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Brother International: A story of CRM ROI

Brother International CIO Dennis Upton says mySAP CRM has paid off in ways he never could have imagined.

Brother International Corp. fields nearly 2 million customer support calls each year. Properly handling these calls is key to keeping customers' business. When the Bridgewater, N.J.-based office products manufacturer needed a reliable CRM system to manage contacts and track customers' needs, CIO Dennis Upton decided the best solution was mySAP CRM. The decision paid off. In this interview, Upton discusses the implementation of CRM and the impact on the company and its customers.

What prompted you to look for a CRM solution?
Dennis Upton: Back in the mid-1990s, we were getting a lot of product returns. We didn't have enough people to answer the tech support phone calls. The initial response was to hire more people to answer the phones, but all we really were doing was returns reduction. Marketing, sales and our service people felt there was a wealth of information that could be gathered from these phone calls. We needed a way to capture that.

What were the specifications you needed in the CRM solution?
Upton: We needed a solution that our people answering the phone could use to capture information and provide complete answers to callers' questions. Consistency of responses was a huge problem, so we needed the capability to let our call center reps pull up responses for frequently asked questions or issues.

How has it impacted customer service representatives?
Upton: Since the beginning of 2002, we have experienced benefits in customer satisfaction and responsiveness to customers. Having a single common customer service system allows our agents to be more effective and makes training a much easier and simpler task. The training time for a customer service representative went from six and a half weeks to under five weeks. Training on the system and device recording was knocked down by about a week. We've reduced our returns rate from about 6.7% to about 6.1%. Our call abandonment rate went down from over 45% to under 20%, with the same number of representatives.

How does the solution database work?
Upton: Our new solution database consists of FAQs and solutions. If a customer calls and says they have a fax machine that's crinkling paper, our customer service rep puts in the model number of the machine. Then, they put in "crinkles paper." Possible answers appear for the problem of crinkling paper. They can read that off the screen or e-mail the answer.

What are the savings associated with that?
Upton: Our national service organization measured a 10% talk time reduction on 60% of the 1.8 million phone calls per year from using the solution database. That's about a 39-second reduction. That savings alone in terms of dollars and cents is about $621,000 -- or another 94,000 phone calls that the same number of people can answer.

How does CRM impact the call time?
Upton: The industry average within call centers has been increasing over the last few years because of the mix of products. Industry figures show that talk times are averaging nine-10 minutes. With CRM and our solution database and interaction center, we have reduced fax and printer talk time by 12%. Our overall average talk time has only increased by two seconds. It's primarily attributable to our CRM system.

How have customers responded?
Upton: If you were to walk through our call center, one of the most noticeable things you'd find is there are no manuals or binders. There's nothing on desks except a monitor, keyboard, telephone headset, and maybe a printer or fax machine. We get a lot of compliments from people who call us. I think we've gained a lot of goodwill in people dealing with us. They look at Brother as being more customer focused. We're trying to give as good customer service for a $79 machine as for a $1,000 machine.

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