This client is a global leader in household appliances and appliances for professional use, selling more than 40 million products to customers in more than 150 markets every year. The client’s largest markets are Europe and North America. The company operates through two segments: consumer durables (residential kitchen, fabric care, and cleaning) and professional products (industrial kitchens, restaurants, and laundries). The company focuses on innovations that are thoughtfully designed, based on extensive consumer insight, to meet the real needs of consumers and professionals.
The client approached Perficient seeking to develop a centralized and comprehensive customer portal built on the SharePoint platform. The portal would serve more than 7,500 individuals from the company’s customer base including dealers, contractors, and distributors, as well as some 750 internal client personnel. The primary vision for the portal solution was a centralized customer communications channel providing a single comprehensive marketing and sales knowledge base for product information. The portal would provide access to detailed product specifications, features, pricing, instructions, collateral, and digital assets and allow users to create and print on-demand product brochures that include individual products or custom selections of multiple products to give to the end consumer. Finally, the portal would provide access to order history, invoice, and shipping information as part of the overall vision of creating a "one stop shop" for dealer, contractor, and distributor customers.
Perficient follows a proven, comprehensive business consulting approach to planning and implementing SharePoint solutions, which leverages our methodology, experience, and best practices. Perficient developed and deployed the portal leveraging out-of-the-box SharePoint functionality, Perficient custom functionality, and third-party integrations.
To centralize and provide all of the necessary product information to portal users, Perficient worked with the client to consolidate information on more than 2,600 products into a single, comprehensive Microsoft SQL Server product database that is leveraged by the entire organization. This SQL database allows users to tie together and relate product specifications, features, pricing, instructions, and relevant collateral and digital assets. Perficient enabled administration of this product database through a custom Microsoft Silverlight application. Through this application, the client's marketing and product personnel ensure that product information is kept accurate and up to date as a “single source of the truth.”
With all product information stored in a single location, the database was leveraged to create and manage foreign language translations of product information, specifications, and feature text. Upon realizing the power of a single repository, the client decided to feed the centralized product information to public websites and extranets, reducing data entry costs and content errors.
Within the new SharePoint portal solution environment, the client leverages collaborative features of the SharePoint platform to communicate product news, events, industry news, and other critical information while users are provided with personalized news, updates, and information based on their user profile. SharePoint’s security allows the client to move communications through an internal approval process and then target the communications based on defined roles. As SharePoint was configured with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in integrated mode, internal users have access to SSRS reports published in SharePoint. The client leverages this additional functionality to automatically create time-specific reports in a versioned document library.
To drive adoption of the solution, materials previously distributed through email are now published exclusively through the SharePoint customer portal. The common portal repository of brand-related and product-related data provides a trusted source of information with efficient organization of documents and data, allowing for quick search and retrieval of current information, which in turn aids the client’s sales organization in customer account communications. To track overall portal usage as well as the usage of specific documents, reports providing user-specific data are accessible to internal client users through the reporting module of the portal.
To enable customers to create and deliver the most up-to-date marketing collateral to the end consumer, Perficient developed “Build-a-Brochure” capability as part of the overall SharePoint customer portal solution. Users can create custom product brochures by searching and selecting one or more products from the extensive product database. These product brochures are available in multiple layouts designed by the Perficient team, allowing users to print the brochures in multiple formats for specific audience messaging.
Perficient further enhanced the portal by providing customers the capacity to tailor dealer floor displays and modify inventory levels across multiple brands. By altering the visibility of floor offerings in real-time, the client and customer sales organizations are able to take advantage of market changes without delay. The portal allows customers to easily plan a sell-through sales strategy by utilizing scenario building and selling product packages.
This automation of the display and scenario tools via the SharePoint portal allows the client to quickly take advantage of programs or competitive offerings that may be up for replacement. Through the portal, client account managers are able to outline product offering scenarios complete with pricing and present the alternative solutions to prospective buyers. In addition, client account managers can further customize the product offering scenarios through the selection of colors, either by an individual SKU code or by product suite. The customized product scenario can be saved within the SharePoint portal for future use.
Adding to the feature-rich portal, Perficient also developed third-party integrations connecting the portal to the client’s data warehouse through a web service call. The integration enables external users to view invoice and shipping information in real time.
The SharePoint customer portal features customized branding, page layouts and user experience leveraging the award-winning SharePoint user experience skills of the Perficient SharePoint user experience team. In addition to the custom SharePoint user experience design, Perficient also enhanced the search functionality, allowing users to search and filter products by SKU, brand name, appliance type, power type, installation type, size, and color.
The client was able to take advantage of the SharePoint platform security and seamless integration with other Microsoft products. All users are in Active Directory and authenticated through Microsoft Forefront’s Threat Management Gateway. This enables both internal and external users to leverage the power of the internet without worrying about possible threats.
To deliver value early and often, Perficient deployed the customer portal in a phased approach. An initial rollout to key client team members was followed by a full client deployment and training. The portal was then rolled out to the full dealer, contractor, and distributor customer community. This phased approach aided in SharePoint adoption and governance. Perficient also engaged in SharePoint business process consulting to assist the client's team in ongoing responsibility assignments and ongoing governance for the customer portal.
The client’s external application support team initially communicated concerns about supporting such a large external user base. The client’s staff was limited and they needed to maintain the high level of customer satisfaction. Perficient recommended the use of a third-party tool to provide self-service user management. By providing self-service capabilities (create and manage their account, or retrieve forgotten passwords), the client team could maintain customer satisfaction levels without increasing the support staff.
Business Value Delivered
The customer portal is effectively driving sales and marketing efficiencies while providing on-demand access to additional client resources in both accounting and logistics.
Within a year of the launch, the number of users on the system was tripled, far exceeding the expected rate of user adoption. Perficient has added performance enhancements and modifications to the SharePoint portal solution in order to support the accelerated amount of application usage.
Perficient continues to enhance and extend the customer portal solution through a formal SharePoint Solution Lifecycle Management process, while also providing SharePoint Environment Management, hosting, and infrastructure management services.