When customers raised order inquiries by fax, calls and email, Southwire staff would search multiple systems for answers. How could Southwire cut the workload and transform the customer experience?
Southwire engaged IBM Services to deploy SAP Commerce solutions, surfacing an online product catalog with path to purchase, and offering real-time information on stock, order and delivery status.
2,000total users, 78% external, of the new web solutions
44,000products available online
Savesadmin time as customers switch to self-service
Business challenge story
Understanding customer perception
A leader in technology and innovation, Southwire Company, LLC, is one of North America’s largest wire and cable producers and an emerging influence in the industrial electrical space. Southwire and its subsidiaries manufacture building wire and cable, metal-clad cable, portable and electronic cord products, OEM wire products and engineered products. In addition, Southwire supplies assembled products, contractor equipment and hand tools.
As a market leader with a rich history, Southwire serves thousands of customers and distributors, who communicate and purchase through traditional avenues of sales representatives. While service had been reliable and effective, Southwire noticed that as sales grew, dealing with order inquiries was becoming more and more complex. Sales teams spent valuable time retrieving documents, answering the same questions, and entering orders on behalf of customers – all of which negatively impacted response time and overall customer experience.
Kate Bartlett, Functional Analyst at Southwire, describes the impact: “Account management and sales staff were often busy hunting for shipment, order and financial information, rather than spending time collaborating with customers on meeting their needs.
“We also understood that the wait time for answers was having a direct impact on our market presence. If we could make pertinent information readily accessible to customers, we could really transform their buying journey.”
Traci Harris, Manager of E-Commerce Data at Southwire, adds, “We know that in this day and age customers don’t like to make calls; they want to retrieve documents, place orders and check status at the click of a button, and we heard that request more and more.
“It was very important to find a solution that would match the online experience that customers receive in the consumer world. We wanted to enhance our business relationships, boost efficiency, and become the industry market leader for customer service.”
Southwire set out to redefine its customer experience by creating a new online portal, with a focus on self-service capabilities and establishing the future foundation for digital customer engagement. With a 67-year history serving the electrical industry, Southwire viewed this as a pivotal opportunity to introduce digital processes and improve efficiencies.
The objective was to reduce internal strains and empower customers by implementing a digital commerce and engagement solution, with its value measured through reduction in non-value add activities and improved customer satisfaction.
Southwire chose to replace its legacy customer portal with a modern solution based on the SAP Customer Experience portfolio. This would offer distributors and direct customers a simple path to purchase using a digital self-service channel, providing a foundation for future commerce capabilities.
Kate Bartlett explains, “For phase one of the digital journey, we wanted customers to be able to answer their inquiries through the portal, looking at order history, inventory, invoices and packing lists. Phase 2 introduced a complete online catalog, with full product detail, tailored ordering capabilities and account management.
“We decided that SAP Customer Experience offered the best fit, because it provided comprehensive functionality to meet our diverse needs. Also, we had previously worked with IBM to deploy SAP ERP applications, and SAP Commerce would integrate neatly into this environment.
“The SAP Commerce Accelerator for B2B offered a pre-configured solution that matched our industry, reducing implementation time to three months, and we chose as much out-of-the-box standard functionality as possible. Offering a reliable, secure portal for order management, SAP Commerce would also give us the ability to introduce integrated online ordering from a live web catalog, helping us become a truly digital operation.”
Scott Reyna, VP, Digital Transformation at Southwire, adds, “We chose IBM Services as our integration partner because we were very happy with their work on our SAP ERP implementation. Also, that previous experience meant that the IBM team already understood our SAP environment.
“What’s more, IBM demonstrated a robust knowledge and understanding of our sector, and offered on-site support. We trusted that IBM could help us build the right user experience environment, and connect our customers to the SAP ERP data.
“IBM drove us to achieve the goals set for our SAP Commerce website. The project management and technical skills were integral in delivering an end-product that our internal stakeholders and customers expected. It was a pleasure working with and learning from IBM throughout the project lifecycle.”
The SAP Commerce solution runs on the SAP HANA database, is deployed on-premise and is managed by IBM Application Management Services. IBM completed the deployment of phase 1 of the project in four months, with a total project time of just ten months. The IBM service included design, build and support for all aspects of the solution and the integration with SAP ERP applications, provided as a one-stop-shop. Southwire engaged the IBM iX team to assist with user experience workshops, visual design, process wireframes and graphics using waterfall development approaches; IBM Application Management Services supports user tickets and the SAP and SAP Customer Experience applications.
The first phase delivered a comprehensive inquiry portal, serving live data from the SAP solutions. Customers can deep-dive into their orders, retrieving documents, checking packing lists and much more.
Kate Bartlett adds, “The IBM consultants’ knowledge of SAP Commerce truly drove the project, and we could not have done this without having such strong resources. Southwire operates a lean IT division, so we really relied on IBM Services for expertise. Further, IBM Services has helped open our eyes to new ways of working, moving towards Agile project processes that are better suited to today’s business environment.
“As a company we operate as a traditional manufacturer in a mature marketplace; by contrast, IBM Services is at the forefront of technology development.”
Wired for service
Branded as MySouthwire.com, the new portal delivers a consumer-like experience driven by enterprise-class SAP Commerce technology. Some 2,000 users access the system, of which 70 percent are customers. The combination of process automation provided by SAP Commerce and integration with SAP ERP applications are providing direct benefits.
As more customers enroll on the portal, Southwire is exploring new ways to enhance and measure customer satisfaction, including Net Promoter scores. As Southwire extends its SAP Commerce solution, the company will explore analytics based on user registrations, order values and transactions, designed to build an operational picture to help Southwire tailor its offerings and services.
Dustin Davis, Manager, Website and Collaboration Manager, chimes in, “Positive customer feedback supports the fact that the SAP Commerce interface has proven itself as a fast and reliable solution. Our analytics tell the story of how we’ve successfully grown and improved not only our customer experience, but overcome internal challenges. The benefits are easy to identify, as our sales teams are now more available to strategically serve customers on projects and tailor solutions to meet their precise needs. What’s exciting is that this is just the beginning. MySouthwire.com is the foundation that we are building on that will continue to drive value and provide the digital channel customers expect from an industry leader like Southwire.”
Working with IBM Services, Southwire has created full e-commerce functionality for more than 44,000 products, enabling purchasers to see real-time stock availability. Customers can now make better-informed decisions, with more right-first-time orders that in turn cut the number of order queries. With less time spent on inquiries, Southwire’s team can focus on added-value pre-sales tasks such as assisting on specialist and highly configured cable solutions, helping to increase sales and boost customer satisfaction.
Traci Harris adds, “SAP Commerce provides the starting point for Southwire’s business transformation, with IBM Services helping us to create an integrated digital presence. The portal establishes a conversation in the marketplace about what Southwire offers and the ease of doing business.”
Kate Bartlett concludes, “Southwire’s digital transformation journey is founded on in-depth knowledge from IBM Services and outstanding capability from the SAP Commerce solution. We are excited to move to our next phase of digital capability, and develop the Southwire customer experience.”
Southwire produces around half of the cable used to distribute electricity throughout the U.S., and its wire plays a key role in the manufacture of other products, from automotive wiring harnesses to insect screening. The company operates seven business segments, employs some 7,500 people, and is one of the top three cable manufacturers worldwide.