It’s one thing to pivot a global sales operation to remote working. It’s another to do so on the verge of completing a three-year digital transformation. But to do all this when customers around the world are also confined to their homes by the pandemic? Now that’s a real challenge.

Yet that’s exactly what Turkish manufacturer Arçelik has done. Arçelik’s 32,000 employees manufacture, market, and sell durable consumer goods in more than 145 countries — with full sales and marketing operations in 34 countries managing dozens of brands including Elektra Bregenz, Beko, Blomberg, and Grundig.

When COVID-19 swept across the globe, Arçelik responded fast, accelerating its digital transformation and spinning up new processes that would not only address business during lockdown but would also shape new practices to better serve customers far into the future.”

Sinan Erkiner

Sinan Erkiner, Country Leader for Turkey at Salesforce, spoke to Arçelik’s IT Business Analysis & Business Relations Manager, Ziya Aşkar, to get the scoop.


A global pandemic could have stopped the business entirely. What allowed you to keep serving customers while sales and service people were all working from home?

Ziya Aşkar: Developing an ecommerce capability was already a key initiative behind our drive to make Arçelik an omnichannel operation. But at the same time, we knew that ecommerce wasn’t a preferable or even viable purchasing method for large swathes of the market.

Then, as we all fell into the grip of COVID-19, our omnichannel approach allowed us to switch our 800 call centre agents to work from home in a matter of days. Using Salesforce Service Cloud allowed us to adapt fast and ensure continuity of customer care. 

At the same time, it became even more vital to cater to our customers’ needs with flexibility and empathy. As physical contact was reduced, we were determined that everyone — even those with limited access to or experience of ecommerce — would receive the same levels of service they’d come to expect. For instance, we’ve made it easier for people to get in touch with their local dealers. We quickly implemented a branch in our call centre scripts so our agents can direct customers to the right people.

When a consumer asks to purchase a product, we take the information needed, such as what kind of product they’re looking for, and where they live. The system in the background automatically assigns this request as a task to one of our sales reps.

Through Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, the right rep is immediately notified through their mobile app. They can then connect the customer with their local dealer. No opportunity gets lost in the handover and no customer is left behind.

It’s also allowed us to improve our own sales operations by holding reps accountable. Every task is traceable — if the task isn’t managed by the sales rep in time, the line manager can see and help solve the issue.

Without Service Cloud, this wouldn’t be possible. We’d have to use far less efficient, manual methods.”

Ziya Aşkar

How are you servicing customers during COVID who aren’t yet digital-savvy?

ZA: We tapped into our dealership network in Turkey to offer customers the most convenient payment and delivery methods during the pandemic. 

Rather than signing up payment details online, customers can give their signature in their own doorway at the point of delivery. And our dealers can offer payment plans that don’t require a credit card.

This has proven particularly popular with our older customers who, being mainly confined indoors during the pandemic, are often at risk of missing out on online purchasing opportunities due to a lack of digital training.

Frankly, there are lots of reasons customers don’t use ecommerce, from fear of technology, or simply not having a credit card. We’re finding new ways to reach these people, especially in a time when they’re needed most.

Salesforce let us implement this approach in a couple of days — it’s been such a successful use case that’s helped us handle the COVID-19 situation with empathy and flexibility. Essentially, we’ve found a digital way to do physical delivery.


How are you keeping dealers in the value chain?

ZA: We’re not just adopting these new processes to tide us over during COVID-19. We’ve got a long-term focus on doing things better — and that includes how we work with our partners.

Arçelik’s customers are a key part of our ecosystem, but so are our dealers. COVID-19 has caused significant economic turmoil, and we were determined to include our wider network in the omnichannel process. This is a time when dealers, customers, and corporations truly depend upon each other.

On the eve of the COVID-19 crisis, we started using our dealer network to fulfill e-commerce orders. By doing so we improved our delivery times significantly. When COVID-19 hit hard, curfews and transportation lockdowns made it difficult to fulfill the orders centrally. Within weeks we extended our fulfilment scope to all dealer warehouses, enabling fast delivery even within pandemic conditions.

Our values revolve around our dealer network. We want to unify them under the Arçelik umbrella — that way we can support them in selling our products and delivering for customers in the best way possible.

We’re committed to building a flexible, efficient, and better buying experience that we can all continue to use and iterate long after COVID-19 has ended.


How has this changed how Arçelik does business going forward?

ZA: At some point, we imagine life will return to normal. Rather than wait for that to happen, we’re taking the initiative now by adding more strings to our omnichannel bow. Moving forward, that means more satisfied customers and happy dealers.

For instance, we’re now integrating SMS into the sales process. Soon, customers who don’t want to purchase through the ecommerce website will be able to physically enter their card details into the link that has been shared through an SMS message. Later we plan to add IVR payments to make purchasing even more convenient for customers.

Let’s be honest, when COVID-19 finishes, everybody’s going to shop outside like crazy! Nobody’s staying at home. But, for those people who do want to stay home (and like the comfort of shopping from the couch), now there's a different option for them as well.

We can’t help but applaud when a company invests this much effort into giving customers the buying experience that truly fits them. And to do it all in the middle of a pandemic? That’s trailblazing.”

Ziya Aşkar

Need assistance stabilising, reopening, and growing your business? Check out the COVID-19 Response Playbook to learn how to lead and build resilience for the Next Normal.

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