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How an SAP and Salesforce integration improved customer experience

An SAP and Salesforce integration created consistent price quotes for customers, which eliminated the used-car salesman mentality at one company.

For many companies, the proliferation of customer information as well as the systems to handle that data have added exponential challenge in creating consistent data throughout all systems. A company's ERP system and its CRM database may not be tightly integrated enough to create that consistency. A salesperson may quote a price to a customer that isn't reflected at the point of sale; and the discrepancy quickly can devolve into poor customer experience.

Billerica, Mass.-based EMD Millipore, a subsidiary of Merck KGaA, which provides products to the life sciences industry, has hundreds of thousands of customers across the globe. The company's sales force was struggling to create a more transparent, consistent product quoting practice and to communicate that pricing information more seamlessly to its Salesforce customer database. It also worked on an SAP and Salesforce integration to bridge the gap in information between the two systems and get customers more consistent information on pricing and products from sales reps.

SearchCRM sat down with Jennifer Lewis, head of IS for marketing and franchise systems, and Jonathan Gerson, senior project manager in divisional development, to discuss these challenges and the duo's hopes for new rollouts at Dreamforce 2014.

What problem were you trying to solve in integrating your SAP ERP system with Salesforce?

Jonathan GersonJonathan Gerson

Jonathan Gerson: There were two main issues. One was a gap in freight costs. We would quote a customer certain freight costs and that wouldn't be what the customer would be invoiced for when they placed the order, which would lead to a lot of less-than-thrilled customers.

Why did actual freight costs vary from the price quote?

Gerson: The complexity of the calculation and where it took place and at what point it happens were the reasons for discrepancies. The calculation of the freight costs is happening in the ERP system.

Jennifer LewisJennifer Lewis

Jennifer Lewis: An order is placed, you have various shipping methods, [and those generate different freight costs]. So there are factors like, does the shipment require dry ice, are there taxes associated with the shipping, or which carrier has the best shipping rate on a particular day? That calculation was being done in the ERP, but it created discrepancies with Salesforce.

How did integration between SAP and Salesforce solve pricing discrepancies?

ERP systems can manage amazing complexity, but the difficulty is in serving that up in different places.
Jonathan Gersonsenior project manager, divisional development

Gerson: We built real-time on-demand integration that can say, 'Tell me what the freight is for these criteria: this customer, these products, this volume,' and this cost is calculated in the same engine where it's stored in our ERP system. But it's also delivered back as a quotation in Salesforce and the user never feels they are leaving Salesforce.

ERP systems can manage amazing complexity, but the difficulty is in serving that up in different places; so we use integration through a real-time Web service call. This leaves the expertise where it belongs [in the ERP system] and asks for the information on demand.

The second hurdle was customer-focused. The quotation produced by a rep in Salesforce didn't get automatically created in the ERP. Someone would have to manually create it or someone would have to go look it up to make sure the right price was put on an order. It was an entirely manual process that is now automated. Once that quote is an approved quote in Salesforce, it is automatically ported over to SAP without a human having to touch it.

How has the integration given sales better visibility into order fulfillment?

Gerson and Lewis: That's the final carrot. It's the whole thing that connects the lead-to-order wheel. It's not just that the quote has been created but the order has been placed against that quotation. If I'm the sales rep, I now have visibility into the order that I created the quote for, which never happened before.

What's on your wish list at Dreamforce 2014?

Gerson:  I think there are three things I want to learn more about:

Multichannel marketing. I'd like to see how Salesforce's ExactTarget Marketing Cloud is achieving results for customers, and how they're able to get that marketing combination, with social listening and campaign management tied in with traditional Salesforce activities.

Integration with tools. Specifically with ERP to see how we can unclutter the cluttered parts --make some simplicity for our users, particularly from the customer service perspective.

Analytics. In this world of buzzwordy big data discussion, big data doesn't excite me. It's big intelligence or big knowledge. I know that Salesforce has some cards that they are going to play in terms of analytics and how to leverage and analyze data.

In all three cases, it's not just about tools. I'd like to see it in practice and hear the story of how it's solved a specific business problem.

For more on the Salesforce conference, check out our DF14 guide here. Share or retweet this story at #DF14.

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Sorry but I expected to hear more on what technologies they used to integrate both software pieces...
Nice sharing. This is Steven from Creative Bioarray.