Unicer’s 60,000 customers make it one of the largest manufacturers of beverages in Portugal. The firm sells soft drinks, beer, and coffee through a national network of wholesale and retail dealers; it sells other drinks in bars and restaurants. The company has its own dedicated sales staff to ensure that the vending machines installed at customer sites function perfectly.
Unicer had been concerned about its call center for some time. It wanted to drastically improve the quality of customer service. For example, the company’s 60,000 customers had only one telephone number for the call center in Porto. That was too few for the 100,000 calls handled each year by the call center. And because Unicer’s service staff used the same hotline to reach the company’s headquarters, capacity was limited. Many calls were lost because callers felt forgotten while waiting for an agent and hung up.
Of course, Unicer agents at the call center had long maintained records of telephone calls with customers that also contained detailed information on service requests. But this valuable information was buried in databases and unavailable to call center agents during a call. For example, it was impossible to view a service technician’s schedule and set up a service call with a customer while the customer was still on the line. “It was clear that we had to do something,” says Fernando Leite, who is responsible for technical support at Unicer. “The service we offered customers was extremely inefficient.”
Creative Precedent: Collaboration
That’s why Unicer began its Serviço de Assistência Técnica (SAT) project, which created a hotline for technical assistance. The company documented its goals with the technical specifications, planned implementation period, estimated project costs, and scope and extent of the expected benefits. Unicer also thoroughly analyzed the competitive proposals it had received before it decided on Siemens and SAP.
Siemens had been Unicer’s supplier of record for telephony and communications system long before the start of the SAT project; SAP had been responsible for its business software for many years. But the two powerhouses had never worked together at Unicer. Eurico Dias, who is responsible for Siemens HiPath telephony solutions at ICN Portugal, sums it all up. “The SAT project demanded effective integration between Unicer’s installed base of SAP applications and the telecommunications platform that was to enable and support a new customer contact center.” The participants created a precedent with their successful collaboration.
Only shortly after coming on board, Siemens held a project definition workshop to identify Unicer’s special objectives and designed a practical solution. Technical experts from Unicer, Siemens, and SAP then held a follow-up workshop on application design to produce the functional design specification for the overall technical architecture and the system parameters. The SAT project began after Unicer approved the specification.
A Question of Integration
The primary goal of the SAT project was to improve customer service. At a technical level, improvement meant answering calls more quickly and simplifying the scheduling of service technicians. Unicer had already made significant investments in resources for maintaining customer relationships with mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM). Call center agents were to be enabled to access the comprehensive information on customers stored in Unicer databases. The SAT project was also to prove the value of the field services features of mySAP CRM by linking Unicer service technicians to the solution with mobile telephones or personal digital assistants (PDAs).
As part of the project, Siemens was to deliver the call center solution with its HiPath ProCenter Advanced V5.1 running on HiPath 4500. “But to take advantage of the powerful real time IP communications features that the Siemens solution offers, the computer telephony integration (CTI) controls would have to be integrated into the SAP desktop that Unicer personnel were familiar with,” recalls Dias. Sara Figueiredo, the SAP representative responsible for the SAT project, confirms Dias’ comments. “The SAP desktop interface would continue to be available to employees in the customer interaction center (CIC) at Unicer,” she says. “It would simply be enhanced with the telephony functions of ProCenter Advanced. Moreover, they would now be able to call all the information they need to support their customers from the familiar SAP environment.” If problems cannot be solved over the telephone, plans call for setting up a service call at the customer’s convenience right away, after a look at the calendar of a service technician in the area.
Siemens CRM Ready Kit played an important role when Unicer evaluated proposals and decided to work with Siemens and SAP. As a component of ProCenter Advanced V5.1, the tool ensures that call center telephony functions can be integrated into SAP software and the desktop interface without extensive custom programming. “The client/server software that makes it possible to integrate the CRM software with ProCenter’s real time communications controls was already written and ready to run when we started the project. When we accepted the offer, it was already clear that we could save Unicer money because it didn’t have to pay for any supplemental implementations,” says Dias. And although SAP and Siemens had never before integrated ProCenter with mySAP CRM, this first attempt went off without a hitch.
The Conclusion: A Worthwhile Investment
Unicer – and its customers – reached the same conclusion. After installation of the Siemens/SAP solution, customer calls were answered much more quickly. Most callers could be categorized quickly and redirected to call center agents with the appropriate skills. Agents have access to all the required customer data, can access the technical assistance database, and can interface with the field service force to schedule service calls to the customer site – and do so in real time in the familiar CIC interface while the caller is still on the line. That’s why Fernando Leite draws a positive conclusion. “We’re now in a position to deliver high-quality technical assistance in an effective and well-organized way. The customers? They’re a lot quieter now. We’ve done some surveys, too, and we know they’re much more satisfied with the service they receive from Unicer today. That makes our investment worthwhile, and that’s what counts.”
SAP and Siemens also draw positive conclusions. Successful collaboration at Unicer produced the desired result. Similar projects have since been undertaken, all of which rely on effective integration of the Siemens call center solution with CRM software by SAP.