Canon is a world-leading innovator and provider of imaging and information technology solutions for the home and office environments. Canon (UK) Ltd is the UK marketing and sales operation for the global company - Canon Inc. - based in Tokyo, Japan. In the UK and Ireland Canon currently employs around 1900 people in various locations including the head office in Surrey, London, Birmingham, Livingston (Scotland), Dublin and Belfast.
Challenge – Falling customer retention levels
Head of Business Development at Canon UK & Ireland, Paul Isaacs explains, Canons traditional sales model is based on our representatives meeting face-to-face with customers, but over the last few years we have seen a change in the way customers want to engage with us. We realised we needed to adapt to this to ensure we retained our valued customers. This was particularly noticeable in some of our smaller, SME sized organisations.
We considered how we might re-engage with those customers who we were at greatest risk of losing and/or with those that we had no contact over the last 12 months. We undertook a small pilot project in-house to re-connect with customers using outbound calling and found this was successful. However, we realised that we did not have the in-house expertise or resources to set up, recruit and run a dedicated desk-based sales team.
The Solution – A recommended and professional outsourced customer contact centre with B2B outbound calling experience
Canon decided to enlist the help of an outsourced contact centre and issued an RFP to several suppliers as part of a competitive bid. Ventrica was selected after being introduced and recommended to Canon by a global software house who used their services. Paul Isaacs says, ‘Ventrica ticked all the boxes from both a commercial and cultural perspective. What we liked most about them was that they really took the time to listen and understand what we were trying to achieve. We were also really impressed with their working practices, with their clean desk philosophy and smart dress code, which were of the highest level to all other suppliers in the RFP process.
Another key factor was their MD who is the heartbeat of the business and was really heavily involved from the start, giving us the confidence that they would do a good job. The buzz of the contact centre was really infectious and we felt that they shared the same professionalism and values as Canon. The IT and HR infrastructure were also excellent and passed all our IT security audit checks.’
Ambitious ramp-up time is met ahead of schedule
As Paul Isaacs admits, the timescale of 10 weeks to start the project was quite a stretch. However, in spite of the pressure, everything was ready to go a week before the deadline. Paul says, â€œWe set ourselves some very ambitious goals, but the partnership between Canon and Ventrica worked really well, overcoming any challenges.â€
After assigning both a Canon and Ventrica project team, the two parties jointly designed a solution based on a ‘desk-based sales’ (DBS) approach focused on outbound calling. Based on advice from Ventrica, a series of three different campaigns were planned. These were split into 3 tranches, dealing primarily with customers who needed to be reconnected with, those who were potentially most at risk of leaving Canon and also some of the smaller customers with outstanding debt.
‘Really good at identifying the right talent’
Ventrica was responsible for recruiting high quality sales professionals that possessed all the credentials to manage the complexity of in-depth account management requirements. Paul Isaacs says, ‘Ventricas recruitment strategy is very strong and they have proven to be very good at identifying the right talent, in terms of the sales execs. The team are all quite different personalities but they are all great at building rapport and understanding complex issues over the phone.’
After 5 days of training based at Canons head office and at the outsourced contact centre, the team started to call customers. Ventrica also undertook a significant amount of work, together with Canons data team, in cleansing and enriching Canons customer data lists to remove duplicates, source missing information and remove accounts that were in arrears.
Results – Doubled sales target, recovered over £250,000 in bad debt and reduced customer attrition rate by 67%
‘There was a fairly steep learning process when we went live’ says Paul, ‘but we adopted a learn as we go approach and Ventrica were able to make changes as we progressed. Although we didn’t have high expectations in the first month, the results were over and above what we expected and the second month continued in the same way. We were delighted with the strong start and this helped reassure us that the strategy was working. The feedback from customers that were called was overwhelmingly positive with a genuine desire to re-engage with the Canon brand.’
‘Proactive account management prevents customers going elsewhere’
The sales target initially set for the year for DBS has been comfortably exceeded, along with a significant improvement in the bad debt ledger. â€œSales have been completed earlier than we anticipated in the dialling cycle, highlighting the need for an on-going DBS Account Management service, says Paul. Evidence has also shown that customers love the Canon products but may have felt neglected in recent years. Implementing proactive account management has prevented customers going elsewhere.
Other market intelligence has also been gathered on areas such as pricing, industry sectors and the competition.
‘One team approach enables tiered sales using internal and outsourced resources’
The partnership between Canon and Ventrica has made it possible to introduce a tiered approach to sales with Tier 1 representing large global accounts through to Tier 4 representing smaller accounts. ‘There are no silos between Ventrica’s desk-based sales and our field based sales so they work seamlessly together. For example, even if an opportunity is identified by desk-based sales that is passed onto a Canon representative, the desk-based sales still have the total sale value registered on their target. This encourages complete transparency between the two parties and a one team mentality.’ Explains Paul. â€œIt certainly helped too that we had the sponsorship and buy-in of the Canon exec team and directors.
Strong team spirit
According to Paul, there is a strong team spirit between Ventrica and Canon that is supported by a monthly management review and regular top-up training. Now that the programme is established, a dedicated desk-based sales manager for Canon has been appointed, spending 2 days a week on-site at Ventrica, offering input and advice and working in conjunction with the team leaders.
At the same time considerable on-site support has been provided from Canons Woodhatch HQ that has helped to drive continuous improvement of processes, coaching and development of the one team approach. Regular feedback forums and sales refreshers with Canon key stakeholders has further supported on-going staff development.
From cuddle calls to account management
According to Paul, the dialling strategy recommended by Ventrica worked well and evolved over time. The team started out with cuddle calls to introduce the new account management service to customers, followed up with fact-finding calls, sales proposition and on-going quarterly reviews. â€œWe actually found that the cuddle call and the fact-finding call became one as customers were very keen to speak and explain about their needs, again demonstrating how much our customers were keen to engage and the high value we attached to the outbound calling campaigns.â€
Debt collection was a revelation
In parallel to contacting older customers, Ventrica was also asked by Canon to approach its aged debtor list to help recover monies owed. A single advisor at Ventrica was focused on contacting over 200 customers with what were classed as small debts. Paul says, ‘Over 11 months Barry Fulton was a revelation and made a huge impact on the ledger, equating to £250,000 collected in aged debt (delinquent for more than 3 months). Thanks to his efforts, Barry received a letter from our Head of Credit Control thanking him personally and congratulating him on a fantastic result.’
Future plans ‘click to call’ on ecommerce website and pan-European roll-out using Ventrica’s multi-lingual speakers
‘Ventrica is definitely part of the future of our business. We really appreciate the value that they provide on retaining business and generating additional revenue that would otherwise have been lost. As a partnership we have successfully worked together to build a highly functional sales team that fits perfectly with Canons ecosystem.’ Says Paul.
Canon also plans to use Ventrica to support a click to dial facility on its e-commerce website as they further develop their multi-channel approach to their market.