Rooted in tradition, Germany’s building material industry is undergoing a radical change. Established family enterprises have recognized that there is no escaping digitization.
The companies are also well aware that they face international competition that offers lower prices.
To stay relevant for the future, it is becoming all the more important for the construction companies to manage their sales processes efficiently and captivate business customers with exceptional service.
For the building materials supplier Dalhoff GmbH & Co. KG, the answer to this challenge became the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – a system that seamlessly unites the work and streamlines operations of different departments and teams, as well as centralizes data.
Building materials wholesaler Hermann Dalhoff GmbH & Co. KG is a family enterprise with more than 100 years of history. Founded in 1914, it is involved in the construction supplies trade and has been a partner in the Europe-wide building materials trade cooperative EUROBAUSTOFF for over 30 years.
Dalhoff has six locations in Germany with a total workforce of 130 employees. Its core customer group includes craft enterprises, so its sales processes are geared towards their needs.
CRM system as a digitization driving force
Honoring its century-long history, Dalhoff is, nevertheless, one of the innovation drivers in the building materials sector and is very open to technologies.
“If there is one thing that is important to us, it is for a new solution to make our work easier on a lasting basis and create added value for our customers and employees,” states Managing Director, Wilhelm Dalhoff.
The building supplies expert found such a solution in its new CRM system.
“Some time ago, we took a look around the sector and consistently heard positive things about SuperOffice CRM,” recalls Dalhoff. The CRM system, which the building materials supplier affectionately calls Käthe, has been in use at its three locations in the Münster region for a good three years now.
The decisive factor in opting for SuperOffice was that it could be easily linked to the cooperative subsidiary Infokom’s existing ERP system, where Dalhoff employees draw up all proposals for customers.
Since the ERP system would continue to function as the master system, the interface needed to guarantee that all information and changes would flow into the CRM system automatically. This would also ensure that no duplicates were produced.
Gathering knowledge about customers centrally
In the initial stage, the building materials expert used SuperOffice CRM to digitize around 500 customer files. These files are now being stored in the CRM system in electronic format.
This brought not one, but two advantages.
Firstly, employees could access customer files from wherever they happen to be – using the mobile CRM app while visiting a customer, for instance.
Secondly, Dalhoff saved office space since it no longer needed to store documents on paper. Besides the digital customer files which formed its knowledge base, SuperOffice CRM also contains the complete customer contact history with all emails and phone messages.
“The CRM system helps us to understand our customers more fully and cater to their specific needs,” explains Dalhoff. “The entire knowledge base is steadily expanding and helps us to establish long-term relationships.”
Knowing what customers need
Connecting SuperOffice CRM to the telephone system also enhanced Dalhoff’s customer relationship management.
Now, if an employee phones a customer or someone calls an employee, the CRM system recognizes who the customer is based on the phone number on file.
With one press of a button, the employee can access the relevant customer file and knows instantly which quote the customer might be contacting them about.
Dalhoff is convinced that modern communication systems that interlink information with knowledge are the only way to best serve customers. “Thanks to the optimized processes, customers give me more frequent feedback saying how we have become even more reliable and keep our word at all times," says Dalhoff.
Digital project tracking from start to finish
Besides gathering customer knowledge, Dalhoff wanted to track individual construction projects consistently on both a building and a project level. In the past, employees tried to map complex building projects in Outlook using countless reminders.
This approach quickly stretched them to their limits and also proved to be extremely ineffective and time-consuming.
Things are different since Dalhoff implemented the new solution. For example, if an employee comes across a newspaper article which announces a construction project, they create a new project in SuperOffice CRM and add the scanned article to the project.
It is then time to gather more information – for instance, about the architects or local authorities involved. Once the construction project enters the tendering stage, the Civil Engineering Department needs to step in.
They open the project and produce suitable bids based on the information it contains. All departments are involved, from Civil Engineering and Building Construction though to Dry Walling and Roof Construction.
With the introduction of SuperOffice CRM, everyone at the company works together and is able to enter and access information on construction projects at any time. As all data is available centrally, Dalhoff is able to press ahead with construction projects effectively, even if the main person in charge is absent for a short or longer period of time.
SuperOffice CRM thus allows tasks and responsibilities to be assigned easily and all relevant employees are informed.
Ready to face the competition
Whenever sales opportunities are identified, the individual departments or employees add notes that not only provide valuable information for the entire project team, but can also be used for future construction projects.
This allows Dalhoff to evaluate all sales potentials more suitably and manage their status more effectively.
And when the building materials supplier loses out to a competitor on a project, it adds this information to the CRM system too.
Dalhoff can now use the data to analyze possible reasons: were we too expensive? Was the customer not happy? Or do we always lose out to the same competitor?
Such information is invaluable since it helps the company with competition analysis.
Dalhoff also uses the CRM system to add evaluations and notes on those involved directly with projects. The building materials supplier is also able to display statistics on each construction project to identify from which customers it exploits full potential and from which customers it does not.
Such evaluations are also suitable as the basis for discussion with the customer concerned at annual meetings.
High acceptance among employees
New computer systems and applications do not always meet with employee approval.
But circumstances were different at Dalhoff since it was the sales team which had initiated the idea of introducing the CRM system.
“One day my sales employees came to me and quickly convinced me of the benefits that a CRM system would bring,” remembers Dalhoff.
Of the 45 or so sales staff now actively working with SuperOffice CRM, eight formed part of a team that was involved at every stage of the project right from the outset.
Today, these key users act as a point of contact at the Münster region branches and ask other users at regular intervals whether they have encountered any problems with the system or have any suggestions for improvement.
“Younger employees in particular find SuperOffice CRM a great help in their work. However, all other team members were also quickly impressed by its advantages. I also work with the CRM system daily myself and wholeheartedly agree with their verdict,” states Dalhoff.
“If you initiate such a project on a broad basis, acceptance comes automatically. If someone helps to develop something, then they’re also going to readily accept it.”
An investment in the future
Since Dalhoff started using the CRM system, the company has been able to manage sales processes more effectively. This is thanks to the clarity that the system creates and due the possibility to constantly track objects and building projects.
Moreover, the new solution has managed to connect planners with customers and create consistency. The seamless interlinking of customer knowledge has enabled Dalhoff to cater for customers in a more targeted way and meet their specific expectations.
Consequently, Dalhoff’s customers not only receive added value through better customer service, but the company also displays higher levels of professionalism.
But Dalhoff won’t rest on its laurels, as it continues to aspire to greater things. Now that the building materials supplier has successfully digitized its sales processes and customer service, in the future it intends to make greater use of SuperOffice CRM for marketing!
For example, the plan is to dispatch a sales campaign newsletter to ensure a continuous, lasting communication process with (potential) customers.
Taking the plunge with digitization
If building materials suppliers are seeking to position themselves for the future, they need to take the plunge and go digital. Introducing a CRM system can be the first decisive step in that direction.
“Our Käthe becomes an ever more valuable source of joy as every year goes by,” affirms Wilhelm Dalhoff. “As a EUROBAUSTOFF partner, I can only recommend that every building materials supplier takes a closer look at SuperOffice.
First of all, it provides them with a powerful tool.
Secondly, if they use InfoPro ERP system as we do, they have a reliable IT partner to assist them thanks to the cooperative partnership with Infokom, which constantly adapts to changes on the building materials market.”
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