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August 3, 2009

Star shines bright with CRM launch

Time to bin traditional software licence approach, says company

By Steve Evans

UK-based ISP and SaaS communication firm Star has announced it is launching a new pay-as-you-go Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

The service, built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM technology, adds to Star’s existing portfolio of connectivity, hosting, networking, security and voice offerings and is a natural extension of its business email service launched earlier this year, Martino Corbelli, marketing director at Star, told CBR.

Star CRM enables companies to build a ‘customer-centric business philosophy’ through improved customer intelligence and more efficient sales and marketing operations, the company said. The CRM suite features modules for marketing automation, sales force automation and customer service and is backed up analytical technology offering reporting capabilities.

Corbelli said that the firm is aiming the product towards the SMB market because it believes that is where the real growth in hosted CRM will be, as many larger organisations already have CRM capabilities in place. The platform will also focus heavily on the support offered to SMBs.

“The smaller companies often don’t have the necessary skills and/or resources to deploy a CRM platform in house,” Corbelli told CBR. “They are the ones that need more support through SLAs and so on. With our partners we will help to set up the system and help with upgrading and integrating with other systems.”

The initial support period is vital during a new contract, Corbelli said, because if it proves to be successful the CRM system is likely to see wider use with the company. “We lean heavily on the services side because if the handholding period is done successfully it will spread to other parts of the business,” he said.

Corbelli believes that the new platform will be an attractive proposition for companies looking to cut costs during the recession and move away from traditional licensing models. “Customers want to cut costs and many are looking to the cloud for that, as there are no upfront costs,” he said. “The traditional licensing model for software leaves a bad taste; it needs to be binned. All worries regarding upgrading, continuity, backup and upgrading are gone with SaaS.”

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Star’s competition in the CRM space will come from the likes of, RightNow Technologies and Oracle’s Siebel, but Corbelli believes that Star’s UK focus will help win customers. “Some may look at and worry about where their data is going to be held. In some sectors data has to be kept on shore. All our data is kept within the UK.” he said.

Corbelli added that Star is likely to remain a UK-only company for the foreseeable future and will continue to push its products at the SMB space. “We’re 100% UK-focused and we’re a midsized company so that’s what we understand. It’s our sweet spot and we have no immediate plans to go international,” he said.

Star CRM is available from £19.99 per user per month.

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