer.
NetSuite has enhanced its communications functions with "no-click e-mail integration," an automated process that ensures all customer correspondences are automatically tracked both in NetSuite and in the user's e-mail system of choice, such as Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Mail and America Online.
A customer response to any NetSuite-generated email -- whether it's a marketing campaign, sales follow-up, or service trouble ticket -- is automatically recorded into historical customer notes in addition to being delivered into the inbox of the user's e-mail system, Nelson said.
NetSuite 9.5 also includes the fulfillment of over 250 customer requested enhancements in addition to previously announced advancements to NetSuite's industry leading real-time Dashboards. The new features are included in all of the company's products, including NetSuite, NetCRM, NetERP and Oracle Small Business Suite. NetSuite is currently rolling out the release in stages to groups of customers, and it will be available to all customers by the end of next week.