Cooking up success: Grill maker cuts call-center volume, customer complaints with CRM

When Memorial Day rolls around, millions of Americans get ready to start grilling. That’s when the phones ring at the call center for Meco Corp., manufacturer of the Aussie Outdoor Living line of electric, gas, and charcoal grills. Meco recently turned to customer relationship management software to handle the volume and garner customer feedback. <br/>


Every year when Memorial Day rolls around, millions of Americans get ready to start grilling. That’s when the Meco Corp ., manufacturer of the Aussie Outdoor Living line of electric, gas, and charcoal grills.
Until recently, the call volume overwhelmed Meco’s staff of 12 customer service representatives. With 600 to 800 calls a day coming in during the peak grilling season from customers looking for troubleshooting help or for new parts for their grills, the Meco representatives were unable to answer all the calls. Some callers left messages, while others simply hung up.
Something had to change.
“We looked at all the options: Do we staff up, do we bring in temporary people, do we outsource it—all those things you look at from a customer service standpoint,” says Bob Hebner, Meco director of marketing.
None of those options were acceptable. Instead Meco turned to technology for the answer, and went with customer relationship management (CRM) software from RightNow.
With the RightNow system, Meco transferred knowledge from its customer service reps into a comprehensive, consistent database that customers access online to quickly answer their questions. The Meco reps also use the system to answer questions they receive via phone or email.
By making it easier for customers to find answers on the Web site, Meco reduced call volume by 50 percent. The Web site deflects “a lot of very high-cost phone calls,” claims Hebner. “So now the consumer can come in and troubleshoot their grill, get an answer, order a part—essentially do all the things you would expect to do over the Internet.”

Buyers of Meco Corp.’s Aussie Grills have a much easier time getting their questions answered since the grill maker transferred knowledge from its customer service reps into a database linked to a Web-based CRM system.

This is a very different experience for customers, Hebner adds. In the past, the company mainly focused on marketing itself to the retailers that carried its grills, rather than to the end users purchasing its products.
“We didn’t focus on the consumer end of the puzzle until we implemented the RightNow system,” he says.
It’s a move more manufacturers need to make, says Andrew Hull, director of product marketing for RightNow. He attributes this to something he calls the boomerang effect.
Even though Meco’s customers are retailers such as Lowe’s, says Hull, “ultimately it’s the consumer that actually comes back to Meco—not Lowe’s—with a question. With the Web, it’s even easier for consumers to reach original manufacturers.”
While the boomerang effect might be making it mandatory for manufacturers like Meco to be more responsive to end users, it also gives them a decided advantage. By using the RightNow system to track the types of questions its customer service reps are answering, Meco can tap into end-user experiences and use that information to drive product changes and development activities.
“As the marketing director,” says Hebner, “one of my goals is, of course, to get the word out about Aussie Grills while making the customer experience better, and uplifting the brand by taking consumer input and driving it back into the system. Being able to quantify this stuff is a tremendous asset from a marketing perspective.”

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