H.B. Fuller Company is a global specialty chemicals manufacturer
with annual sales in excess of $1.3 Billion. The company markets and manufactures
thousands of products-including adhesives, sealants, and coatings-used
in products ranging from "automobiles to envelopes, and cereal boxes to
satellites." H.B. Fuller sells to customers directly and through distributors
in more than 100 countries.
Fuller North America (HBF NA) is the largest division, and forms the umbrella
over much of H.B. Fuller's North American sales and operations. It includes
the corporation's mainstay strategic businesses of adhesives, sealants,
Bonnie Nord, Customer Service Manager of HBF NA's Customer Service Department,
who has been in Customer Service for the last 27 of her 31 years at the
company, was sure there was a way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness
of her department. Nord readily acknowledges that her team spends an inordinate
amount of their time answering questions related to order status-not only
for customers but also for the many sales reps in the field who call in
on behalf of their clients to determine or to change delivery dates, find
out trucking information, inquire about backorders or incomplete shipments,
and to resolve credit issues.
estimates that 80% of the Customer Service Department's time has historically
been spent finding or providing information required to either resolve
a customer question or to enter an order into the system. This includes
tasks related to product information and order status, such as calling
the plants about ship dates, getting technical product information, determining
logistics, and other information. According to Nord, it is not unusual
to "answer the same question about an order over and over again."
has been convinced for some time that if customers could get their hands
on the required information themselves, they would be better served. And,
in doing so, the Customer Service Department would be able to spend less
time on repetitive and administrative functions and more time focusing
on customer relationships and resolving more complicated customer service
issues quickly for customers.
realizations led to a series of objectives for H. B. Fuller's customer
Customer Service levels - In the increasingly competitive global marketplace,
H.B. Fuller wanted to improve its level of customer service in an effort
to engender loyalty and minimize attrition.
support of distributors - Make improvements both in terms of giving
them better access to product information and directing business to
the Customer Service Department's time for higher value added activities
- The majority of time was spent answering questions related to order
status, product inquiries, and pricing information-for customers as
well as for sales personnel in the field.
The H.B. Fuller Store (www.HBFullerStore.com)
was launched in March 2001. The eStoreFront application offered
by Stratyc (www.stratyc.com)
features full integration to H.B. Fuller's PRISM ERP system, enabling
real-time and accurate information exchange for all the business units
under the HBF NA umbrella.
order status information, plus the ability to place or change orders
for customers and distributors
provides a "distributor locator" function to identify local distributors
based on zip code.
- The ability
for customers and distributors to place their orders online, with direct
integration to PRISM for real-time product, pricing and order status
information. All information shown is specific to that particular Customer/Distributor,
who must register before entering the site.
product information, including Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and
Technical Data Sheets (TDS) information, accessible both to end-users
and to distributors who carry the product line.
found that providing key information such as product information and order
status details, enabled customers and distributors to get the information
they need, when they need it, without requiring a call to the Customer
Service department. . In addition to providing improved convenience and
service, it also decreases costs associated with providing this type of
information the traditional way, via the Call Center.
The value received from Web-based customer service is proportional to
the number of customers and distributors who utilize the method. H. B.
Fuller has seen a steady rise in those numbers since the March 2001 launch
of the site. H.B. Fuller has learned that is is necessary to have campaigns
in place to boost adoption rates among both customers and suppliers. It
anticipates significant value when usage reaches critical mass.
HBFullerStore.com, nearly 80% of Customer Service Dept calls were non-revenue
generating inquiries related to product information, order status, or
MSDS requests. It is estimated that telephone and fax inquiries will decrease
by 40-50% as a result of being resolved online, dramatically reducing
the need for personnel and associated phone costs. For example, approximately
54,000 MSDS and TDS forms were mailed or faxed out to customers and distributors
who requested them. It is estimated that each such request required at
least 10 minutes of personnel time, resulting in tremendous expense. Based
on actual results to date, it is estimated that the Website reduces the
number of MSDS/TDS requests requiring manual efforts by at least 30%
personnel spent approximately 20-25% of their time following up on customer
questions, status inquiries, etc. resulting in a lost of foregone sales
opportunities It is estimated that providing product and order status
information to customers/distributors online will free up to 25% of the
sales team's time, thereby giving them more time to generate incremental
Looking back, H. B. Fuller provides us with a number of lessons. Perhaps
the most important is the fact that it takes time to get trading partners
"on board" with eBusiness initiatives. To accelerate the adoption rate,
start communicating your plans early and often. These programs must be
driven by the sales and marketing organization.
H. B. Fuller experience shows that there are many tasks that have been
done manually that can easily be handled online at a fraction of the cost.
This can translate into a reduction in cost or the freeing up of time
for higher value added activities.
key information available to trading partners can also result in a dramatic
increase in service levels. While some enterprises question the "loss
of the personal touch" trading partners actually find the ability to get
the information they want, when they want it both easier and of higher
value than the old method of phones or faxes.
Olin Thompson is a frequent contributor to TEC on the subject of the Process
Industry. He has over 25 years experience as an executive in the software
industry with the last 17 in process industry related ERP, SCP, and e-business
can be reached at Olin@ProcessERP.com.