Briggs Equipment, the UK distributor of Hyster and Yale Europe Materials Handling equipment, has embarked on a bold new approach to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in its goal of being the best customer service provider in the industry. The process began with a customer survey (Customer Gauge) and the appointment of a working party with departmental CRM representatives, called Customer Voice Champions, embedded throughout the business.
What’s more Briggs Equipment is transforming the customer experience for the growing list of blue chip clients who rely on it for their materials handling needs. It has also launched BE Portal, a market-leading, interactive, web-based reporting system that enables customers to review their fleet/contract management data and assists with cost reduction. Developed in-house and designed in response to changing customer needs and a desire for more comprehensive, dynamic, query-based reporting by group, site and even machine level, BE Portal gives 24/7 access to traditionally spreadsheet-based key data, including engineer support, customer support and account management. The business has also recently appointed a Customer Relations Specialist to help drive and embed a CRM culture across the business.
Janet Noble, National Service Centre Manager at Briggs Equipment, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News about this ground-breaking programme.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, Janet, what does your job involve day to day?
Janet Noble – My role is evolving, with a much greater focus on CRM, and I lead a team that answers around 2,500 service calls a week from our customer base. I also manage a team that looks after our some of our National Customer’s bespoke requirements and a business improvement team tasked with improving service delivery for our customers, either through engineer process improvements, (e.g. the introduction of the Panasonic Toughbooks to engineers three years ago,) and ongoing development, to training the service teams and streaming lining processes. During the past couple of months I have taken the lead on our Customer Voice programme which is focussed on understanding our customers better and addressing any customer concerns quickly and to their satisfaction.
WLN – How much are you involved in seeing that the company achieves the best possible standards of Customer Relationship Management?
JN – It’s my responsibility to ensure everyone working in the business is aware of how important it is to improve the way we interact with customers. I highlight staff training requirements and make sure they are addressed, and oversee the resolution of customer complaints. This includes analysing root causes and feeding back the information into our new systems and processes to improve customer satisfaction.
WLN – To help us get an idea of the scope of this project, can you give us a picture of the size of Briggs’ operation in the UK?
JN – We currently have around 1,200 employees and one of the largest engineering workforces (approx. 600 engineers). We provide a national service to a wide customer base across a range of industries. We operate a centralised business model from our headquarters in Staffordshire and also have a facility in Cumbernauld to cater for the Scottish market.
WLN – As a highly successful customer-facing business operating in different parts of the world, Briggs Equipment presumably had a previous history of strong customer service. So what brought about the new initiative?
JN – Briggs Equipment operates in the UK, USA and Mexico. As a distributor and not a manufacturer we are truly focussed on our customers. To really lead the UK market we wanted to refocus and refresh our approach so that customers sense a step change in the experience they receive. In today’s world you cannot be complacent; you must always focus on constantly improving your service.
WLN – A lot of people talk about Customer Relationship Management, but don’t really embrace it. How have you approached it?
JN – Our approach starts from the premise that CRM should be embedded in the company culture and be consistent across the business. Every department plays a fundamental part in the CRM process and is held accountable for it. We have a project team, led by Operations Director Gavin Wickham, which is responsible for improving our companywide Customer Relationship Management process and draws its Customer Champions from all areas and all levels with the business.
Our programme has been developed in conjunction with Briggs Academy, the company’s dedicated training and development resource, as well as external specialists. We have sales directors, operational general managers and 15 departmental representatives that we call Customer Voice Champions.
WLN – What do the Customer Voice Champions have to do?
JN – Our Customer Voice Champions are from different levels within the business and have varying degrees of experience, but they share one common aim: they are all passionate about delivering a world class customer experience and are committed to ‘putting the customer at the heart of everything we do’.
Their chief role is communication. By ensuring that everyone knows what is happening, they play a pivotal role in key projects we are running, including our new Customer Concern programme. The process will be rolled out this month by the Champions to their teams and then to the whole business by the end of November. Part of the cultural change is asking staff to always look at things from the customers’ point of view, and if they don’t think we are delivering great customer service they can log it in the system for us to review and improve on. It doesn’t have to be a concern from a customer but something that can be improved internally to benefit the customer. The benefits of our system include a complete audit trail, ensuring that every issue raised is logged, action is taken and the matter is resolved to the customer’s complete satisfaction before being closed.
Our Customer Voice Champions also decide how best to use our intranet as a tool to expand our employees’ knowledge and support their development which will, in turn, instil confidence when they are dealing with customers. Finally, it is the responsibility of the Customer Voice Champions to help streamline our invoicing process to minimise disputes.
WLN – It sounds like a very impressive project. So what was the first step?
JN – The process started with an in-depth survey carried out on a face-to-face basis with customers by our sales and service teams. Although we were pleased to learn that some 92% of customers would recommend Briggs Equipment, we knew this approach wasn’t the best way to gain feedback. We therefore reviewed a few survey options and agreed Customer Gauge’s NPS measurement would be a great starting point. This survey is carried out electronically and provides a clear case management trail and online reporting.
