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Case Study


Nature’s Way Reenergizes and Empowers Sales and Service to Better Serve Customers

by Ken Murphy, Editorial Director | insiderPROFILES, Volume 8, Issue 3

June 14, 2017

A row of herbs and natural medicines

When Nature’s Way, a global multi-branded marketer, developer, and manufacturer of premium dietary supplements and homeopathics, realized that it had outgrown its homegrown customer relationship management application, it began the search for a solution befitting a best-in-class global consumer packaged goods company that would give field sales and customer service representatives access to the data they need. Hear how Nature’s Way implemented SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer and SAP Cloud Platform Integration service to give field sales mobile access to customer account information, generate automated requests to other departments, receive real-time status updates, and have visibility into mobile business intelligence reports.

Buying off-the-shelf vitamins and minerals or herbal and dietary supplements can be an intimidating experience. Selecting a specific product among the hundreds of offerings that line the shelves of stores and pharmacies can oftentimes seem like the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack conundrum.

Sales representatives at Nature’s Way could relate to that trying experience every time they accessed the company’s sales information portal (SIP) system, a homegrown customer relationship management (CRM) application that offered a seemingly unlimited number of customer account touchpoints, yet had very little in the way of governance. Nature’s Way is a global multi-branded marketer, developer, and manufacturer of premium dietary supplements and homeopathics based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Sales distribution channels for its more than 1,000 consumer and practitioner products include chain and independent health food stores; independent pharmacies; food, drug, and mass merchandisers; and direct and select international markets.

Recently, field sales team members had begun increasingly using mobile devices when visiting clients, and Nature’s Way was undergoing a project to upgrade those devices so it was imperative for field sales to have a CRM application in place that was accessible from the field. “The homegrown system was not available on mobile devices; sales would have to log into the network in a virtual desktop environment,” says Sandy Reisenauer, Senior CRM Business Analyst at Nature’s Way. “As time went on, SIP became an application that field sales reps didn’t want to use as much as they had originally.”

The inconsistencies in how the SIP system was used — combined with a complicated and siloed approach to process management — created gaps in sales and service processes that were frustrating for field sales reps. Even though sales and customer service representatives could create and record customer touchpoints in the system, the information was vague and didn’t provide enough detail for individuals to take follow-up action. Information that sales could follow-up on, such as opportunities to upsell and order details, was not available outside the network or on a mobile device.

Downstream, these issues created a disorganized and ineffective process for measuring lead capture rates, and the inconsistency of the data captured in the back-end SAP ERP system made advanced reporting a difficult task. The bottom line was that sales and customer service teams were using tools designed for a much smaller company. With a growing consumer business, Nature’s Way decided the time had come to provide these teams with a solution that could accommodate the needs of a top-tier consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales force.

Nature’s Way

Headquarters: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Industry: Dietary supplements

Employees: 600+

Company details:

  • Founded in 1969
  • Owned by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals, a German plant-based pharmaceutical company founded in 1866

SAP solutions:

  • SAP Business Warehouse
  • SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer (SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales and SAP Hybris Cloud for Service)
  • SAP Cloud Platform Integration service
  • SAP Integrated Business Planning
  • SAP Product Lifecycle Management (project currently underway)

Cementing a Customer-Centric Strategy

In 2015, Nature’s Way senior executives decided to decommission the legacy SIP system in favor of a mobile-first cloud application that would align with the company’s objective to make sales and customer service more strategic partners to the business. After a thorough vetting process, Nature’s Way narrowed its search to three vendors before selecting SAP software and ultimately deciding to implement the SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales and SAP Hybris Cloud for Service solutions of SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer.

According to Reisenauer, the deciding factor in selecting the SAP Hybris solutions was the ability to use standard SAP integrations to connect with SAP ERP. “Having visibility into the back office was an important piece and one of the top requirements for field sales,” she says. “Another system would not have integrated as easily, which would have complicated our project and we may not have brought over as much data as we wanted to.”

Ease of integration was especially important for Nature’s Way because it targeted an early 2016 go-live to coincide with the company’s national sales meeting, which gave the implementation team just 22 weeks to complete the project from the time it signed with a consultative partner. “It was a tight timeline that didn’t allow for much flexibility. If anything were to slide, we’d be off track,” says Reisenauer.

The project’s scope entailed using SAP Cloud Platform Integration service as middleware to integrate SAP ERP with the SAP Hybris solutions. In addition, the customer service component consisted of integrating the company’s existing phone network with SAP Hybris Cloud for Service. Because of the condensed timeline, and a desire to move nearly all of the functionality from the SIP system onto the SAP Hybris software, Nature’s Way adopted an agile project methodology, which was not without its challenges.

