Mobile CRM Helps Smith & Nephew Reps
Sales representatives for Smith & Nephew are the definition of hands-on, which is a big change from how the company previously handled its ordering, inventory, and supply chain management.
Smith & Nephew, which provides advanced medical devices and surgical implants to orthopedic surgeons at nearly 10,000 U.S. hospitals, primarily used manual, paper-intensive processes to check inventory and product pricing, to place and confirm orders, and to obtain necessary information from customers. Smith & Nephew has nearly 40 operation service centers in the United States that provide implants and instruments to hospitals. Each service center manages 350 to 500 different "loaner kits" consisting of implants and other surgical supplies.
Each order required phone calls, copies, or faxes sent between Smith & Nephew's corporate office and the sales representative. Business functions like inventory and order management were cumbersome, and sales reps were required to call Smith & Nephew's customer service center to check inventory and product pricing.
Although the company previously used Palm handheld devices, they had a few drawbacks for a large deployment, according to Dennis Burling, vice president of customer service. For example, salespeople had to use a dial-up modem for transmitting account information, and had to constantly reconfigure their devices to match the different call patterns of each hospital.
Smith & Nephew needed a solution that would make its global sales force more productive, accurate, and responsive to customers. So in 2002 the company started a 180-day pilot program using software from NoInk Communications. Smith & Nephew turned to NoInk for two main reasons: It offers mobile-accessible sales force support tools, and all of the tools are specifically designed for the needs of the medical device industry.
The customized applications allow sales reps to have all the resources, technical knowledge, and credibility of their product development department, marketing team, and physician panels with them in every sales call. This includes product specifications, competitive analyses, and medically accurate product demonstrations in a handheld presentation. Two 90-day trials in 2003 rolled out the solution to 50 salespeople.
The sales force is now armed with Compaq iPAQ handheld computers running Microsoft's PocketPC operating system. Using the iPAQ sales reps are able to perform such tasks as inventory tracking, contact management, scheduling, viewing electronic product catalogs, animated surgical procedures, order entry, document management, field communications, and data collection. Reps often join surgeons in the operating room to keep tabs on which medical devices and surgical implants are used during medical procedures, according to Burling.
Inventory for the hospital is updated automatically, including reordering surgical kits. This information is transmitted wirelessly to a mainframe computer at the Smith & Nephew headquarters.
Burling says that even though only 40 percent of the salespeople are using the system, calls for price checks from sales reps to customer service dropped 5 percent while calls and faxes for order entry fell 20 percent. The automation also is helping the sales force spend less time worrying about paperwork and more time serving clients, he says. In addition, the company is spending less on paper for brochures that were out of date before they even reached sales reps.