Schneider Electric has a problem: It doesn't know who its customers are.
More precisely: The €26.64 billion (US$29.36 billion) French company, which specializes in electrical power equipment and industrial automation, operates in more than 100 countries, and its customers have sprawling businesses of their own. An individual customer might approach Schneider through several countries, and multiple channels -- VARs, distributors, the web, email and more. Keeping track of all the different contacts Schneider Electric has had with individual customers turns out to be difficult.
The goal: avoiding duplicate records for individual customers while assembling a complete picture of each customer throughout its dealings with Schneider. "We didn't want to have 20 Bank of Americas in our system," Tony Wells, Schneider's senior vice president of marketing for North America, tells Light Reading. That's not as easy as it sounds. It's not easy at all.
Like many companies, Schneider turned to Salesforce.com Inc. to track customer identities over the course of many different contacts. Light Reading spoke with Schneider at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco last week. (See Salesforce Adds Einstein AI to Commerce Cloud}.)
Schneider started with Salesforce six years ago, according to Christophe Blassiau, Schneider's senior VP for customer experience and CRM.
"We needed to solve a simple question: How to be more organized to serve our customers," Blassiau says. "Schneider has made a lot of acquisitions. We were getting big and complex."
Initially, Schneider deployed Salesforce to 15,000 salespeople over 18 months, to enable collaboration, Blassiau says. A single project might be designed in one country and built in another, but everyone needs to be on the same project and serving the same customer.
Schneider later extended Salesforce to its customer service call center for 4,000 agents and 6,000 field service agents, Blassiau says.
Two years ago, Schneider began connecting with its partners through Salesforce. Schneider generates 70% of its sales through integrators, VARs and distributors, and needs to be able to tie it all together, allowing partners to sell on Schneider's behalf while Schneider maintains the relationship with the ultimate end customer, upselling, maintaining equipment and staying connected with products in the field.
Connecting all of Schneider's customers worldwide required a single worldwide instance of Salesforce, with consistent performance across China, East Asia, Europe and the US, Blassiau says.
The challenge was as much cultural as technical, he says. Employees and partners needed to maintain "good data discipline" and avoid creating duplicate records for customers, Blassiau says.
"We needed to put some governance on it, some kind of training, discipline and management. Not related to Salesforce per se, but the magnitude of the initiative we had was a major challenge," he says.
Gaining thorough customer knowledge is particularly valuable -- and problematic -- in business-to-business sales and marketing, Wells says. That's because customers have already done a lot of research before they contact a vendor like Schneider. By the time a prospect contacts the vendor, they're already 70% of the way through the buying process. They've done their own research, reviewing websites and talking with peers and colleagues. Salesforce helps Schneider's salespeople keep up by knowing what information the customer has from Schneider and tailoring the sales call accordingly.
— Mitch Wagner, , Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud