The following case study is excerpted from Driving Growth and Shareholder Value: The Distribution Value Map," by Neil Gholson and Mark Schloegel of Deloitte Consulting LLP and published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.
A distributor of electrical products recognized the need to be more agile and efficient in distributing 1.5 million SKUs from multiple manufacturers and suppliers across 200 branches and warehouses. To get real-time information and a 360-degree view of the business, the company re-engineered key cross-functional business processes (i.e., processes that cut across sales, marketing, forecasting, logistics, finance, and customer service) and implemented an ERP system to support them. One of the biggest challenges in doing this was working with the organization's staff to leverage the new processes and information system.
Standardizing/automating the customer service process made the order taking/order entry process the trigger for a series of steps. After the CSR entered the order, it would be picked, packed, shipped, and invoiced in quick order. To make this solution work, the company included the CSRs in what they called the involve, inform, train, and enable approach to process redesign:
Involve. A number of CSRs served as subject matter experts to redesign the customer service process and offer market intelligence. In addition, the company established a network that enabled CSRs from the branches to discuss issues and problems and share best practices.
Inform. In the project newsletter, CSR guest columnists wrote about issues that affected customer changes and discussed upcoming changes to CSRs' roles. The company sent weekly Did you know? e-mails to inform CSRs about benefits from the new customer service process and system.
Train. The training curriculum began with the business case/burning platform for undertaking the change initiative. In addition, the company provided CSRs with transition guides in hard copy before and after snapshots of their jobs. The company emphasized best practices of cross selling and up selling. CSRs also received tools such as scripts, FAQs, and quick reference guides, to help them serve customers better. Over time, CSR super users (i.e., those experienced with the tools) conducted the training.
Enable. By automating many processes, the new system supported the CSRs, and they were equipped to easily capture relevant customer preferences and business intelligence, check inventory, send acknowledgments, and track orders.
Because the training gave the CSRs a sense of ownership, as well as familiarity with the new system, adoption quickly spread. Not surprisingly, when the new processes and systems were launched, the company experienced no business discontinuity.
Inventory trended downward, while customer service levels remained high. The company can now perform a soft close on the books every day, and accurate entries by CSRs provide more up-to-date financial data upon which the company can base its decisions.