Behind the Scenes: Smith-Cooper [Part 1]

Here’s an inside look at another customer interview we had with Vice President of Customer Service and Inside Sales at Smith-Cooper, Chris Cerf. Smith-Cooper International is a building materials company and is one of the largest importers of pipe fittings and valves in the US. Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Esker: Hello Chris, thanks for speaking to us today. Let’s start with an overview of your role at Smith-Cooper.

Chris: I manage a team that assists in broadening relationships with customers and processing orders and quotes. We have a field sales team that sells our brand and products to a number of distributors, and when we penetrate those accounts or have inquiries from those accounts, they funnel through my team: the inside sales team.

Esker: What was that process like for your team when it came to handling those requests and orders?

Chris: The overwhelming majority of our orders (probably 85%) were either coming in via email or fax. For a completely manual process, we had a fairly low error rate of about 1 error per 1000 lines, but that was largely because we were throwing bodies at it.

Prior to Esker, we were such a highly paper-driven organization. We printed a copy of all the PO’s we got and stored them in files. We used to have reams of paper sitting around in our offices and in our warehouses because we needed extra space to store them.

Plus, we have a really diverse set of customers. Some place orders with us every day, some place orders multiple times every day. We may get an order from some customers once or twice a month. The frequency is highly variable, so we wanted a solution that could perform regardless of the variability.

Esker: When you decided to use an automation solution, was there any other solution that you were using or looking at?

Chris: Oh yeah. We were actually really close to signing with another company that was going to help with just a fraction of the orders. Their approach was more like, “Take a look at your biggest customers, prioritize them and make sure their PO’s are a certain format.” But we ran into a stumbling block when, during the scope of work, we sent them a PO of one of our biggest customers, and their response was, “Well, we can’t work with this. Can you go back to your customer and ask them if they can change their format?” And that really left a bad taste in our mouth. We wanted to enter an implementation process where our customers didn’t feel any changes.

Esker: What was it that ultimately made you choose Esker?

Chris: We looked at a number of companies and had a few that were in here talking to us. A lot of them didn’t have any proof points though, and we didn’t want to be a guinea pig for anybody. When we found Esker, we didn’t feel like we were going to be the guinea pig — there was a lot of experience on your side. It was refreshing to find a company that not only had a lot of proof points, but also had a proven understanding of our industry and the process. It was really nice.

Also, not having to cherry pick which of our customers’ orders we could take was a big deal for us. The ability to take faxes and a large variety of different types of formats was key, and Esker could pretty much take on anything. Esker has an extensive background in cloud fax which helped dramatically. It gave us different options regarding how to handle faxes which, in turn, gave us a lot of certainty.

Esker: That’s awesome, Chris. So you’ve decided to go with Esker and everything’s signed and ready to go. Can you walk us through what the implementation process was like?

Chris: I would say it was pretty darn great! I had a lot of apprehension about it; I’m a former consultant, with a number of good and bad change management stories. We’re not a company that turns on a dime, so I stressed over it a lot. But I would say that with the amount of planning that we put into it and with it being largely led by the members of our team as well as the Esker team, we put the right rigor around the solution itself as well as the change process.

Our Esker folks, Brian and Nali particularly, made the entire experience so comfortable for us. Not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint. We realized that they were really, really good at their jobs. We like those two a lot.

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