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Molex implements extranets for extra level of customer care

Electronics component manufacturer Molex found a host of benefits to launching extranets for its customers, including quicker product quotes and less call center activity.

When you think CRM, sales force automation, call center software and analytics may immediately jump to mind. But sometimes implementing far simpler technology can go a long way toward satisfying your customers.

Lisle, Ill.-based electronics component manufacturer Molex Inc. wanted a way to share technical, proprietary information with its customers without opening up that sensitive data to the general public. So, Molex enlisted the help of Chicago-based CRM services provider Roundarch, a company founded by members of Deloitte Consulting. Deloitte had already helped Molex develop an e-business strategy.

The answer was an extranet.

Chuck Bartlett, Molex's vice president of e-commerce, logistics and global distribution, said one of the most challenging aspects of the project was changing a Web site that wasn't broken. "Even if you have an environment that's working very well, I think one of the things that we -- and probably other companies -- find challenging is breaking your own pattern and continuing to move forward," he said.

Once the extranet prototype was developed and set in place by Roundarch, the people at Molex could customize it to fit each customer. According to Bartlett, 70% of the extranets Molex has deployed so far are unique. Some feature a space for managing development programs, while others might be devoted to pricing, product availability and customer self-service. "The nice thing about the environment that was created is that we can pick and choose the building blocks that we want to put into them to create the most value for the customer," said Bartlett.

For instance, one extranet for a European client features a 'My Projects' area, "where the engineers on their side worked with our design engineer in sharing information regarding introduction of new products," said Barry McGoldrick, Molex's director of application development.

The extranet has been live for nine months, and Molex has already seen significant results, company officials said. Bartlett said Web site traffic in the last quarter increased 35% over the previous quarter. The extranet site saw an 80% increase in quarter-over-quarter traffic. Molex also offers 3D product models that can be downloaded directly from the extranet to the customers' CAD (computer assisted design) system, and they've seen a 40% increase in these downloads over the last quarter.

Another benefit is the capability for customers to request a quotation for a product through the extranet and "dramatically reduce the lead times in turning around quotation requests," according to McGoldrick. He said this function has reduced call center volume greatly, especially in the Americas, where up to 300 customers at a time now utilize the extranet instead of the call center for this type of information.

Still another bonus is better coordination of development programs with customers, which has reduced time to market. "Our products are much like other component suppliers," said Bartlett. "The faster we get to market, the greater advantage we have and the better return we get in the way of margin and growth on these products."

Molex declined to discuss costs of implementing the extranet.

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