Secret of My Success: A CRM Manufacturing Makeover

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  • What does your company do? We're a value-added reseller of metal-cutting machine tools. We not only sell the machines, but we also install them, program them, and provide service and maintenance for them. Our customers range from small job shops to government agencies and automobile manufacturers, and everything in between.
  • What problems were you facing? Our main customer touch point is our remote sales force of a dozen salespeople. Each is equipped with a laptop that has a packaged CRM system on it. We also have a service department that handles all the trouble shooting over the phone. If the problem can't be resolved over the phone we also have 15 service technicians deployed in the field. Before we implemented IFS, we were using an old, DOS-based accounting system and a macro in Microsoft Word to create a sales document for each customer. When I started here in 1997, this system was already several years old. It was so heavily modified that upgrading it was completely out of the question. We decided to just scrap it and start looking for a new system in 1999.
  • How did you select the vendor? We hired a consulting firm to do some business process reengineering. It examined our workflows and in particular, reviewed the quote-to-order process our reps uses. Based on those criteria, the consultants created a short list of vendors we should consider. When we started talking with IFS, it still didn't have a CRM solution, but one was going to be available shortly, so we decided to go with IFS. How did the implementation and rollout go? It went very well. We installed IFS's ERP system in 1999, and that included accounting, inventory, distribution, all that good stuff. We wanted to get the ERP system out of the way first before we tried to tackle the CRM system. We started deployment in our North Carolina sales region with a group of five salespeople and a supervisor. After they tested IFS for several months, we made corrections to the system and brought our Tennessee and Georgia region online with it. When we did the installation, we had some synchronization issues with the database on the ERP system and some records were lost, but we worked through it and everything is much better now.
  • How did you get end-user buy-in? IFS was very customizable, so one of our sales managers and owners designed the screen layouts and determined which data should be collected and displayed. Despite this, we still had a lot of people who weren't thrilled about the change. They felt the extra work of putting data into the system wasn't worth the payout. In the end, one of the owners finally stepped in and laid down the law. He made it a requirement, because we knew in the long run the end-user payoff would be there. The owner even threatened to start docking commission checks for those who didn't. Nearly everybody has bought into the system. Some of the older guys still don't like it, but they use it. All of the younger salespeople have really taken off with it.
  • What have been the main rewards? Eighty-eight percent of all sales quotes are now generated and emailed to the customer automatically. This has freed our support staff to work on more difficult projects and customer issues and has saved J&H about $41,600 per year. Prior to IFS, a machine could be ordered with the wrong option or an option that may require additional kits for installation that were not ordered. These mistakes might not be discovered until the machine arrives at the customer's site, which costs up to $10,000 to correct. Since the implementation, this is no longer a problem.
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