by Meridith Levinson

Honeywell Retools Business Processes for CRM

Apr 01, 200211 mins
CRM Systems

When the CEOs of American Airlines and AlliedSignal met in 1995, American’s Bob Crandall dealt the manufacturer a sobering blow. Fed up with the service his company received from AlliedSignal’s aerospace division, Crandall told AlliedSignal CEO Larry Bossidy that if he could find another supplier of parts for his airplanes, he would switch in a heartbeat.

In fact, American Airlines wasn’t the only customer dissatisfied with AlliedSignal. At air shows and in client meetings, AlliedSignal executives heard the same complaint over and over. “Our customers were telling us, ’You’re too hard to do business with,’” recalls Pruitt Layton, vice president of sales and marketing for Honeywell International’s propulsion systems business and former director of sales support for AlliedSignal Aerospace. (AlliedSignal and Honeywell merged in December 1999 to form Honeywell International.)

The customer complaints were often justified. AlliedSignal Aerospace’s four business units had no way to share information about sales opportunities, the status of maintenance requests or the products customers had on their aircraft. With 40 independent product lines to market, it was not uncommon for several salespeople across the aerospace division to contact the same customers during the same week?or even on the same day?without knowing they were doing so. Large customers sometimes had as many as 50 points of contact with the company. This Keystone Cops routine infuriated AlliedSignal’s customers, some of which began using AlliedSignal’s lower-cost competitors. Layton says those competitors posed a long-term threat to AlliedSignal Aerospace’s business, which also happened to be AlliedSignal’s big revenue generator.

Executives at AlliedSignal knew they had to improve their sales tactics and customer service record if the company was to thrive in the highly competitive post-Cold War aerospace market. So to solve the customer service problem, the company began implementing a CRM system from Siebel Systems in 1998.

Fast-forward to 2002, and much has changed. The merger with Honeywell came in 1999. And now that those uncoordinated sales and service calls are becoming a vestige of the past, Honeywell is even winning supplier of the year awards. But the crusade to improve the company’s customer service reputation hasn’t been easy. It has required some major rethinking of sales and service practices, and a concerted effort to convince employees?many of whom had weathered two previous sales-force automation (SFA) failures?to forsake their siloed, homegrown customer information systems for new, integrated CRM software. The importance of that crusade is becoming increasingly clear now that big customers such as Belgium’s Sabena and Swiss Air are declaring bankruptcy and the aerospace industry is reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks. More than ever, the company is depending on the CRM system to help make it easier for customers to do business with Honeywell?and easier for Honeywell to get the most out of its sales and service teams.

Failures and Transformation

AlliedSignal Aerospace had been dabbling in SFA since 1994. Sales reps used FoxPro databases to “computerize” their sales plans, says Lynn Brubaker, Honeywell’s vice president and general manager of commercial aerospace. “It was very limited [in functionality],” she says. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Layton adds that it was difficult to share information stored in the FoxPro databases. “You could manage your own account, but it was real tough to send [FoxPro] attachments to other people,” he says.Using an application called SalesKit, AlliedSignal Aerospace developed an SFA tool that enabled data sharing in late 1995. That new system operated off a central server, but it was not Y2K compliant.

The need for a centralized, Y2K compliant system prompted the company to begin implementing Siebel in the aerospace division in fall 1998. Having been burned by small, unstable software companies in the past, AlliedSignal wanted to go with a company that would be around for at least five years. Siebel’s Call Center application met the company’s functional requirements?and AlliedSignal would be able to Web-enable it and integrate it with its ERP system. And given the complexity of the undertaking, AlliedSignal wanted a vendor that could devote technical staff to the implementation if needed.

Today, one common customer information system is used by sales reps, field service engineers, product line personnel and response center agents across Honeywell Aerospace’s three main business units (aircraft landing systems, avionics equipment systems, and engine systems and services). Known as Aerospace Total Account System, or Atlas, the system encompasses tools for sales-force automation, account management, campaign management and Honeywell Aerospace’s response center. As a result, everyone using the system can see which Honeywell products a client owns as well as the status of parts being serviced, and can identify additional sales opportunities. But most important, the system has allowed Honeywell to replace its product-centric sales approach with coordinated, customer-centric sales processes. Salespeople from different product lines no longer deluge customers with separate, uncoordinated phone calls. Instead, a team of sales reps and field service engineers from across the division’s three main business units coordinates its activities through Atlas. For many of the customer account teams, a single employee serves as the primary point of contact for each customer?regardless of the product that customer wants to buy or service?and coordinates all sales and service calls. If a customer has a problem with a part, he has one point of contact for service, not one for each Honeywell part on his airplane.

