Pet Supply Manufacturer Finds the Purr-Fect CRM Fix

 
 
By Alison Diana  |  Posted 2006-05-01
 
 
 

Pet Supply Manufacturer Finds the Purr-Fect CRM Fix


The volume of calls that came into its customer care center threatened to make Radio Systems employees feel about as uncomfortable as a dog ravaged with fleas.

After all, the manufacturer of pet containment systems, electronic pet doors, indoor fences and electronic feeders—sold under the PetSafe brand—received approximately 30,000 phone calls a month. And the company had no way to track the history of the conversations its harried staff had already had with repeat callers, according to Karri Lough, manager of worldwide customer care for the Knoxville, Tenn., company.

"We knew we needed to keep better track of our conversations with consumers," Lough said. "We werent getting any information. Every time a consumer called, wed have to ask them about their history."

Wanting to eliminate this time-consuming and frustrating process, Lough began to research CRM (customer relationship management) solutions. Some were too expensive, others were unable to meet her requirements and still others did not have a local solution provider. And no one, it seemed, was able to solve one of her primary dilemmas—how to integrate the long-awaited CRM solution with the current order management software.

"It was a deal breaker for me," said Lough. "I was not going to turn around and have my team type information in twice."

Radio Systems staff independently researched suppliers. They also tapped trusted advisers at Automated Accounting Associates for their knowledge of software and providers. A reseller and integrator of Sage Softwares MAS 200 and MAS 90, Automated Accounting, of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in turn contacted Sage executives for a referral, said Greg Talburt, president and CEO of Automated.

"The main factor is making sure the client is happy," said Talburt. "I called some people I trust at Sage and asked for someone who knew this stuff cold, who told it the way it was and was somebody who could deliver. It was very much my reputation at stake. This was one of my major accounts."

The same name kept cropping up: Extremely Productive, a Roswell, Ga., CRM solution provider, founded in 1990 by President Josh Ovett.

"Any time you bring in a new party, theres always trepidation," said Talburt, noting that a poor partnership choice several years ago cost Automated Accounting a number of its top customers.

"Josh [Ovett] and I had some very blunt conversations," Talburt said. "We put everything in writing upfront. After all, the guy you shake hands with may or may not be there six months later—even if theyre the owner."

Ovett did his own background check on Talburt by calling his contacts at Sage.

"I found he had a clean slate," said Ovett. "I called people I knew in the executive channel at Sage and spoke to resellers who knew of him."

Having spoken several times about Radio Systems problem and possible solutions to determine whether it was in Extremely Productives capacity, the CRM integrator put together a proof-of-concept for Automated Accounting and Radio Systems to review.

"I dont typically go to see somebody until Ive had at least a couple of phone calls with them, whether its a customer or a partner," Ovett said. "Some people dont like that. Those that dont, I dont work with."

To design the most appropriate solution, Extremely Productive peeled back the many layers of the companys call center processes.

Radio Systems faced several challenges, according to everyone involved. Before the integration, employees were forced to input the same data twice—a process that resulted in errors and wasted time. It was also extremely difficult for the pet product wholesaler—which sells exclusively through retailers—to track warranty service, product exchanges and the shipment of replacement parts, said Lough.

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Uncovering, Sherlock


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To find the right solution, Ovett led Radio Systems through a process of "uncovery," to use a term he coined. "[In] Star Trek, [the Enterprise] goes out to discover new things, most of them by accident. Uncovery—which Im in the process of trademarking—is like Sherlock Holmes," Ovett said.

"We wind up getting into a lot of soft areas: What are you doing? Why do you do it?" Ovett said. "Were known for our 20-question interrogation. But we dont ask 20 questions. We ask one—Why?—20 times."

Determining that no such software program existed, Extremely Productive wrote a bridge to connect the CRM solution with the accounting system. Extremely Productive reviewed Radio Systems requirements before recommending and reviewing its solution with Automated Accounting. While each company took the lead over its area of expertise, Radio Systems dealt primarily with Extremely Productive since the new solution revolved around CRM.

"I did very little with Greg [Talburt], myself," said Lough. "I actually did everything through Extremely Productive."

The CRM provider also incorporated a telephony component, so call center operators can immediately see a callers history, said Ken Poggensee, a business analyst at Extremely Productive. The company also tied the telephony system in to a reverse-lookup service, further reducing the time call center employees spend gathering basic contact information from customers.

"We integrated the call center software with the telephony system so it would look up an existing customer when they called and look up the report call ticket—which showed how many times theyd called before [and] what theyd called about," said Ovett. "This helps with warranty tracking and future marketing of their products."

Radio Systems quickly realized the benefits of its integrated CRM, accounting and telephony system. "Its saved so much time," Lough said. "The consistency and accuracy are a wonderful opportunity for us."

More difficult to quantify, though, is the systems impact on the companys overall evolution, Lough said. Thanks to the vast amount of data that call center employees now collect and maintain, other Radio Systems departments are reaping less-tangible benefits. For example, the companys R&D group receives information about the types of problems consumers are having with existing products, feature sets customers would like to see, and those technologies or components most likely to fail when in real-life use, said Lough.

The marketing group also uses the information to determine how best to word its manuals. If the call center receives numerous calls concerning one particular product, the group can use this data to rethink its support materials—resulting in fewer costly support calls to the center, Lough added.

Customers—who no longer have to recite their background information on each support call—have reported higher satisfaction rates. In a recent survey, consumers gave Radio Systems a satisfaction rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10, said Lough.

"I think this system has a lot to do with it," Lough said. "Its allowed my team to be very empowered. Ive given them the ability to make intelligent decisions, not be robots. This technology makes us incredibly valuable to the company."

In fact, the company was so satisfied with the setup that it bought a replica for its office in London, said Ovett.

All three companies maintain contact: Extremely Productive has brought Automated Accounting into other contracts and vice versa, said the heads of both companies.

"We started working together about three years ago," Ovett said, "and were still talking. How often does that happen?"

Having built on their individual relationships with Sage, Extremely Productive and Automated Accounting continue to work together to deliver systems that they hope are the cats meow to a growing base of customers.

Alison Diana is a freelance writer in Merritt Island, Fla. Contact her at alisondiana@hotmail.com.

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