Document automation for manufacturers: far beyond just sales docs
Kimmo Salmela · February 01, 2023 · 9mins
Over the years, Salesforce has developed into so much more than just a sales tool. It has become a true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that can support every step of the customer journey. It can provide a complete 360° view of the customer with its numerous clouds, including the Marketing, Sales, Community and Service Clouds.
For manufacturers, this offers great possibilities to accelerate and streamline customer interactions at all touchpoints for top service experience. They span the whole quote-to-cash process and even beyond, to post-sale support activities.
The development of Salesforce’s reach reflects the fact that the fastest automation growth is created by the wide range of activities known as ‘business operations’. These include many customer-facing roles like sales, marketing and customer support (but also finance and HR), reports Workato.
For us at Documill, all this has meant the delivery of exciting document automation and collaboration projects. They have spanned many manufacturers’ customer touchpoints beyond sales. Usually, they have included the deployment of the related workflows, never mind how complex.
In this article, we look at five case studies of such real-life document automation solutions:
- Generation of complex global service offers with localized content
- Automated contracts and shipping documents
- Generation of shipment labels.
- Fast customer complaint response creation
- Automated field service reporting.
But before looking at the actual cases, I will have a few words about the motivation behind all of them.
Figure 1. Customer touchpoints and use cases covered in this article.
Why do it – the benefits in detail
Many of the cases described have been implemented on one or more Salesforce clouds integrated with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, such as SAP S/4HANA, Microsoft Dynamics or Oracle Fusion Cloud.
As they all are about interaction with customers, the benefits that follow tend to be quite similar across them:
Higher customer satisfaction
- faster customer responses, fewer falling between the cracks
- higher quality documents with fewer errors
- localization: automated translations and region-specific branding
- guaranteed delivery to customers
- quicker task completion
- automation: manual work only where it adds value
Enhanced data management
- centralized access to generated responses with full history
- better insights to correct product weaknesses
- actionable task alerts
- fast and guaranteed internal delivery for comments and approval
- standardized workflows/processes to guide the users of the solutions.
Ok, and now on to our customer use cases.
Complex global service offers with localized content
One of our customers delivers marine and energy solutions for cruise ships, ferries, vessels, yachts and/or offshore operations. They have sales engineer teams installed all over the world, so they can ensure truly local service – an important function, especially as the company’s solutions tend to be quite complex with many components.
However, with such level of localization and complexity may come fragmentation of the sales processes. This is also what our customer learned. Streamlining them became a necessity to eliminate repetitive tasks, unnecessary downtime and inefficiency.
To make it happen, the company decided to build a single service offer creation tool inside Salesforce. This would allow them to replace several of different systems with one to speed up and standardize global sales processes – without losing any of their local touch.
Figure 2. Automated quotation creation workflow.
An important part of the tool is the Documill document automation solution based on the Documill Dynamo AppExchange app. With it, the sales engineer teams can now:
- quickly and efficiently prepare and deliver complete offers
- ensure a professional layout
- get clear guidance on the document parts to include to ensure compliance and professional structure
- follow a simple, standardized process of preparing offers, from the creation, internal review and approval to the handover to the delivery team
- make offer reviews and purchases easy for the customers, with automatically localized content.
Automation of contracts and order delivery documents
A manufacturer and wholesaler of high-quality disposables approached us for a solution to automate delivery document and contract creation. The project was by no means a small one, as the company boasts a product assortment of more than 36,000 products and has 2000-plus workers producing and delivering them.
And, with the company’s presence in more than 90 markets globally, proper localization of the documents was a key requirement. Also, the industries served are many, from healthcare and medical to restaurants and hotels, cleaning and waste management providers, and so much more.
We delivered a solution to the customer that enables automated generation of:
- Contracts for different types of products, each with standard terms and conditions.
- Documents for product sample deliveries, to be included in sample packages sent to partners and customers for testing and verification.
The company has a strong ambition for digital transformation as a means to secure a competitive advantage. A long-term partnership with Documill has enabled them to centralize document template building for controlled creation, maintenance and storing of document templates, which allows to:
- automate document generation, saving time and effort.