“If you don’t have custom fields for pricing or order entry, integration is pretty straightforward. But we did use both standard and custom fields for order entry and pricing in SAP ERP, which made the work to configure the order process a bit more complex,” says Reisenauer. To compensate, Nature’s Way decided to avoid introducing too much new functionality at once by going live with select user groups, beginning with a customer service team that would interact with the SAP Hybris solutions mostly through the phone network and thus be less dependent on the system than would field sales.

Sandy Reisenauer

Sandy Reisenauer, Senior CRM Business Analyst, Nature’s Way

Throughout the project we were helping field sales and service representatives see how quickly we’d be able to retrieve information from the back-end SAP ERP application because it’s all on the same system.

— Sandy Reisenauer, Senior CRM Business Analyst, Nature’s Way

This decision helped take pressure off the project implementation team to take the lead in user acceptance training; because the project team didn’t have a great deal of time during development to become familiar with the system, it mostly narrowed its focus on the technical components of the project. By rolling out functionality to a select customer service team to learn the system, the thought was that that team could then take the lead in supporting field sales after training was complete.

“We were confident we were going to hit our original date from the technical side, but the team hadn’t been in the system enough to where they felt confident enough for user acceptance training,” says Reisenauer. “That’s what led to the decision to avoid a big-bang rollout for the users, with the intention that our internal teams would have a few weeks on the system and could then act as support in training for field sales.” 

Bringing Sales and Service Together

During project development, Nature’s Way identified many manual processes between sales and the service teams that could be automated and integrated between SAP Hybris Cloud for Service and SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales, such as generating field sales tickets that would be processed by the Customer Service or Sales Operations teams at the corporate office. These tickets included requests to update master data on accounts, create promotions, and so on. As these synergies could be configured in the SAP Hybris software, customer service reps could help train sales reps to use the new applications relatively easily because they had a similar user experience (UX) and a much cleaner user interface (UI) than the one they’d been accustomed to with the SIP system.

“In SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, sales can see previous customer activity and phone calls that they likely wouldn’t have seen in the past — there might have been a touchpoint that said ‘order’ without any activity or detail about it, for example,” says Reisenauer. “Having real information displayed simplified training because sales could easily see how the data would not only make their jobs easier, but benefit people in customer service and at the corporate office.”

The configurations at Nature’s Way were somewhat unique in that companies commonly keep SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales and SAP Hybris Cloud for Service separate. However, the business configured some processes to touch both systems, and in doing so, ended up modifying some of its processes. For example, while it knew it wanted to generate sales tasks through SAP Hybris Cloud for Service, the company wanted to avoid alerting only the owner of a customer account to any changes — and running the risk of tasks not getting completed if individuals were on vacation or somehow missed the notification. “That’s what drove us to generate tickets instead, and that was an interesting discovery because having the sales organization use the service functionality is not something that’s normally done,” Reisenauer says. “But we thought that if the functionality was there, we might as well use it.”

Focusing on Mobililty

Nature’s Way was perhaps preconditioned to think of unique ways to configure the SAP Hybris solutions because it had been accustomed to the SIP system being a repository for anything and everything related to sales and service, albeit in an inconsistent fashion. To that end, as part of the SAP Hybris implementation, a data warehousing team built a mobile business intelligence (BI) dashboard that users can launch directly from SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer. Data that might otherwise not have migrated to the software because it wasn’t part of a standard SAP integration was pulled in to enhance the rudimentary reports that had been available in the SIP system.

“The report opens up a particular customer’s records on an interactive mobile dashboard,” Reisenauer says. “It looks great and renders itself well on mobile devices so users can very quickly access a huge amount of information that had been on SIP directly from SAP Hybris Cloud for Sales without having to feel like they’re closing down one application and opening another.”

In addition to the mobile capabilities, the Phase I rollout in early 2016 also included SAPUI5 for users on desktops and laptops. This meant a user who alternated between a mobile device and a desktop needed to learn two different UIs. By the end of 2017, Nature’s Way plans to utilize the responsive UI application in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, extended edition to create a single UI on any device.

Best-in-Class at Last

With easily accessible mobile reports, field sales reps are now creating on-the-fly field visits with real-time customer data. If a customer happens to call the service department 10 minutes before a sales rep shows up, the sales rep will know about it and can take steps to resolve an issue before walking in the door. This type of functionality was never possible previously and helps validate Nature’s Way’s decision to go with SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer.

“Throughout the project, we helped field sales and service representatives see how quickly we could retrieve information from the back-end SAP ERP application because it’s all on the same system. Now if we have to make any changes to an account or add a master data field, it’s so simple to create the same field in SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer,” Reisenauer says. “For that reason alone, I know that most of the people on the project team are glad we didn’t go in a different direction.”

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