A CRM Program Office Is Born

But getting to this point required a lot of persistence on the part of Dave Ryan, the original program manager for the Atlas rollout. When AlliedSignal Aerospace began deploying Atlas in 1998, Ryan embarked on a major campaign to train the first 600 global users on the system. (Right now, 2,000 Honeywell Aerospace employees use Atlas, and it will be rolled out to approximately 2,000 more employees as new functionality is added.) He held training sessions at major Honeywell Aerospace facilities and put materials on CDs and online so employees could brush up on what they learned in class. In spite of all the training, employees still weren’t using Atlas.

Ryan recounts a typical frustrated product line director who approached him after two days of Atlas training with his sales team. “He came back from the training class and said, ’This is a great tool. I understand how to navigate around, but I don’t understand how, as a team, we replace what we’re currently doing with this tool. I still have all the other tools out there,’” Ryan recalls.

Ryan sat down with Layton, then his boss, and together they identified the system’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities to better use it and threats to its adoption from competing systems. The bottom line was that while people understood Atlas and the processes it enabled, they didn’t know how to make it fit their own business processes. And they weren’t eager to give up their tried-and-true customer information systems.

To address users’ needs?and ensure that competition from the homegrown systems wouldn’t thwart Atlas’s success?Ryan and Layton created the position of manager of Aerospace CRM. In that new role since March 2000, Ryan now works with sales and field service employees to define their business processes and map out how best to use Atlas to support them. Ryan and Layton also created a CRM program office staffed by both business and IT people who are responsible for training users and finding ways to incorporate Atlas into their daily routines.

When Ryan sat down with the field service engineers, he learned that they weren’t using Atlas because they were being asked to use multiple tools to record events and document service requests for the same customer. As a result, the engineers tended to use only the tools that dealt with the most critical information. Ryan mapped the engineers’ existing workflow processes (which involved using several websites and several laptop applications) and established new ones that would enable them to track service reports and requests more efficiently in Atlas alone. Then the program office sent an e-mail to field service engineers from the vice president of customer service, telling them to log in Atlas customers’ product problems and the time it took to resolve them.

“We’ve seen a tripling of the amount of information coming in [to Atlas] from the field because we’ve provided a structure and process for collecting the information in a single spot and for making it visible to all the people who need it,” Ryan says.

On the sales side, Ryan worked with managers in each of the business units to create a new, single sales process for all of Honeywell Aerospace that ties in to Atlas.

Still, many users steered clear of the new system because they were attached to the Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, websites and custom-built applications they had been using to manage their customer data. Ryan says that many employees feared that time devoted to learning the new system would be wasted because they’d seen two other SFA tools disappear before Atlas. Talking to them one-on-one, Ryan had to persuade them that Atlas was different?and was going to last. After all, the entire company was going to use Siebel, and the system had top management’s endorsement.

Even so, many users were discouraged that Atlas wasn’t as easy to use as e-mail and their other proprietary tools. Mike Beazley, one of Honeywell Aerospace’s account team leaders, says that when he had a question about an account, he used to just e-mail it, knowing the recipient checks e-mail regularly. Using Atlas, he has to fill out about 12 fields on a screen before he can log a service request. Then he just hopes the individual responsible for the request opens Atlas?and that his request doesn’t go into a black hole, he says. But after getting used to the tool, Beazley sees how the system makes everyone’s life easier. In fact, he calls Atlas “one nice central location to store data and to refer other people to when they ask me a question.”

Because it is so hard to get people to give up old ways of doing things, the program office leads an ongoing campaign to stamp out all of the legacy systems. For example, the customer support group had been using its own database to track customer inquiries. The program office worked with the customer support group to format the data for Atlas, then the IT department extracted the data from the old system, imported it to Atlas and shut down the old database.

Stamping out reliance on e-mail is trickier because the program office can’t mandate shutting down the e-mail system. Instead, the program office has worked with individual account teams to redefine their process for exchanging information using Atlas rather than e-mail. Ryan’s person-to-person evangelism has also come in handy. “Dave’s been meeting with the product line leaders, finding their biggest business problems and working with them to understand how the system enables their processes,” says Layton. “That’s been very effective.

The Payoff

The creativity and persistence of Ryan and the program office have already begun paying off. Sales more than doubled in the after-market special programs group?which essentially sells spare parts?during the first year the group began using Atlas. With the same number of salespeople, after-market revenues increased from $45 million to more than $100 million. Although some of that jump can be attributed to offering new, more expensive products, the after-markets special programs group attributes 20 percent of the growth to efficiencies brought about by Atlas.

“It’s a very good example of how being a little bit more productive and having quicker access to information allowed field sales to handle more phone calls in a day and more direct sales,” says Ryan.

Before Atlas, Beazley spent a few hours a week writing up monthly reports summarizing sales activity to give to his managers. Now he simply refers them to Atlas where they can run their own reports. “The extra time goes into putting my feet up and eating bonbons,” jokes Beazley. “No, it goes into more time with the customer.”