Case Study:

Brown Chemical

Winning the Paper Chase
Whenever Brown Chemical Co., Inc. makes a sale, it’s not enough that the product arrive on time and in the appropriate quantity. The Oakland, NJ-based chemical distributor has to be sure its customers know how to use the product safely. That’s not just a business imperative; it’s a government requirement. Thanks to Clear Technologies C2CRM, a new customer relationship management (CRM) system supplied by Clear Technologies, an IBM Premier Business Partner based in Coppell, Texas, Brown Chemical can meet these regulatory requirements and keep on top of customer concerns.

The third-generation family company carries more than 1,500 SKUs, which it sells to 1,000 different companies in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal care, fragrance, flavor, and food industries. Use of these products is regulated by federal bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration – plus a host of state agencies.

All these agencies produce documents listing regulations and it’s Brown Chemical’s responsibility to make sure their customers receive all the appropriate information.

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Staying in Contact
Until recently, the company was using an optical storage-and-retrieval system for customer-related documents. “This system had outrun its useful life,” said Douglas Brown, President of Brown Chemical. “Its main focus was on regulatory compliance. This is a capability that we absolutely need to have. But we also wanted to move into customer relationship management in a more robust way, so we can track and resolve issues electronically with customers.”

For their customer information management, Brown Chemical was using a PC-based contact manager, which was an individual rather than a group application. This led to different staff members having different versions of the same information in their personal contact files – while other members received no information at all.

Realizing these system limitations, Brown began shopping for a CRM system that would combine enterprise-wide customer relationship management, workflow management and document management. He briefly considered using Microsoft Exchange Server as the underlying platform, but quickly realized that Lotus Domino suited his company’s needs better.

“With Exchange Server, we’d have to add-on other products to accomplish what we’re doing today,” Brown explained. “Using Domino, we could accomplish all that and have greater capability moving forward. It came down to our core business need: a strong document management system with workflow capability. Exchange is a very good mail server program; but we also needed a very good workflow program.”

As a hardware platform, Brown quickly zeroed in on the IBM iSeries. “We knew that this was going to be a mission- critical application, and we wanted to take advantage of the iSeries’ excellent uptime,” he said. “We’ve used iSeries for years and have received tremendous performance from them.”

Brown Chemical considered a competing Domino-based sales automation system, but it lacked full document management capability. “This was what tipped the scales,” Hurn said. “You can send massive amounts of information to massive numbers of people via e-mail, regular mail or fax, then it logs what was sent to whom. The usefulness of this function for tracking regulatory documents was that final factor that sold Douglas Brown on the system,” Hurn recalls.
Focused on companies of all sizes
When Mr. Brown started looking into Domino-based CRM systems, he found that many were aimed at large enterprises. “We wanted to find a company that was focused on the middle market space. We needed a system that was easy to maintain and we couldn’t afford to put our staff in a training class for an entire week!” That’s when Mr. Brown learned about Clear Technologies C2, a Domino-based CRM solution, through an IBM marketing campaign. It is targeted firmly at small and mid-sized companies, or small and mid-sized divisions of large companies. “Their product accomplished what we needed it to,” Brown said.

Clear Technologies C2 offers far more than basic sales and marketing tools, notes Chantaye Hurn, the Clear Technologies sales representative who sold the system to Brown Chemical. Its functions include enterprise-wide contact management, sales force automation for quoting and business opportunities, the ability to create and track marketing campaigns, and project management services.

Facing the Future
During the transition of moving data from the old system, Mr. Brown started discovering the product’s real potential. “We just received a price-increase notification from one of our vendor companies. The information was sent via email. Using Clear Technologies C2, I copied and pasted the data directly from my email into the product activity record. Within minutes, the information was available to everyone using the system. We would not have been able to do that before.”

“In another instance, I had a couple of ongoing product-quality questions with a specific customer. I kept detailed notes on all our conversations within the system. Going forward, that information will be tremendously valuable. Now any of our customer service representatives can pull up the record within Clear Technologies C2, and see the solution we proposed.”

Clear Technologies C2 CRM has strategic, as well as tactical value for Brown Chemical. “The wholesale distribution business is all about taking costs out of the system,” Brown explained. “Consolidation is a fact of life in our industry, on both the distribution and manufacturing sides, as well as the customer base. We want to keep our people assets constant, while using our technology assets to grow the company.”

“The wholesale distribution business is all about taking costs out of the system. We want to keep our people assets constant, while using our technology assets to grow the company.”
-Douglas Brown,
President for Brown Chemical Co., Inc.

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