Salesforce automation connects sales, service data for manufacturer

Heavy equipment manufacturer Rotobec finds Salesforce Desk integration gives service staff the ability to aid sales efforts across 35 countries.

Rotobec, based in Saint-Justine, Quebec, manufactures equipment that picks up all manner of weighty objects: giant logs, loads of scrap metal, even bundles of railroad ties. Up to 2015, though, connecting salespeople to service records was too much of a heavy lift.

Salesforce automation got Rotobec's sales staff off "these precious little notebooks," as director of service Jesse Roy put it, in which they recorded all the data about customer conversations, and facilitated its spread throughout the company in 2009. It wasn't until 2015, however -- when the company added Salesforce Desk case management and help desk integration -- that sales and service data connected.

"Our service efforts were struggling," Roy said "It was time we implemented CRM for service. Like sales, service is incredibly important, but it's just not as visual as the sales department because we don't make money, we spend money."

Roy's customer support staff of 10 agents handles an average of 1,000 cases a week. Through Desk reports that analyze volume and help him set metrics for improvement, he's grown his department by showing need with BI tools that analyze response times and service quality.

Family-owned business now in 35 countries

Rotobec got its start in 1975 in the logging sector, staking its claim as the first North American manufacturer of a 360-degree, continuously rotating attachment for forestry loaders.

Most people, when they think of construction equipment, imagine an excavator and a scoop, or a bucket. Rotobec improves on that standard design with rotating grapples, or claws, for specialized markets, such as bulk material handling, waste and rail.

Today, the company supports manufacturing facilities in three countries, and sells through a dealer network extending to 35 countries.

Rotobec implemented Salesforce automation in 2009, choosing Salesforce because its mobile sales staff could upload data to the system more quickly and, unlike other CRM systems at the time, it didn't require a virtual private network connection and the company-supported IT infrastructure.

Roy said the general idea behind adopting CRM automation was not only to share information about sales with a wider audience within the company, but also for production planning. Because Rotobec spans several different industries, it wasn't always obvious which one needed attention next.

"We work on lean flow manufacturing," Roy said, referring to the model of just-in-time inventory and minimizing parts and labor waste, a strategy many factories have adopted over the past few decades. "Not knowing what [sales] opportunities are there, it's really hard to plan your next fiscal year when you have no idea what's in the pipeline."

Before implementing Salesforce automation, Rotobec did quarterly analyses for upcoming production, and sort of ballparked estimates from sales staff feedback. Now, Roy said, they can create much more accurate in-quarter reports and adjust production as sales updates its pipeline in their various industries.

As Salesforce added features and the manufacturing company grew over the years, Rotobec added business intelligence and quoting modules (separate ones for domestic and international quoting) with the help of third-party contractors.

Enter Salesforce Desk

Desk integration has ported some of those 1,000 weekly service cases to self-service, but more importantly, the Desk integration has connected help desk data to sales, which has created new workflow efficiencies to assist field salespeople.

When Rotobec initially chose Salesforce in 2009, Roy led an evaluation team that considered several different data systems for his service group. Having been a longtime Salesforce user, Desk was the likely choice, but the team did a competitive analysis, looking at Mize, GE Digital's ServiceMax and Maximizer's service side system.

In fact, Rotobec considered Salesforce Service Cloud, as well, but decided Desk was more appropriately scaled for its operations. Desk won out because of its ease of use and minimal IT support, as well as because of the integration between Desk and the sales systems, which push updates in real time to each other.

Connecting sales and service -- which cost about $20,000 to switch on, including third-party assistance and about $10,000 per year for Salesforce Desk subscription fees -- gave salespeople up-to-date information about service issues a dealer's customers might be experiencing. Rotobec sales staffers can update their dealers on ongoing service activity among the dealers' customers who are using Rotobec equipment.

"Our sales [people] were no longer walking into a death trap, so to speak," Roy said. "They weren't getting ambushed by [dealer] salespeople saying, 'Where is this case we're dealing with, this situation, what's going on with it?' Now, before they go into a call, they can look for cases, and if there [are] any, they can read all the notes we've input through Desk, and they can be on top of it."

Speaking knowledgeably about open service cases can defuse potentially uncomfortable conversations, and make the salesperson more proactive in managing the relationship. Rotobec eventually added Desk services to manage product registration, warranty management and equipment rebuild program applications.

Adding capabilities as you go along

Jamie Domenici, Salesforce vice president of product and small and medium-sized business (SMB) marketing, said that businesses typically start small with integrations, but, as Rotobec did, find new uses for sales and service data across the enterprise, and add capabilities to the platform as they go along.

"With one platform, you can bring all of your customer interactions into one place," she said.

Taken together, digitizing those processes has led to insights about Rotobec's products they couldn't see before, such as aggregate views tracking warranty issues that were previously marooned on paper. Patterns in service might indicate a design flaw in a particular model, or other opportunities for more proactive product improvement through failure analysis of service data.

Reporting capabilities in third-party app DataHero, which is connected to Desk, has also led to Rotobec's deeper measurement and analysis of its services, giving Roy a means to identify opportunities to improve his team's response times and quality of service -- and, by extension, improve customer experience to drive business.

"We've turned a service department of three into a service department of ten, with call volumes exceeding anything we've seen before," Roy said, describing the growth of the company and the value of the data his service department generates for the organization. "And we can track and build on that if we need to because we have the hard data to back that up."

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