applied solutions: CertainTeed Rebuilds Customer Relations

The customer may not always be right, but when a customer has a problem it behooves a company to clear it up quickly--if the company wants to keep that customer.

Customer relations are vital to any business, and when it took CertainTeed Corp., a building products manufacturer based in Valley Forge, Pa., an average of 57 days to resolve customers' complaints some customer relations rebuilding was clearly called for.

According to Lisa Jeffers, systems administrator, the solution was Telemar, a customer interaction software (CIS) package from Shelton, Conn.-based IMA, acquired by CertainTeed in 1995. Now, Jeffers says, sales associates in CertainTeed's customer service department are able to resolve nearly all customer issues within a day.

Before Telemar was installed, complaints were handled manually. An individual sales associate would take information from a customer over the phone by hand then attempt to solve the problem. However, any subsequent calls from the customer regarding the problem would have to be handled by the sales associate who understood it or else the process would begin again.

Telemar runs on CertainTeed's AS/400 model 640 and matches incoming customer service calls with files in CertainTeed's customer master file in its SSA BPCS database by phone number. Customer information is available to any sales associate.

"Telemar includes a computer telephony interface," Jeffers says. "When a customer calls we get a screen pop containing a customer profile with account information, including name, account number, type of customer, account history, and so forth. The sales associate can enter information about a particular complaint, whether it was a delivery failure, for example, or if we shipped the wrong materials."

"To resolve the problem, the sales associate may offer a settlement or price re-negotiation. The resolution is also entered in the database," Jeffers continues. "If material needs to be returned, the associate sends the information from Telemar to the traffic department to bring it back. Complaints are resolved within 24 hours 98.9 percent of the time on the phone. Customers don't have to keep calling back."

The customer feedback complaint resolution system is one of 13 modules offered in Telemar. CertainTeed also uses mailing management and account management.

Mailing management allows CertainTeed to target certain names in their customer database for specific promotional campaigns, Jeffers says. "If we are introducing a new product we can segregate architects and engineers in the database, print mailing labels or send a broadcast fax."

Account management tracks interaction with customers throughout the country. "We have mobile Telemar on laptops for our field sales people," Jeffers says. "Every day they enter information about customer visits or conversations on the laptop. At night they call here and download everything from their laptops to our AS/400."

Jeffers transfers the field information to Telemar daily so it is available to sales associates immediately. "If we add a new customer account, it comes from BPCS to Telemar into a new customer profile," she says. "At the same time the sales people send us their information, we send them their email and any other information we have concerning the customers they will be visiting."

With the system, sales people know when a customer last received marketing literature, when the last order was placed, and the customer's sales history. "It's all in the customer profile we send them from Telemar. It's a great communications tool," Jeffers says.

Prior to the account management system, little more was done for field sales people than to give them a set of car keys and a handful of literature, according to Jeffers. Now the system will even guide him or her through a set of steps to follow when visiting a prospective customer.

"It's a reference tool, really," Jeffers says. "With this database they can find any information about a customer they need: what type of customer he is, his ordering capability, what kind of allowances we offer him. It's amazing what type of information you can put in there."