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E-Business Sell Side Success at H.B. Fuller

Written By: Olin Thompson
Published On: October 1 2001

Company Issue   

Vic Biazis and Jim Szymanski have worked for HBF NA (H.B. Fuller) for the last 20 and 23 years respectively, most recently as Business Managers, and are both excited about using e-business to streamline how they and other sales personnel do their jobs. Vic says, "If the Web could free the information currently housed in the ERP system, customers will be better served and sales reps will be able to spend more time generating revenue and market share for the company."

Historically, in the interest of providing excellent customer service, the task of resolving customer inquiries has often fallen upon sales reps. Biazis estimates that the typical sales rep in the field spent 10-18% of his/her time calling the Customer Service Department, plants, the technical department and the Credit (A/R) department in order to complete an order, answer a question, provide more information or determine order status. Szymanski's estimate is even higher, at nearly 25% of the sales rep's time. Says Biazis, "Being able to troubleshoot online for customers, like answering the question "What do I do if the adhesive sets up too fast?" would be great. Believe it or not, (prior to the Website) our customers and sales reps did not readily have this information available to them without making a phone call."

But aside from allowing more time for actual selling, Biazis had bigger ideas for how the Sales team could use the power of the Web. Biazis sees significant value in the ability to efficiently liquidate overstock. He also sees the Web as being an efficient and timely means of surveying customers to determine satisfaction, which is part of continually improving and tailoring service to meet or exceed their needs. Finally, with the Web, Biazis was looking to service smaller accounts, resulting in lower costs related to travel. Some or most of the communications and order entry associated with these accounts would happen online-providing service to those customers service comparable to that provided larger accounts, or better.

Solution   

H.B. Fuller moved into selling on the web in a series of steps, and worked with Stratyc (www.stratyc.com ), a software and consulting company focused on Web-enabling companies in the process manufacturing sector. The first iteration of the solution came in Fall 2000 when the eBrochure site, GlueLink.com, was launched for the Distributor Products Group, a business unit that coordinates all distributor activity for HBF NA. This site provided support, information and convenience to HBF NA's distributor network. Later, the site became a portal through which distributors could enter HBFullerStore.com, a commerce site.

The second step was the launch in March 2001 of an eStoreFront, the H.B. Fuller Store (HBFullerStore.com). The eStoreFront application features full integration to H.B. Fuller's PRISM system, enabling real-time and accurate information exchange for all the business units under the HBF NA umbrella. The site allows customers and distributors to place their orders online, with direct integration to their PRISM ERP system, 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.

Both GlueLink.com and the H.B. Fuller Store were provided by Stratyc, who also provided integration to H.B. Fuller's ERP system.

Value   

Each year, the Customer Service Dept handles approximately 75,000 order calls at an estimated cost of over $8 per. HBF NA expects 30-40% of orders to be placed online, without the involvement of sales or customer service representatives, resulting in annual savings in the first year sufficient to fully cover the installation costs of a standard eStoreFront.

Before the new system, sales personnel spent approximately 20-25% of their time following up on customer questions, status inquiries, etc. resulting in 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 focus on selling, potentially increasing revenues and market share. It is believed that this will also improve the job satisfaction for sales reps and increase customer satisfaction.

About the Author   

Olin Thompson is a principal of Process ERP Partners. 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 related segments. Olin has been called "the Father of Process ERP." He is a frequent author and an award-winning speaker on topics of gaining value from ERP, SCP, e-commerce and the impact of technology on industry.

He can be reached at Olin@ProcessERP.com.

 
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