US SafetyGear is a full-service safety supply company with over 20 years in the safety industry. Headquartered in Warren, Ohio, the company supplies a broad range of occupational safety products, including safety glasses, work gloves, safety shoes, work boots, rainwear, earmuffs, earplugs, and a growing line of more than 35,000 products. Through four retail stores, an online store and a field sales force, the company serves over 6,000 active customers across the U.S.
Despite a growing customer base and broad product line, the company lacked an automated sales force automation solution and accounts receivable (AR) notification system. Because customers were notified manually by fax when bills were due, the collections process was slow and cumbersome. Lacking any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, salespeople also used manual processes to access inventory data and pricing, which too often was out of date. “We needed a serious facelift on how we interact with customers,” explains John Conley, Chief Operating Officer for US SafetyGear. “That meant centralizing information, including customer information, inventory levels, and automating key processes, from collections to order entry.”
“With Affiliated’s automated AR system, notifications are generated, personalized to each contact, and emailed to more than 300 customers every week, in just 10 minutes. Man-hours on the entire collections process have been cut in half.”
John Conley, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Safety Gear
For help, the company turned to Affiliated, which came recommended from another IT services company. “We needed someone who could do both — AR notification automation and CRM, together — to provide full-scale functionality to our sales, service and administrative teams,” explained Conley. “Affiliated fit the bill perfectly.”
Affiliated, a Microsoft Partner with Gold Certification in CRM, implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the company. US SafetyGear looked at both the online and on-premise versions. But because they didn’t have a large IT department and wanted to avoid the administrative costs associated with an on-premises solution, they opted to go online — accessing CRM as a cloud service. This would give them instant on anywhere access, predictable pay as-they-go pricing, and a financially backed service level agreement. “By going online, Microsoft also takes care of the upgrades and maintenance,” Conley says. “Eliminating those costs was important to us.”
Automation Pays Big Dividends
Affiliated deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, tailoring the solution to fit US SafetyGear’s specific requirements. Affiliated developed a custom internal web page for access by appropriate staff that pulled customer and account information from the company’s, Sage MAS 500 ERP. “Affiliated integrated our ERP with CRM and now we have a one centralized place to access customer information and provide automated AR notification to our customers,” Conley says.
In the past, AR notification had been a burdensome process, where managers had to manually assemble AR information from spreadsheets into notifications, print them out, and fax them to customers — a process that took 2-3 days to complete. “With Affiliated’s automated AR system, notifications are generated, personalized to each contact, and emailed to more than 300 customers every week, in just 10 minutes,” Conley says. Man-hours on the entire collections process have been cut in half. The company can also track responses to determine if a follow-up phone call is necessary. The overall impact of the automated AR notification system on the company? Outstanding receivables have been reduced by 13%, resulting in “an added $150,000 to $200,000 cash flow to the business,” Conley says.
“With our new centralized CRM solution, the salespeople on the road enter data once, check delivery schedules and get updated pricing in real time. No delays, no confusion — a great improvement in how we interact with customers.”
John Conley, COO,
U.S. Safety Gear
CRM Takes Customer Service to a Higher Level
The CRM solution also centralized data, from inventory availability to account information, in real time. This allowed Affiliated to develop a more sophisticated quote-entry system. Salespeople can now use iPads to enter quotes, access inventory data, initiate shipping dates, and get accurate pricing — all from the field. Before, original orders were handwritten, re-entered into the accounting system at the office, and emailed to the customer. While this manual process could take an hour or even a week to complete, the new and more accurate order entry system takes just seconds. Moreover, CRM provides an invaluable reporting that tracks lead generation orders and actual sales, giving managers insight into new product development and direction for future marketing campaigns.
“With centrally stored account data, salespeople have real-time access to more accurate data when visiting with customers. They can view product availability issues, or updated pricing, in real time,” says Conley. “With CRM, we have improved the way we do business and, most importantly, our overall customer service.”
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