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Live from the SAPinsider Studio: A discussion with Phil Marshall of Bristol Water

A customer case study discussion recorded live at CRM 2014

May 29, 2014

A discussion recorded live at CRM 2014 in Las Vegas featuring Phil Marshall of Bristol Water on customer experience innovation.

View the video, and read the edited transcript of this conversation with Phil Marshall here.

Lauren Bonneau, SAPinsider: Hi, I’m Lauren Bonneau with SAPinsider, I’m here at CRM 2014, and I’m sitting down with Phil Marshall of Bristol Water, hi Phil, how are you?

Phil Marshall, Bristol Water: I’m good thank you, how are you?

Lauren: Good, thanks for joining me!

Phil: OK.

Lauren: So to start off our conversation, I’d just love for you to give me a little background to your role at Bristol Water, how long you’ve been at the company, what your role is?

Phil: So I’m director of customer services at Bristol Water, been at Bristol Water about 18 months, but been in the water industry for about 25 years. This is the third water company I’ve worked for, Yorkshire Water, where I come from, in the north, and then United Utilities, which is northwest, then down to Bristol in the southwest of England. So my role, as the title suggests, is customer service, all aspects of that, policy, strategy, but also day-to-day activities as well, including handling contacts, complaints, if they’re escalated, I’ll visit a customer if I need to do that to resolve a problem, and I also take responsibility for PR, for anything that’s public, communication-wise, with customers, with our stakeholders, so I have a fairly broad role at Bristol Water.

Lauren: Yeah, sounds like it, sounds like you keep yourself fairly busy with all that on your plate as well.

Phil: Always busy, yeah. Bristol Water is a fairly small company, it’s a medium-sized water company in the UK, so consequently everybody does tend to wear two hats, they tend to do two different things at least in their management roles. Hence that’s the reason I’ve got customer service and also public relations, which means marketing, media relations, that sort of thing, as well as customer communications. And Bristol Waters has a population, in terms of the customers we serve with water, of about 1.2 million, it’s not just Bristol the city, it’s the surrounding area as well, so that’s about 500,000 households, and there’s probably something like 40,000 businesses in the area as well.

Lauren: Wow, hopefully you don’t have to visit all of them.

Phil: No, happily, we have a lot of very satisfied customers. Our satisfaction levels are 90%-plus, so we do very well, particularly as those customers can’t switch, this is a very regulated industry, so it’s important that we are pleasing our customers because they can’t just go somewhere else, and clearly they’d complain if they didn’t get the right service.

Lauren: Absolutely, yeah. OK, so can you just tell me briefly what the SAP landscape is in your area; obviously I believe you have SAP CRM implemented, can you kind of tell me a snapshot of when—how long that’s been in place?

Phil: Well our main platform is SAP, so we use SAP for finance, for HR, for procurement, for customer service, or customer management, and also for reporting as well, so we’ve got a reasonable number of SAP products on the platform, whether that’s Business Warehouse, whether that’s CRM, as you mentioned, ERP, ECC, which we’ve used for work management, planning jobs, as I say, a range of SAP products. In terms of CRM, we reintroduced CRM, we implemented a new version of CRM for us last year. That was version 7.0 of the CRM product, and we also introduced a new website, so at the same time we put in a new website, the old one was looking a bit tired, a bit dated, and we wanted to freshen that up. So we basically did away with the old one and introduced a new website, and at the same time refreshed our CRM as well, so SAP and CRM, and then got the two to talk to each other, so really importantly the CRM wasn’t just for our own employees to use to manage customer relationships, it was for customers effectively to use as well, albeit using the website as the front end to do that. So it was a really important step forward for us in terms of implementing that. That took us probably about 12 months to do that full implementation; the CRM, the website, and linking the two together.

Lauren: And formerly with the old website, did customers, excuse me, did customers have any sort of self-service capabilities formerly, or was it new, completely new?       

Phil: It was limited, limited self-service, and it was also, it was very information-heavy, it was a lot of written text, so to navigate through the website it was a bit like having a library on the website, it was lots there, which is good in one respect, but if you’re the user trying to find your way through to the right bit, not that easy. So what we’ve done is to slim down the information, make the navigation much more easy for people to do, and also as you were suggesting there, putting in more self-serve. So self-serve in the way of finding information, and therefore answering the questions for yourself, if you can, but then if you want to interact, having better channels to be able to do that. And one of the key things we wanted to do was for customers to not only be able to raise a query, raise a request with us, but then if they wanted to, track that as well on the website, so you can see where we were up to in terms of the status of that request.

Lauren: And does it get as detailed as if someone is dispatched to come to their house and help them, do you know that?     

