Today’s connected devices are more than just e-readers, tablets, and television sets. Everything from wristwatches to vending machines to jet engines are now connecting with the companies that make and run them. New England Biolabs — which produces specialized enzymes and other reagents for genomic (DNA) research — connected its freezers in customer labs to better serve the scientists that use its products.
“When scientists can work faster, they can finish more experiments, and advance their scientific understanding in less time,” says Andrew Bertera, Executive Director of Marketing. “We built a connected freezer with App Cloud so we can keep in touch with researchers in real time and better anticipate their needs. Now we can better support them to solve their problems.”
Several years ago, the company re-imagined the way it manages inventory, placing freezers containing its products on site at customer facilities. Researchers could immediately conduct experiments faster, but New England Biolabs wanted closer connections to customers. As Bertera explains, “We still didn’t know what their total experience with our products was like, which specific enzymes individual researchers were using, or how they combined them. We wanted a way to build one-to-one relationships, so we could do more to meet their needs.”
New England Biolabs sales, marketing and support teams were already using Salesforce to manage customer information as well as respond to technical support issues. The company also installed Chatter in 2012 and its use quickly became integrated into many of its business processes. In fact, the volume of certain email threads has slowed down, because more conversations now start in Chatter.
The use of Salesforce at New England Biolabs is frequently considered the basis for developing competitive advantage, and it quickly hit on the idea of connecting the freezers. “Our freezers are a primary customer touch point,” says Bertera. “We realized that if we could connect them to Salesforce, we had the potential to completely transform the customer experience and how we do business.”
Using App Cloud, NEB built a custom application that resides on a tablet on the front of the freezer. Scientists use the app to open the freezer and scan products for check out. Bertera says, “It’s been described as an ATM for enzymes.” With App Cloud, it’s easy to capture customer interaction data, as well as information on the freezer’s temperature and lock status.
NEB also connected the freezers with its own back office systems. Automated inventory replenishment through its existing ERP system means that researchers always have the products they need. And, New England Biolabs staff can see what products are being purchased in real time — even through their mobile devices.
Every step of the sales process is connected to Salesforce, from order placement to receipts that are emailed to the customer. Salesforce automatically records when the freezer is unlocked, who unlocked it, and which products are removed. New England Biolabs can connect the dots between the research that customers are doing, the products they are using, and the way that they’re purchasing.
“For the first time we can spot trends. If we see that customers are often using two products together, we can bundle them, or combine them into a new product to make it easier for them,” says Bertera. The company can even market these new products or bundles to researchers through the screen on the front of the freezer.
Bertera adds, “If we’re helping a researcher — even in a small way — get to a Eureka moment faster, then we’re happy.”