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Enterasys touts success of social CRM; lumber executive buys in

Albert McKeon

Lumberjacks tend to scoff at social CRM.

And that’s an obstacle almost as tall as a redwood for John Vitale, the director of information services

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for Baillie Lumber Co. in Hamburg, N.Y.

Vitale, who attended the annual Gartner CRM conference last month, is quick to share his latest company news on Facebook and Twitter.

But Baillie salesmen, many of whom once worked as lumberjacks, just don’t see the need to tweet about their work. They don’t use their Blackberries for that sort of thing.

“My challenge is to get the guys who are used to being out in the woods, who used to be lumberjacks, to do it,” Vitale said at the Stamford, Conn., research group’s Customer 360 Summit in Orlando, Fla.

Vitale wants Baillie, which bills itself as one of North America’s largest hardwood manufacturers and distributors, to increase its social media communications and improve its CRM practices.

Enterasys isn’t in the lumber business. The Andover, Mass., company provides wired and wireless networks and security systems.

But Enterasys has mastered social CRM within the organization to the point that it has contributed to three years of growth, a high satisfaction rating from customers, and low employee attrition, according to the company’s chief customer officer, Vala Afshar.

Social CRM boosts social media strategies

Afshar shared his company’s social CRM experience during a talk at the conference and urged attendees to use social media to its fullest, particularly by engaging everyone in the company, even the lumberjacks.

“When you think about social media, you have to ask, ‘Am I in a company that values employee contributions? Is it transparent?’ ” Afshar said during his case study. “If you don’t have a culture that embraces collaboration and employee contribution at all levels, social media isn’t going to do it for you.”

For 10 years, Afshar was an engineer at Enterasys, spending his time isolated in a laboratory. He then became a vice president of global services and support, and in 2010, while continuing those duties, he was named the company’s chief customer officer. The position seemed appropriate, because earlier that year, a colleague had pushed him into social media.

An executive created a Twitter account for Afshar, telling him after the fact. Afshar reluctantly tweeted, but not long after, saw social media’s potential in spreading the word about Enterasys -- and not just to customers, but to employees as well.

The same year Afshar discovered the power of Twitter, Enterasys started using Chatter, Salesforce.com’s private social network.

With a newly enthusiastic Afshar helping lead the way, almost everyone at Enterasys started chatting on Chatter. It made Enterasys’ culture more accountable and transparent, he said.

Almost all of the company’s 1,100 employees, he said, share information on just about everything: new customer accounts, sales, logo changes, sales performances, initiatives, plans and summaries about customer meetings. Afshar joked that as soon as his talk in Orlando concluded, “You can bet … I’ll be chatting about it.”

Even Enterasys’ CEO, Chris Crowell, joins the flow of conversation, with talk streaming down to employees and their discussions flowing to him, Afshar said.

The open channel has reduced broadcast email throughout the company by 70%, he added.

Most important, it also humanized the company, Afshar recalled. “Good business is personal,” he said.

This new social media strategy has improved sales, Afshar said. Since social CRM has been embraced by Enterasys, the company has gained thousands of new customers, the workforce grew by 25% and year-over-year revenue has grown for 10 straight fiscal quarters, he said.

A lot of that growth is illustrated in the sales department. Instead of salespeople acting on their own, they now make their leads on sales of $25,000 or more visible to colleagues. This has created an open atmosphere that allows executives to not only track customer experiences but also join the process when asked or needed, he said.

Afshar sometimes asks engineers to leave the lab and join a sales call, he said. “Any stakeholder, any employee who can add value is welcome to the sales cycle,” he said.

In turn, each salesperson “knows all,” and is empowered, Afshar said. “Does that mean a salesperson contacts me more and more as we move a case upward? Yes. But with collaboration, it’s more noisy and there’s more chaos. That’s the price you pay for building loyalty and trust.”

About 80% of social CRM communications stay in-house, Afshar said. The other 20%, the stuff that goes public, seems to align with what other companies release. Afshar said these are press releases, updates on new products and services, the latest on company awards and information about employees attending conferences, like Afshar attending the Gartner event.

Employees follow conversation threads, post ideas and interesting links, add their thoughts to others’ entries and belong to small and large groups.

Governance of this all-inclusive company chatter hasn’t been difficult, Afshar offered. Enterasys made it a policy for customers to not identify customers by name, but otherwise the flow of talk is loose. And fears of social CRM diminishing production were apparently unfounded.

“If you don’t get them involved, they’re not committed,” Afshar said. “And if they’re not committed, they’re not productive.”

Enterasys recognizes, with a shout-out, social CRM champions for each department and has weekly “lunch and learn” sessions, he said.

It’s the sort of recognition that might entice even a lumberjack.


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