WLN – What different criteria of customer service did Customer Gauge measure?
JN – It starts from the premise ‘would you recommend Briggs Equipment’ and measures engineer support, customer support, account management and overall experience. Root cause analysis, which involves drilling down until you get to the bottom of any problem, is the really important aspect of Customer Gauge and the Briggs case management process.
WLN – When did you carry out the initial Customer Gauge survey? Can you talk us through the findings?
JN – The first Customer Gauge survey was carried out in May and they are ongoing on a monthly basis. Filling in a survey online meant that customers felt able to be more open and so the feedback was really constructive. The process also allowed us to contact individual customers and talk things through, if this is what they wanted.
This approach meant we were able to understand the kind of challenges that our customer base has to deal with and the ways in which we can help. It also meant we were able to follow up on specific points raised by individual customers and resolve any issues quickly and effectively. The results will inform the ongoing development of our CRM programme and will also feed into staff training.
WLN – What are your next goals for CRM?
JN – The next step is to streamline our CRM platform to ensure it works seamlessly across the organisation and captures all required information at key points of the customer life cycle. Going forward we will be using Customer Journey Mapping to better understand our customer touch points and this will feed into future training initiatives.
WLN – Please talk us through BE Portal. What specific fleet/contract management data does it review? How does it help with changing customer needs?
JN – BE Portal is an interactive web-based reporting tool that was developed in response to customer demand for more comprehensive, dynamic query-based reporting. Replacing traditional spreadsheets with the latest technology, BE Portal offers complete fleet transparency as it enables customers to take decisive action to improve fleet management and reduce costs thanks to 24/7 access to reliable data.
Customers have had direct input into the development of the system, which enables users to access KPI data such as VOR response times, fleet uptimes, financial spend, machine usage data, and live fleet lists, service schedules, open job reports and individual machine history pages. BE Portal also contains a document library which stores review meeting minutes, machine delivery schedules and Briggs customer-facing SHEQ data. On top of this we added functionality that enables system users to log breakdowns remotely and submit machine meter readings.
Using all of the information provided by BE Portal, customers are empowered to take key fleet management decisions. They can, for example, analyse damage spend arising because of the poor state of warehouse floors and then make a business case to show the cost implications to the equipment against the cost of repairing the flooring.
It’s important to say that, because Briggs contract managers are better informed, they are able to work more proactively with customers to identify potential issues and propose solutions. In fact, the whole team benefits, because improved dialogue also means that our engineers are better briefed and can take corrective measures quickly to ensure maximum equipment up-time.
WLN – What kinds of customer have access to BE Portal – what scale of fleet, how many machines, in how many locations? How does it assist with cost reduction, and what sort of savings does it deliver?
JN – BE Portal is designed to cater for the requirements of a customer with one machine right through to a national customer with a fleet of 2,500 machines. The dashboard, screens, menus and navigation have the capability to download reports into Excel for analysis of larger account data.
Customers can use the tool across several site locations or they can use the location facility to assign trucks to key departments. They can also add their own machine ID numbers, which saves them having to remember the Briggs fleet numbers. It is also possible to assign certain locations or departments to a single user, enabling that person to access data on those trucks that are relevant to them.
BE Portal puts customers in control. The data can show customers which trucks are encountering excess hours at a very early stage in the contract so they can choose either to increase the hours or to rotate the fleet around the site or between different locations to ensure the hours stay within agreed parameters. Since customers can review machine costs and histories going back to 2011, by conducting age profiling of a specific machine and reviewing the costs already incurred, they can determine whether the most cost-effective option is to replace an aging unit or to spend more money on it.
WLN – Can you name some of your customers who are using BE Portal? What have they said about it?
JN – In total 244 customers are using BE Portal (with 1,800 customer user profiles) and they include JCB, Nestle, Thomas Swan, International Paint, Unistrut, Silberline, Rolls Royce, Bibby Distribution, Connect Distribution, Vitafoam.
Customers like BE Portal because it gives them a complete picture, which is invaluable for audits, but also means they can be proactive in managing their materials handling fleets. They tell us the system is very easy to navigate and that the clear naming terminology makes reports easy to find. It has sped up processes too logging breakdowns takes seconds and can be completed out of office hours, while the ability to log meter readings helps dissolve any excess hours issues that may arise.
WLN – How different now is working life at the National Service Centre in Cannock Where do you see Briggs Equipment going from here?
JN – Customer service is inherent within our business. Listening to customers, doing what we say we will and taking responsibility for our actions are all company values. All of our employees are embracing our CRM programme because they are focussed on delivering excellent customer service and understand that it’s a question of finding the right solution for each customer.
I believe we are at the start of a major transition, as our employees gain the confidence to take ownership of an issue, by accessing support as required from colleagues within appropriate areas of the business, they make it their job to resolve it to the customer’s complete satisfaction. The business will grow stronger as employees adopt a ‘can do’ approach and develop key skills, ensuring that together, working as a cohesive team, we can deliver a first class, market leading customer experience.
Briggs Equipment UK
Tel: 03301 23 98 50