Dell to marry support and commerce on Premier Pages

Earlier this year, Dell Computer launched Premier Enterprise Support, which offered several levels of support contracts. But Dell didn't stop there with its B2B customers.

In recent presentations, Don Peppers, co-founder of Norwalk, Conn.-based Peppers and Rogers Group, touts Dell Computer Corp. as a prime example of one-to-one personalized marketing in the business-to-business space. The Round Rock, Texas-based company's Premier Pages provide custom sites for corporate customers to access support and purchasing information.

In May, Dell launched Premier Enterprise Support, which offered several levels of support contracts, encompassing bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels. But Dell didn't stop there with its B2B customers. The company recently merged its support and sales organizations into one group, Americas Online, to allow its B2B customers to access everything regarding their computers through a single portal, said Chris D. Martin, senior manager of the strategy group for Americas Online.

"It's about making it easy for the customer," he said.

For example, in the planning phases of the Americas Online project, the team noticed that ordering parts was not a simple procedure through the support site. Dell saw an opportunity to facilitate that in a simpler fashion as it blended into asset tracking, according to Martin. This involved integrating support and commerce to direct the customer to the purchasing area, as well as advising the customer what state the asset -- the computer -- was in.

The support side is also integrated with the call center, Martin said. The call center utilizes the Internet to help customers, and it also eases some of the work of the field service employees. This transitions into the call center also becoming a method of sales, as the call center will handle both presale and post-sale opportunities, he said. The sales force can then focus on customer acquisition and retention, while the call center handles more technical questions.

"The Web then has to be married to that. The idea is to mirror what is going on in the call center world and make sure that, in presale and post-sale, the Web is looking at it as the call center might," Martin said.

Dell's focus for online sales is to service the customer while selling. The Home Depot is one company that gives its customers advice on projects, but the customer does not have to buy anything, and Dell needs to do more of that, according to Martin.

In addition to the online portal, Dell also offers B2B integration, where customers can link into Dell's systems through their own infrastructure for e-procurement. This is done via extensible markup language (XML). Currently, several dozen customers are integrated through e-procurement, Martin said.

Dell approaches CRM technology from a best-of-breed standpoint. "There is no one technology that solves everything," he said.

The company uses a single data warehouse and performs analytics with the residing data. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is used to extract and manipulate the information.

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