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I recently had the pleasure of calling customer service.  I say that will all sincerity.   I was reluctant to call, but I was not able to get my answers though all the others channels we try now in an effort to avoid speaking to anyone.  I tried reviewing blogs, the FAQ on the web site, I even asked my teenage daughter, who knows everything.  Having exhausted my options I was left with the option of having to call and I prepared myself for the inevitable multiple computerized prompts, long waits, having to be passed between multiple representatives, etc.  After I got myself a fresh drink, I finally summoned the patience to call.  Guess what happened?  I got a person within a few seconds and they answered my questions within a minute.   It was everything I did not expect, but had hoped for.  I left the call in shock.  This is how it is supposed to work.  This got me thinking, are distributors able to have such a successful customer interaction center?  And if not why not?

Customers on hold. Overflowing e-mail in-boxes. Ever-higher quotas. Demands from management to do more with less. Poor coordination with other departments. These are only a few of the many issues that distributors with  interaction centers face as they try to maximize both profitability and customer satisfaction with every customer contact.

What distributors need is a solution that can make their interaction center a strategic delivery channel that can maximize customer loyalty, reduce costs, and boost revenue. They need to be able to handle inbound or outbound interactions over a variety of channels, including text messaging, the Internet, e-mail, fax, and mobile phones. The solution should provide a single business platform that unites the front office with the back office.

I have seen distributors use interaction centers for several difference business requirements, including telemarketing, telesales, direct customer service, or shared services, such as IT and HR help desks. SAP

CRM gives distributors the tools to succeed in every one of these situations and more.


Marketing organizations are under increasing pressure to build profitable, long-term relationships with customers. This means identifying potential customers, executing successful marketing activities, and delivering results with fewer resources.

Customer Service

The interaction center is often the primary means of delivering customer service. With the right tools you can transform your service organization from a cost center into a profitable line of business. Profitable interaction centers link their service departments with the rest of the organization. This approach can also ensure that service is delivered according to the terms of service contracts.

Agents have all the information they need to research, diagnose, and resolve service issues without transferring calls to other departments. From a single desktop interface, agents can confirm service contract entitlements, assist with exchanges and returned materials, answer technical questions, and schedule field service personnel from your company or a third party.

Shared Services

Using SAP CRM, you can deploy shared-services centers for your HR and IT help desks. Agents can assist customers, employees, and internal users with their questions and resolve issues using the application’s knowledge database, case management, and trouble-ticket functions. Agents at your IT help desk can categorize and dispatch service requests based on customer inquiries and related business rules. They can handle IT related incidents in a standard IT infrastructure library. They can access information about a supported user’s current hardware and software configuration and handle change management and release management for that user. Functionality for an HR help desk ensures delivery of accurate information to employees in a service-oriented, cost-effective manner.

Your goals for your interaction center should be to turn customer interactions into business benefits and transform your interaction center into a powerful and efficient profit center by helping you:

• Increase customer satisfaction through prompt, personalized, and courteous service

• Improve performance and credibility with your customers by providing up-to-the-minute information about product availability, delivery dates, order status, and service commitments

• Increase revenue by giving your agents effective tools for cross-selling and up-selling

• Manage every stage of the customer interaction cycle with an in-depth profile of each customer

If your interaction centers aren't accomplishing these things, you should think about what tools you have provided your agents.  Ask yourself - are you confident that when customers call into your interaction center do they leave satisfied or frustrated? If it not at least satisfied or better, you have some challenges ahead of you.  As always, I have enjoyed our time together; I hope I have given you insight into what needs to be done to make your interaction center a competitive weapon.  If you are not doing it, there is a good chance your competitors are or are about to.

Mike Wise is the Industry Principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America.  He is a wholesale distribution technology and operations leader with over twenty years of comprehensive experience in distribution and logistics environments, executing operational improvement strategies through technology. He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions

Contact mike at or follow on twitter @jmikew1964

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