Brother International Europe rolls out multi-channel e-service to customers

The secret to delivering this complex, multi-channel, pan-European CRM solution was business acumen, technical expertise and great teamwork.

Brother International's push into home printing gave it hundreds of thousands of new customers across Europe. But a fragmented customer database, locally customised registration templates and the lack of a standardised approach for dealers and distributors was creating problems and ballooning costs in service, support and customer relationship management using its existing SAP set-up.

Bluefin worked closely with Brother’s IT team to deliver an “e-service” suite designed to deliver a single view of customers, wherever they were based and however they’d bought their printer. With an integrated portals strategy linked to Brother’s knowledge bank, Bluefin was instrumental in creating a universal post-sales management system, allowing customers and dealers to get the support they need quickly – and at low cost to Brother.

The problem

"Our more aggressive move into the consumer printing market meant the number of units we had in the field was growing exponentially, with a resultant increase in customer calls. Servicing was becoming a major cost factor." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

The logical solution was online service and support. But Brother's existing solution, running under SAP R/3, was limited. With 16 countries across Europe, the templates for customer data were all different. And while some dealers were making good use of the system, new channel partners were less predictable. In short, Brother was getting further away from - and knew less about - its customers. 

The vision

"The solution seemed obvious: help our customers do more for themselves." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

The idea of creating an all-encompassing "e-service" system was born.

In order to make it work, Brother had to gain real visibility into every process that affects their customers - and every activity concerning a Brother product. It starts with providing the right goods to dealers and distributors. Capturing customer registrations was clearly vital, no matter where or how they had bought their printer. And then any servicing, support or follow on sales - consumables are a crucial profit centre for printer manufacturers - had to be recorded in the system.

"Brother knew they needed to drive up service efficiency and that one of the best ways to do that was to have a consolidated platform across Europe, rather than 15 different processes. So a significant part of the project was to create and exploit commonalities - producing, for example, a system capable of handling diverse dealer channels across different countries." Michael Eldridge, Former Managing Director, Bluefin Solutions

The project

Both Bluefin and Brother understood a project of this complexity needs to be carefully scoped. Ian assigned one person from his European headquarters team to get the project up and running, developing a high-level document explaining how the channel partner and end-customer interactions should work.

"We took that to Bluefin as the brief and agreed on a three-month prototype project." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

After testing the scoping document with users:

"We assembled working groups from all the territories to fix on a standard they could agree on." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

Bluefin's prototype validated the suitability of the technology and ensured that the language of the project was shared among all thepotential users.
"The pilot was an important step in proving that SAP was the right platform." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

It also ensured users felt engaged by the project. The result: a plan for a threephase roll-out.

"We wanted to ensure Brother realised benefits as we went along. It also meant we could learn how people used the systems we were rolling out, allowing us to tweak later phases for maximum benefits." Michael Eldridge, Former Managing Director, Bluefin Solutions

A phased approach

Phase one covered customer registrations. The existing set-up had no links between customer data and the back end. But the new system is fully integrated, with real-time registration validation.Bluefin also ensured that the system supported promotional activity - giving Brother more control in the marketing arena - and registration for extended warranties, another high-margin activity.

Phase two involved setting up a database to deliver smart, automated responses to service enquiries.

"The system is designed to analyse customers' service emails and automatically reply with a technical briefing or instructions tailored to their problem." Michael Eldridge, Former Managing Director, Bluefin Solutions

Phase three was to replace the existing call centre application with SAP CRM.

"That also meant designing portals for the third-party maintenance firms and dealers so that they can manage customers'maintenance themselves." Michael Eldridge, Former Managing Director, Bluefin Solutions

The system includes an approvals process - for example, checking warranties or promotions; requests for payment; quality checks; parts requisitions;and, of course, consumables.

The result is that a customer calling for support on a Brother product gets a consistent experience whether they contact a dealer, service partner or Brother itself.

"That not only made it simpler for their guys out in the field, it also meant we were capturing every piece of customer data, too - which is invaluable for the people in product development." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

Key project benefits

  • Phased roll-out for fast ROI and early results
  • Outstanding user buy-in
  • Maximised existing investment in SAP
  • Harmonised systems across Europe, reducing maintenance costs
  • Reduced customer service costs thanks to greater automation and ease of use

Why Bluefin?

He says that when he was looking for a consultancy with the right skills, Bluefin was the obvious choice for its expertise in SAP CRM. But what really stood out during the project was the quality of its people.

"We found the Bluefin consultants to be excellent - they were knowledgeable and clearly clued-up on all the niche areas of SAP and CRM to make our vision real. It's the CRM panacea that everyone's been talking about for years, and should deliver a real 'wow' factor for customers."
"They also had a real feel for business, not just the technology. For example, they had a great project manager [PM] who worked brilliantly as a team with our own PM - it ensured there was never any problem with co-ordination." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

Bluefin's creative approach to contract management was also a major plus. Ian knew that fixed price worked well for customers, but meant partners could cut corners. Time and materials (T&M) pricing, he argues, always seems to benefit the partner. So Bluefin came up with a blended approach - T&M with clear incentives to hit key milestones on time and within budget.

The result

"Taken together, the different aspects of the project enable us to see every touchpoint for any given customer. It's the CRM panacea that everyone's been talking about for years, and should deliver a real 'wow' factor for customers." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

The system is now live in 16 territories across Europe - the next step is to expand it to the remaining countries, including Eastern Europe.
"It works, it's cost-effective and it's good for the customer. We're now seen to be developing best practice for Brother more widely, and with a global focus on driving down servicing costs, the European operation is well positioned in terms of our corporate objectives."
"In our industry, where the true differences between one company and another can be very small, this project has helped us create a real differentiator. A unique, best practice, approach to service." Ian Metcalfe, IT Director, Brother International Europe

Technologies involved

  • CRM Service Management
  • Interaction CentreWeb Client (ICWC)
  • Internet Customer Self Service (ICSS)
  • Email Response Management Solution (ERMS)
  • SAP Portal

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