Stationery division leads Warehouse into CRM

The Warehouse has yoked customer management software to its Stationery arm's e-commerce website in a likely precursor to a wider rollout into the company's big red barns.

The Warehouse has yoked customer management software to its Stationery arm’s e-commerce website in a likely precursor to a wider rollout into the company’s big red barns.

Warehouse Stationery has linked Pivotal’s customer relationship management (CRM) software to its year-old corporate-focused website, which uses US-based Intershop software.

Warehouse information chief Neville Brown says Stationery’s call centre, one of four, “has all the whizzy technology and all the CRM pieces and things like that. Then we have a retail call centre, which is more about managing queries … so it doesn’t have all the nice [CRM] features of the Stationery business, because the customer care component of that is a lot tighter and a lot more personalised to the corporate marketplace.”

Stationery division’s contact centre can handle voice or email requests, says Brown, and the same customer information is available at the stores. “If you made an order via the website and then went into the contact centre, you’d be able to get order status straight away.”

The CRM-website implementation has been running for about two weeks, Brown says. The main business is not yet involved, he says, apart from the telephone-based financial services arm, though Brown says the company is looking now at how “we can do some of this stuff”.

“Those discussions have really got to be held because it costs money to do it as well. We can afford the stronger customer care component in the Stationery business, because that’s the type of business that it is.” Stationery competitors offer similar services, he says.

CRM systems promise greater personalisation and smarter customer service. The organisation’s knowledge of individual customers’ needs also potentially increases the chances its customers will remain repeat buyers and may identify new prospects.

However, this project is focused on raising customer service standards rather than boosting profits or trimming costs, says Brown. “The contact management component of it allows you — we’ve got field sales people as well — to keep all that stuff in a single repository, keep an eye on how you’re managing the customers and what their feedback is to you.”

Brown says the CRM system is one more component in the company’s e-commerce strategy, along with the Intershop web system, an NCR data warehouse and its Prompt stock forecasting and replenishment engine, built using software from customer demand system specialists Stirling Douglas.

“We’ve built a whole lot of component parts; [CRM is] just another component. So I guess we’re figuring about 70% of what we’ve put as infrastructure for the Stationery business is reusable as we move to an extended enterprise model; that is, go to suppliers and things like that.”

Brown says the project was implemented in the Stationery division first because its key customers are a relatively few corporates. Between 15 and 50 customers took part in the pilot with a “reasonable” range of goods, he told Computerworld in February.

In the main Warehouse business, which is focused on products and shopfronts, he says, the company expects more trade-offs in terms of customer management cost and function. The Warehouse is a “destination” business, Brown says, and you want people to come to the store rather than go via a contact centre. “You [also] have to look at your total channel offer and look at the cost of maintaining multiple channels.”

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