In the house Featured

8:46am EDT July 11, 2003
CBIZ, a Cleveland-based provider of outsourced business services, is in the process of choosing a comprehensive sales force automation to tie together its 160 offices spread across 33 states.

But implementing such a system will take 12 to 18 months, and there are certain functions that needed to be accomplished now, so the TRACS system was born.

TRACS (Track Referrals And Cross-Serving) tracks referrals made by one CBIZ company to another, making sure each one is followed up on and not forgotten. TRACS uses simple online forms to make referrals and a system of e-mail reminders to ensure those referrals are addressed by the appropriate people.

Reports track which companies are sending and receiving referrals, which referrals are still open and which have been declined or accepted. The whole system was designed in-house.

"One of the reasons we did not go outside was timing," says George Dufour, senior vice president and chief technology officer at CBIZ. "We needed this up and running in four weeks."

CBIZ wanted the eventual sales force automation system to include the same functions as TRACS, but it couldn't wait on this particular component because the potential for losing money was increasing as the company grew and communication became more difficult.

"What we did was decide to build a throw-away system," says Dufour. "We would look to satisfy the more global management component with the new system."

A little more than a month later, TRACS was up and running -- with surprising results.

"It met our business need and allowed us time to do our larger sales force automation project in a more structured environment," says Dufour. "What we soon found out is that none of these commercial packages could do what TRACS was doing. What we thought would be a quick-fix throw-away system has become much more. We're now integrating it as part of our commercial product. It gave us immediate functionality and met our long-term needs as well."

In 2002, the TRACS system helped produce $6.6 million in additional revenue for the company by creating new business among existing clients. That number is expected to increase 15 percent this year. How to reach: CBIZ, (216) 447-9000

Following the TRACS

CBIZ's in-house referral tracking system known as TRACS generated $6.6 million in additional business from existing clients in 2002, and that number is expected to increase 15 percent this year.

Anne Lieb, Webmaster for CBIZ, helped put together the system in a little more than a month. Here's how it works.

TRACS is located on the password-protected CBIZ intranet. Any CBIZ employee at any one of the 85 CBIZ companies across the country can refer one or more customers to another CBIZ company. The business referral sender fills out a short and simple form which usually takes less than one minute.

To make it easier, the form is prepopulated with the sender's e-mail address, phone number, CBIZ company and location. Senders are asked to list the client they are referring and the service they need, along with a brief description. The sender selects the recipient of the referral and submits the form.

The referral is entered in the system, and both the sender and receiver are automatically sent e-mails from the system with details of the referral. All e-mails sent from the system contain a hypertext link that takes the user directly to the Web page with complete details of the referral.

The receiver is instructed to follow up their efforts regularly. If they don't document any follow-ups, they are sent e-mail reminders.

"This is to make sure a referral never slips through the cracks or gets forgotten about," says Lieb.

Once the information is entered, the reminders stop until 30 days have passed on an open referral. If no follow-up has been done, the reminders start again.

When a referral is sold, it is called a completed referral. An e-mail is sent automatically to CBIZ management stating all the details of the referral and the amount of money generated from the sale. An e-mail is also sent to the sender of the referral and his or her manager with the same details.

When a referral is declined by CBIZ or the customer, a notice is sent to both the sender and receiver detailing the reason.

Management can view reports on which employees and companies within CBIZ are generating the most referrals, along with a host of other analysis.