Hands-Free Email Replies: SAP Price and Availability Bot

To the readers of Corevist’s blog,

I’m very excited to announce, that starting with this post, you’ll regularly be reading the writings of the newest member of the Corevist team, George Anderson.  He comes on board as a dedicated writer for us which is in response to the growing backlog of content that we’ve not been able to publish in our “spare time”.  My only hope is that he doesn’t put me out of a job. 🙂  I’ve really enjoyed, and it’s been therapeutic for me, to share my views over the past 9 years on what’s going on in the SAP B2B eCommerce industry and how Corevist contributes to making it a more attainable and safer place to go for Manufacturers around the world.

George’s maiden post is a continuation of my post from February 5, 2017 entitled “Look Ma! – No Hands SAP B2B eCommerce”.  At the end of that post, I promised I’d give you the details of a very clever innovation that our friends at Nordson put into production last year.

I lied.  George is.

Onward!

Sam


The problem: Encouraging customers to move away from routine phone inquiries about product pricing and availability.

by George Anderson

It’s hard getting people to break their addiction to phone calls and email, especially in the B2B world.

When you’re used to getting personal service from a friendly CSR, getting inventory and pricing information from an automated system doesn’t seem like progress.  But from a manufacturer’s perspective, CSR’s answering those routine inquiries can eat up considerable time that could better be spent delivering higher value information and services to customers. What if companies could roll out a powerful, intelligent B2B eCommerce automation technology that could answer inventory and pricing inquiries through email faster, better and cheaper than via a phone call?

Nordson Corporation, Corevist’s oldest client, is doing just that. They’ve developed a unique way to answer inventory and pricing inquiries automatically via email while leveraging the real-time data in their Corevist-integrated SAP system.

Nordson has well-established relationships with its customers, who often inquire about availability and contract pricing before they place an order for a part. Most of these purchases help repair or maintain expensive machines which would cost Nordson’s customers a fortune if they went out of service. Nordson’s customers come to them first for parts, but they’ll go elsewhere if something is out of stock. That’s why they ask about inventory before ordering.

Many of Nordson’s customers don’t need marketing or product education to point them in the right direction. They already know the SKU and quantity that they need to order. They would prefer not to log in to an eCommerce website and search for products to see inventory quantity and contract pricing. They’re most comfortable getting this information by calling CSRs in case of emergencies or emailing them if there are time zone, language or aren’t in rush to get this information.

Let’s look at the email inquiry process.  Accepting these type of inquiries created serious costs for Nordson. Email inquiries landed in CSR inboxes alongside many other kinds of emails. CSRs had to prioritize their emails, which meant the inquiry messages might not get answered for several hours. When the CSR did get around to answering the email, she had to check SKU inventory and contract pricing in SAP, then write out a response to the customer.

But the pieces of the automation puzzle were already in place. Corevist’s SAP eCommerce solution supplied real-time inventory data and contract pricing by customer ID. All that remained was to fill the gap and let customers talk directly to Nordson’s real-time eCommerce data through email inquiries.

The solution: Unattended responses to emails

Jerry Berndobler, Web Development Manager at Nordson, came up with an ingenious solution.

He wrote a series of programs that knit together email inboxes and email clients, Corevist’s integration to SAP, and SAP itself, into what can best be described as an “SAP Product and Availability Bot”.

Jerry’s custom software monitors an inbox, something like “productavailability[AT]domain.com,” and scans the body of new emails. When it finds SKU numbers and quantities, it sends them through Corevist to SAP and associates the inquiry with the customer’s email ID. SAP returns that unique customer’s personalized contract pricing and inventory.

What might have been a several-hour delay and several minutes of work is now a 2-3 minute reply with zero human intervention. The customer gets an accurate, personalized response email that took no human effort to create. The entire process leverages the Corevist infrastructure and its integration to SAP.

Once this solution became available, CSRs were instructed to tell customers about it when they called or emailed for product information. When a call or email came in, the CSR registered the user to the Corevist database. The CSR also gave the customer instructions on how to send an email to the product availability inbox from their Corevist-associated email ID. 

Through this effort, Nordson added 700 users to their existing 17,000 registered users on the Corevist platform and reduced the number of manual inquiries serviced by the thousands.

Each new user is now registered in Corevist, though she may not realize what that means. She didn’t have to do anything differently—she would normally send an email anyway, and she’s used to getting a response with inventory availability and pricing. Now that response is automatically generated; but more importantly, it’s personalized. It’s based on her account and her SAP data.

This solution offers Nordson a remarkable increase in efficiency. CSRs don’t have to manage these emails, and there is no onboarding process to help the user figure out a new B2B eCommerce website before making the inquiry. (User familiarity with the website can develop slowly—more on that below.) The user is now registered to the website—though she doesn’t even know it’s a website—and she can now be integrated into marketing campaigns down the road.

This opens up the possibility of gently leading the user toward full adoption of the eCommerce website. With list segmentation, marketing can include her in email campaigns which note the fact that she likes getting real-time inventory and pricing via email. Marketing can now take her to the next level and explain how she can use the website to place orders, reprint documents, and so on. Because this type of marketing message starts with an understanding of the user’s past experience (getting real-time inventory through email), she will receive it well. It’s personalized to her eCommerce education journey.

Going forward: A new kind of onboarding to SAP eCommerce

By meeting the eCommerce customer on her own terms, this email inquiry solution offers a gateway toward a seamless transition from legacy inquiry procedures to automated ordering technologies. In the long run, this type of transition offers great cost savings for our clients—but it helps our clients’ customers, too. As customers learn their way around our clients’ eCommerce sites, the ordering process streamlines on their end, too. It’s a win-win situation.

At Corevist, we take great pleasure in partnering with our clients. Nordson developed this solution on their own, and we find that inspiring. This type of innovation makes the Corevist solution even more valuable for Nordson, and we believe it has great potential value for any company that uses Corevist to integrate Magento eCommerce to SAP. We encourage any clients who are interested in this type of functionality to reach out to us and talk about how this integration could help their business. Who knows–if there’s enough interest in this technology, it just might find its way into our core platform. 🙂

 

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