Phil: It’s fairly detailed, there’s a certain, there’s a limit to the number of status levels we can have, but for example it shows their appointments, if we’ve made an appointment to go and see them, it shows the details of that, it shows as you say whether, where the job is in the process. So there’s a lot of information there that they can see for themselves if they wish to do so. And that applies whether they originally came in through the website, or if they for example telephoned originally, they can still, by using their unique service request number, go to the website and track the job in the same way, so it doesn’t matter how they came into the process in the first place, they can still use that as a means of following where things are up to if they want to. We’ve also made the, tried to make the experience an end-to-end experience for customers, we do a lot of what we refer to as “closing the loop” at the end of that interaction, where we will ring that customer back and speak to the customer. One of the things that delegates here will have heard a lot about is how powerful connections are when they’re personal, and that’s something that we take very much to heart in our customer strategy. So the more personal we can make the communication, the interaction, the better, we believe. Ultimately, happy customers mean happy employees as well, there’s a positivity in having customers who are very satisfied.     

Lauren: Great. And so you definitely gave a good snapshot of how the customers are using, on that end. Can you give a little bit more insight into how users are adopting it internally at Bristol Water?

Phil: Yeah, what we did, when we began the project to implement CRM, the latest version for us and also the website, we envisaged that we’d have a CRM product and a website; what we actually have is three versions of the CRM product, and as we went along the journey, we realized that we have different needs within our business, so the customer has certain requirements and needs, but then in our business we had different needs in different departments, as well. And what we identified as we went along that is that the main contact center clearly needs a lot of functionality, but then there were teams who perhaps only deal with customers on the periphery, very occasional contacts, but to give us better visibility of those contacts, we wanted them to log that particular contact, that interaction as well. So we have three different versions now of CRM implemented, one is a light user version, so for those teams, for those members of the company who are only very occasionally talking to customers or interacting with customers, they can very quickly log that contact, that interaction, without lots of detail, so very quickly, within probably 30 seconds, just log that, and then it’s visible to the contact center, visible to our inspectors who visit customers, on the system. So that was, that was, that’s sort of a second version of the CRM. And then we also had two or three teams whose main system is ECC, so another SAP product that they’re using to schedule work, to manage work, to manage jobs, so these are things like installing water meters, putting brand new connections, water connections in for new houses, things like that. We wanted them also to log their interactions with customers, but we didn’t want to take them away from the system that they’re using on a day-to-day basis, so the solution to that was to use the NetWeaver Business Client, which allowed us to give them a portal from their ECC functionality, across into CRM, so effectively on their screens they have, they can access both, so they’re working in ECC but then they can very quickly on a side panel go into CRM and log that contact. So we ended up with three versions for our own people, and if you like, a version for customers as well, four versions of CRM as part of that one project.

Lauren: Wow, that’s pretty impressive that you’re able to keep all that straight.

Phil: It’s really useful though, because you want to keep, you want to keep your employees engaged and positive and it was a big change; we moved from an older version of CRM, so we hadn’t upgraded in the meantime, so therefore quite a big change for people to move. And then for teams who hadn’t used CRM at all, and for us to be saying we want you to log contacts, those interactions, so they’re visible across the company, again that’s quite a big change in somebody’s working practice. So, really important to keep them engaged, keep them onboard, is to think, well, what can we do that works best for them?

Lauren: Absolutely.

Phil: And the light user, or via the NWBC portal, it gives them an answer that works for them. If we’d given them simply the CRM that we use in the contact center, it would have been more difficult, and they’d have probably been less comfortable.

Lauren: Absolutely, so there’s something for everybody, and I’m sure it increases adoption, because—

Phil: Absolutely. That’s right.

Lauren: Someone’s not using something that they’re not understanding or that’s not appropriate for them or…

Phil: And I think that’s something that I’ll be talking about here, in the conference, and hopefully gives some companies, some other companies whose representatives are here, ideas about how they perhaps can adopt CRM in different ways that maybe they haven’t done so far.           

Lauren: Yeah, and that actually leads me to my next question. You’re presenting later on this afternoon a session, is there anything, any content in the session that we haven’t spoken about that you think is important for anyone watching this video to know about?

Phil: I think one of the things that’s coming out through the conference is thinking about all of the different channels, the communication with customers, so whether they’re electronic, digital channels, but also other channels as well, perhaps what you might think of old-fashioned channels, and because Bristol Water, because of the nature of our business, supplying water to our customers, we have to use all of the different channels available to us, so clearly that means adapting to social media, to new channels, but equally it means remembering that our customers want to interact face-to-face, like we’re doing here, very personal, telephone is still a very key part of the channel process, so therefore looking at how CRM, how the website, looking at those different channels all come together is a really important part of—for our business—and I’m sure for lots of other businesses who are represented here at the conference. So I’m hoping that that’s going to come out in my presentation later today, you know, don’t forget about some of those quote “old-fashioned” channels, because they could be really important to your customers as well, but equally, it’s about adopting new communication channels, new ways of working for business and for customers as well, and hopefully as I say, that will come out in the presentation.

Lauren: I’m sure it will. OK, well good luck at your presentation later, and I appreciate your taking the time to sit down with me.

Phil: Not at all, thank you.

Lauren: OK, take care. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

Phil: I will, thank you very much.   

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