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American Power Conversion Gets Serious About CRM

APC's CRM program identifies customers' touch points with the company, captures information on failed interactions, and figures out what's needed to make the fix.

It's all about the customer these days at American Power Conversion. The manufacturer of power supply products has focused during the last 12 months on technology projects that improve processes for its customers and internal users.

"We want to know as much information about customers that we can possibly get," says APC CIO Brian Belliveau, who took over the job in July from longtime CIO Doug Rademacher, who's leaving the company to pursue his dream of becoming a math and science teacher. "It's not only about being a supplier but a trusted business partner and adviser for customers to solve real business problems." Those customers include consumers who buy APC's power protection products to prevent home PCs and plasma TVs from frying during thunderstorms and businesses that use APC power supplies and coolant products to run their data centers.

Belliveau joined APC two years ago. Before taking over as CIO, he was APC's senior director of Oracle and supply chain applications. Much of the work that's gone on at the company to boost customer satisfaction has involved its Oracle and Siebel software. In 2004, APC launched a CRM program that included identifying touch points customers have with the company, capturing information on failed interactions, and determining what was needed to fix customer satisfaction at those points. APC set up a measurement system that assesses how the company is doing on each point.

Failure's a learning experience for Belliveau

Failure's a learning experience for Belliveau

Photo by Mark Ostow
APC partnered with IBM on that initiative, mainly because the vendor has a similar program internally. "We didn't use the exact model they used, but rather an extension of what they used," Belliveau says.

APC's Customer Loyalty Framework guides process improvements and sets a road map for system implementations. During the last year, APC has used this framework to reengineer customer-touching processes. The first two that were reworked were selling processes in February and customer support processes in July.

APC focused on automation points that connect different systems, including the company's credit management system, Siebel apps and analytics, solutions configurator, and Oracle databases. All of those systems are pulled together with IBM WebSphere middleware. If one goes down, the others continually push information out, and the middleware captures it until the downed system comes back up. When it does, the system pulls those transactions from WebSphere, so nothing is lost.

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When a new customer of APC's InfraStruxure data center products wants to make a purchase, he's sent a URL to apply for credit, which then automatically goes into APC's credit management system. Once credit is approved, an account is created in Oracle, and Siebel provides price quotes. Sales reps then guide the customer's use of an automated configuration system that picks data center power and coolant options based on the center's size, the equipment used, and other factors.

APC estimates that improvements such as automated credit approval and new account setup will deliver $8 million in benefits over three years.

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