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Salesforce implementation offers window into partner management

Implementing Salesforce Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Community Cloud has enabled a national window treatment company to streamline its operations.

Hunter Douglas, a national company that sells window blinds, shades and shutters via an independent dealer network, shuttered its old CRM and undertook a successful Salesforce implementation to renovate its partner relationship management -- and it was more than just window dressing.

As it grew, Hunter Douglas decided it needed a CRM system that could meet differing partners' needs, as each dealer sells its range of products independently. The Dutch-owned company switched to Salesforce for its CRM platform in 2016.

Since the Salesforce implementation, Hunter Douglas has seen distinct improvements in productivity, efficiency and ease of use with Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Community Cloud.

Salesforce is not only able to meet the company's unique needs, but it also accommodates the planning that Hunter Douglas put into rolling out the new CRM to its employees and dealers, said Ross Garretson, vice president of customer experience at Hunter Douglas.

Ross Garretson, vice president of customer experience, Hunter Douglas Ross Garretson

"We very much enjoy that Salesforce has this wide network of other best-in-class companies that are bringing to market innovative ways of using the system," Garretson said. "The other selling point was flexibility. We don't want long development cycles or arduous, expensive processes to develop the system."

Sales and Service Clouds

With Salesforce Sales Cloud, Hunter Douglas automated and, in some cases, eliminated many administrative tasks -- such as issuing discount changes and logging information from phone calls -- that sales representatives were expected to complete.

The Salesforce implementation freed up representatives' time to focus more intensively on making sales, and it has led to a big expansion of Hunter Douglas' sales territory, Garretson said.

Through the capabilities and the workflow we are giving [sales reps] with Salesforce, they are really able to be more effective and efficient," he said. "One of the numbers we monitor is the average size territory that a sales rep can effectively manage, and we believe, through Salesforce, we have been able to dramatically increase the volume that one particular sales rep can handle."

The Salesforce Service Cloud has enabled Hunter Douglas's service reps to provide omnichannel support, including email, chat, text and phone calls, and also to track follow up, improve responses and respond more quickly to customer questions and concerns.

"By leveraging the system and being able to route the call to the most appropriate rep, we have been able to restructure our team so that the more appropriate rep is handling the specific interaction that the customer is calling or contacting us about," Garretson said." For example, if a customer calls about a warranty claim, the call is automatically routed to the customer service rep who specializes in that type of claim."

As part of the Salesforce implementation and Service Cloud, Hunter Douglas has been able to cut the time needed to train new customer support reps from 12 weeks to 5 weeks, Garretson said.

Partner Community

Hunter Douglas also introduced the Salesforce Community Cloud to thousands of dealers in its network. Having this tool has enabled dealers to more efficiently sell Hunter Douglas products, schedule appointments and complete installations for end customers.

But it is in this same partner community sphere where Salesforce may be lacking. The company's customers are extremely mobile, and they need to have more robust mobile tools, Garretson said.

"They need to be able to run the business in the field, and accessing Salesforce via the iPad is OK, but in the next year or two we...really need to deliver an app-based experience where they can tap into the same information that exists in the Salesforce system," he said.

Hunter Douglas' sales reps and managers currently use Salesforce1, but the platform is not yet available for the Community Cloud, so distributors have not been able to take advantage of that mobility.

Sheryl Kingstone, research vice president at 451 Research, an IT analyst firm, said that the need for more mobility in CRM is a hot topic.

"I would assume what [Hunter Douglas] is really looking for is something more turnkey that Salesforce can provide that they don't have right now for their community in a mobile environment," Kingstone said. "Mobile applications for customers and partners come up as a request for a lot of businesses, so it is a top of mind issue."

Importance of Salesforce implementation

What the training and sales territory statistics don't show is whether the Salesforce implementation increased sales revenue for Hunter Douglas.

"There is a huge failure rate in Salesforce automation solutions because salespeople won't necessarily use it, but the companies that have implemented it properly say that it really does increase profits and revenues," Kingstone said.

Implementing Salesforce correctly was a priority for Hunter Douglas.

Communicating clearly what was changing and getting executives to use the software were helpful to ensure a smooth Salesforce implementation and a high adoption rate among employees, according to the company. Hunter Douglas approached the process deliberately, focusing on getting comfortable with the core functionality of the various Salesforce clouds before introducing more advanced capabilities.

But the most important factor, according to Garretson, was making sure the Salesforce implementation team really understood the requirements of the project and the challenges they were trying to overcome

"If you can give the end users access to information that makes their job easier or makes them more effective in what they are doing, it is a system that they will want to go back to and use rather than just a task they have to do," Garretson said. "That helped us early on in providing sales reps with information that they otherwise did not have."

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