The power of a great customer – vendor relationship

The power of a great customer – vendor relationship

As part of my series of customer interviews, I recently had the chance of speaking with Keith Cooper, vice president of customer experience at Bergen Logistics.

Bergen Logistics is a global third party logistics provider, based in North Bergen, New Jersey. It primarily serves the luxury fashion and home goods segments but is available in other verticals, too. In Keith’s words “When you order something from a company’s website online, the order comes to us. We pull the order, we pack the order, we ship the order, and it arrives to you in most cases the next day.”

If you prefer to watch the interview, you can do so here.

Bergen Logistics started to search for a CRM solution with the original focus on the-lead-to-order process. The trigger was the owner of the company inquiring for the status of a lead that he had given to sales a while ago – because the prospect was inquiring. At that time, “there was a belief [in the sales organization] that it was okay to take three or four days to respond to a client when they wanted to talk to us because we’re very bespoke; the salespeople sort of have this view that they would wait.” Not only did this risk the company reputation but additionally, available data showed that 40 percent of the prospects didn’t want to wait that long. They were trying to resolve a business issue. This translated into loss of business.

The company did research and narrowed down the competition to Salesforce and Zoho. They did an in-depth analysis and went for Zoho. “Between Zoho and Salesforce when I looked at the value proposition primarily the cost and what does one do that the other doesn’t do, Zoho CRM did everything Salesforce did at a better value proposition.”

After the implementation of Zoho CRM, Bergen Logistics had the ability to measure and optimize its sales process. The company gained “the ability to timestamp all of the activities of a lead through its journey into qualifying as an opportunity. And then once it’s qualified as an opportunity looking at getting the proposals done getting the pricing done and then going to closing so we were able to start measuring the time between stages.

The result is a far faster and more defined sales process that quickly confirmed the working theory that a fast sales process in fact does matter. “Within two years, we tripled our sales production or annual sales production from the sales team and have a much more defined sales process.”

In addition, being able to measure the process enables Bergen Logistics to identify problems with the sales process itself to fix them and to coach the sales team towards becoming more successful. As Keith says, “having those KPIs allows us to help triage if there’s a problem we can see where leads are if they’re leaking out or if we have one particular salesperson who’s not performing, we can see within the within the funnel where their performance misses. And then coach to that activity.

Since then, Bergen Logistics added considerably to this footprint, using Desk including a customer facing self-service portal, Analytics, Forms and Social, with a phone integration and an ABM solution being in the works. But what is interesting for Keith Cooper is the broad scope of Zoho One that offers the ability to consolidate when and as needed. “You know, it’s not what that’s not one we’re using yet but a lot of times it’s it’s knowing that we have these applications available that can replace what somebody’s using should we need to or should we want to there’s some other things that are more firmly embedded and might take a little longer to get them forked out.

But how difficult was the implementation?

Bergen has a DIY attitude, so they did a lot on their own.

Which brought them quite far, although, unsurprisingly, this also led to making mistakes – which is not a problem in itself. Implementing a system is always also a learning process and then it is interesting to see how much of a partner the vendor is. Says Cooper “And so, we made mistakes along the way, there were things that we can figure out, things that we built wrong the first time and the support team was always very helpful in helping us understand why the Frankenstein that we built was never going to walk and that if we made these changes how we could get it off the ground.

It turned out that some of the “troubles” were caused by the license type. Even here, the Zoho team showed flexibility although at one point it was obviously necessary to step up to the license that covered Bergen’s requirements.

It also turned out that at some point the required knowledge was too much to be covered by the in-house team. For Bergen, this point is reached where CRM and Desk shall be integrated into the phone system.

In the meantime, Bergen went up to 250 seats of Zoho One and sees considerable exposure to Elanders Group, its parent company, due to the success of its implementation, so that the ‘regional’ implementation becomes a group-wide one.

Asked about complaints, there aren’t really any.

My point of view

Many find it surprising to hear (or read) a statement as bold as “Zoho CRM did everything Salesforce did at a better value proposition”, in particular the first half of it. After all, Salesforce is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla in the CRM game. However, this impressively reconfirms a point that I make for quite some time, namely that the capabilities of Zoho CRM are somewhat of a better kept secret, especially outside the core SMB market. It is not surprising that Zoho has a very interesting price point; this has to do with the company’s overall philosophy of not pursuing an extractive form of capitalism and of considering its success as a consequence of making the surrounding ecosystem – and with that, the customers – successful.

Integration is usually one of the biggest cost drivers in an enterprise software project. Well-engineered suites offer fast and easy integrations between its various subsystems or applications, ideally even work on the same data without moving it back and forth.

The possibility to get quite far with an implementation without the help of an implementation partner is not something that is possible with all systems that offer a similarly broad and rich set of capabilities. That Bergen requires SI help only at a stage where the phone system shall be integrated into CRM and Desk shows how integration in a suite should be and how easy configuration and customization can and should work.

Lastly, we see the validation of how Zoho does provide customer value through guided choice and flexibility.

Bergen moved up from a single solution to Zoho One, while not leveraging all of the 50+ applications this subscription contains, although now, of course, paying for the premier product. Instead, Bergen Logistics chooses to implement additional applications on a need base and to mix and match with other applications, e.g., the G-Suite. This shows that the full subscription is advantageous to the menu approach.

These are quite some points that more enterprise vendors could have a look at.