John Impellizeri Rejects the Obvious

John Impellizeri wanted to transform the customer experience for Lifetime Brands. To do that, he first transformed its entire CRM system.

JohnImpellizeri_LifetimeBrands
JohnImpellizeri, LifetimeBrands, CIO

The foundation of any solid business is formed by great customer relationships, and that foundation needs to be supported by an equally strong CRM system. Lifetime Brands, a global provider of kitchenware and tabletop products, asked its CIO John Impellizeri to develop a custom CRM application that would enhance the company’s relationship management efforts. Impellizeri dove into the project, beginning by evaluating the existing system.

“We started out doing our due diligence by reviewing the ‘obvious’ options,” Impellizeri says. “We considered upgrading our legacy system to the modern incarnation, moving CRM into SAP, and even buying a complete stand-alone CRM package. None of those options fit for one reason or another—including budget, time, or impact to the core business processes.”

Impellizeri and his team recognized that while the core components and fulfillment could be handled by SAP, there were two parts that proposed a challenge: CRM and payment-card processing.

“The solutions we looked at were either too detached from our ERP system (SAP) or too expensive,” Impellizeri says. “Our challenge was to find a solution to meet our needs and still fit into a tight budget for this project.”

Lifetime Brands had worked with New York-based True Interaction (TI) on some projects requiring highly customized applications interfacing with SAP and achieved tremendous success. So the company met with TI to see if they could build a custom CRM application that talked to SAP within their budget constraints and aggressive timeline.

“More than ever, in today’s challenging business environment, best-run companies are staying focused on their most valuable assets: their customers.”

“An assumption going into the meeting was that SAP would carry the load for order processing and fulfillment while CRM would handle customers, tickets, and email,” Impellizeri says. “We met with our SAP partner Dickinson + Associates to review the SAP portion of the project and quickly determined they were up to the task. Having worked with them on many projects, we were confident they could deliver the customizations needed to handle the SAP portion of the project.”

After meeting with TI, it was only a short time before the CRM project was approved and under way.

“More than ever, in today’s challenging business environment, best-run companies are staying focused on their most valuable assets: their customers. Companies seek to retain their best customers and maximize the effectiveness of every customer interaction—whether it’s sales, service, or marketing,” Impellizeri says.

Lifetime Brands’ ultimate solution was a hybrid consisting of True Interaction, SAP, and Jitterbit. Orders are entered into Demandware (the company’s e-commerce platform) transformed using Jitterbit middleware, and imported into SAP.

“Working with Dickinson + Associates, we were able to enhance our SAP wholesale implementation to handle retail orders including discounts, sales tax, and various pay methods,” Impellizeri says. “Customers from these orders are loaded into True Interaction to be used, if needed, for customer service. We then leveraged SAP Web Services using Net Weaver to allow True Interaction to look up orders, products, inventory, and even place no-charge replacement orders—all through a browser-based application. This provided our call center a 360-degree view of our customers without changing our preexisting structure in SAP of having one customer per website with many unique ship-to addresses.”

True Interaction also provides one-stop shopping for Lifetime Brands’ email needs—both inbound and outbound. Inbound emails are placed into queues and managed by type and skill set of the Customer Service Rep (CSR). Cases can be prioritized, escalated, and assigned to specific resources.

Outbound emails are handled through file feeds from SAP, such as shipping confirmation, or CSR-initiated. A copy of sent emails are stored and available for review from the customer screen. A CSR can read, resend, or forward sent emails to a customer including an alternate email address.

“Leveraging SAP web services provides real-time order, item, and inventory status that was not available previously unless a CSR had multiple screens open, and even then it was a challenge,” Impellizeri says. “Now they are only a few clicks away from all the information that they need to effectively answer consumer calls, questions, and issues.”

Other advantages of the system include the ability to reference their original order in SAP to ensure the correct replacement piece is being ordered. The hybrid system also allows for payment processing and sales tax.

Overall, Impellizeri points out, the CRM solution met the needs of the project at a budget-friendly price while still giving Lifetime Brands what it wanted. “While no software is perfect, our partners enabled us to craft a customized, flexible CRM solution that met the needs for our call center, our e-commerce team, and, most importantly, our management team,” Impellizeri says.

Quality management (QM) and CRM solutions go hand in hand; both profoundly impact the customer experience. That’s why Lifetime also invested in a new proprietary, mobile software QM application—a digitized, real-time, portable tool that standardizes factory and product inspections, providing inspectors with systemized directives, instant access to information, and corrective actions. Working with Dickinson + Associates and TI, Lifetime Brands envisions a QM application that improves quality, reduces warehouse rework costs, and gives retailers and consumers a better experience with Lifetime’s brands and products.

Designed to run on iPads, Lifetime QM puts a complete digital resource into the hands of inspectors, guiding them through all steps in standardized product and social compliance inspections. “This ensures that our criteria are met at every step of the process,” Impellizeri says. “Lifetime Brands is the first company, in any industry, to come out with this type of application; the potential for revolutionizing the industry is tremendous. Lifetime Brands is continuously striving to enhance the consumer experience, and Lifetime QM will help the company to achieve that goal.”