On any given business day, the customer service representatives at Greenlee, A Textron Company might field 150 to 200 calls each from any of the company's 4,000-plus distributors phoning in to check on an order's status, discuss the details of an order or go over an invoice. For any given call, the rep might need to check on a customer's purchase order or Greenlee's own shipping documents and invoices.
In the past, that meant the customer service rep had to contact accounts receivable (A/R), accounts payable (A/P), shipping or another department at the Rockford, Ill.-based company, which manufactures wire and cable installation systems for the electrical industry, and the data-signal-voice market.
But now, by implementing a document management system, the company has succeeded in streamlining and automating those interactions with its customers in order to improve service while also reducing costs.
A History of Innovation
Innovation is nothing new at Greenlee. Indeed, invention lies at the very roots of the company. In the mid-1800s, Edmund Greenlee, a farmer in Crawford County, Pa., patented a wooden barrel-making machine, just one of the numerous labor-saving devices he created. Later, in 1862, Edmund's twin sons Robert and Ralph, having moved to the Chicago area and established themselves as pre-eminent barrel makers, invented what they called the hollow chisel mortiser, a tool that allowed for speedier, better construction of wood products and just the first of many useful contraptions created by the twins.
Given the family preoccupation with improving processes and doing things more efficiently, it is not surprising that some 140 years later the company the two brothers established should find itself implementing new technologies to streamline its customer service function.
Greenlee, a unit of Providence, R.I.-based Textron, began looking for a better way to manage its customer-related documentation back in 1998. The company was using a legacy document-imaging system at the time, but Sharon Cole, a senior programmer analyst at Greenlee, says the system was not reliable. "In the old system, it was really a 50-50 shot whether a document would be there when you went to pull it up," Cole explains. As a result, the customer-service process remained largely tied to paper, with the service reps frequently having to collect hard copies of documents from various other functions in order to answer queries from distributors.
The manufacturer wanted a system that could store customers' purchase orders, invoices, bills of lading, shipping documents and other customer-related paperwork in a single repository that the service reps could access quickly and reliably. Greenlee's objectives included both improving customer service by responding more quickly to distributor queries and improving its own processes. After evaluating its options, Greenlee opted to work with Integrated Document Technologies of Itasca, Ill., to implement an information management system based on the Acorde application from Colorado Springs, Colo.-based solution provider Optika.
Touchpoints with Multiple Functions
IDT's solution for Greenlee incorporated a variety of technologies to "capture" documents and store them in the Acorde system for later retrieval, including software that brought incoming purchase orders faxed from distributors into the system, document capture systems for bringing hard copies into Acorde, and integration with other business applications, such as order entry, for automatic conversion and storage of electronic business documents in the Optika system. The system allows users to search for documents using a variety of customized queries. Once users find the document they need, they can view it onscreen, fax it out through a fax server (that is, without having to print it out), or send it out by e-mail as an attachment.