- customize documents by editing them online.
- build and use a clause library for quick selection of alternative document sections
- use the Documill e-signing capability for accelerated transaction completion.
- visualize marketing & sales data by generating charts and graphs and based on data collected from customers’ and partners’ product trials. The data is collected in Salesforce, automatically distilled and calculated into insights, which are then presented in the final material produced by Documill solution.
- produce documents in multiple languages for localized output.
Collaboration in the strategic development will continue between the customer and Documill. In the future, the company looks to expand their digital processes with internal approvals and online document collaboration.
Figure 3. Various sales documents often include much of the same content. For example at Documill, we use the same document as an offer and contract for easy dealmaking.
Generation of shipment labels? Not as simple as it sounds…
But innovation is not always about streamlining complicated processes. Sometimes simple things work wonders. That is, if you have a flexible automation tool and a little bit of creativity and skill when putting it to use – like one of our consultants did.
In this case, our customer is a European distribution company of printed marketing mail. Its distribution network delivers approximately one billion products in an unaddressed manner: brochures, customer magazines, public announcements and so forth.
Many a pallet leaves their warehouse, each with a fixed number of labels on them.
The customer wanted a solution to automatically print out those labels straight out of Salesforce. Wasting paper is a no-no to the customer, so they wanted just the right number of labels printed out (of course, with the option to print out an extra in case a label gets tarnished).
Now, the thing was that document automation solutions made for Salesforce do not usually support this kind of use. Unless you choose a flexible one like Documill Dynamo, use a little imagination and – bingo!
With a click, our customer’s solution:
- dynamically calculates the number of labels needed exactly for a shipment
- populates all fields in the label with the appropriate data, for example, the number of boxes on each pellet and items included in each box.
- triggers printing of the labels.
Simple as that – and much manual work and hassle have been eliminated.
Accelerated customer complaint response creation
A leading European car manufacturer (and its customers) suffered an unreliable and slow complaint response process, whenever customers found something wrong in the cars they had bought.
The agents dealing with the complaints created the responses one by one, without systematic reuse of content, lacking a centralized database and proper version control. Circulation for commenting and approval happened also manually. This gave space for mistakes and delays, putting the customer experience at risk.
To streamline the complaint handling process and accelerate it on a global basis, Documill’s document automation solution was deployed on their Salesforce. Not only did it automate creation of response documents, but the whole response generation, commenting and approval workflow.
Now the complaint handling agents can:
- generate the responses strictly in line with the manufacturer’s brand guidelines, down to the exclusive font
- insert their comments directly on the documents without leaving Salesforce,
- send the document and comments to their superiors via actionable alerts for quick reviews and approvals
- send out the approved responses as emails
- use Salesforce as a centralized database for storing and archiving the responses, with an automated version control and audit trail
- reuse past responses from a clause library
- rely on a standardized workflow. When beginning to create a new response, they are presented with a decision-making tree, devised by filtering. It helps to drill down to any reusable past responses by prompting to select details like the make and the model of the car and some finer details.
Figure 4. Quick complaint response with Documill document automation.
To ensure smooth deployment, Documill also gave guidance and assistance in creating document templates, the workflow logic and the forms. Documill’s knowledge base and customer helpdesk are providing the customer’s Salesforce admins with future assistance.
Automated field service reporting
Another one of our customers is a leading European provider of inspection, testing, certification and technical consultancy services. The job of the company is to ensure that different industrial and other environments, equipment, processes and projects comply with all relevant legal, quality, safety and environmental requirements.
A large number of documents – audit reports and certificates – is produced on a daily basis for customers, to summarize the findings of a field inspection visit.
Given the sensitivity of its business and the trust required from the customers, the company wanted to connect to them even better with added transparency.
To make this possible, the company deployed the Salesforce platform, complemented by the Documill document automation solution.
Now the inspectors can:
- Easily store and organize the huge amount of data collected in the field.
- Use also a mobile device to do so.
- Coordinate tasks with any customer by having all their data in an individual account. If there is, say, an elevator to be inspected and another one soon due for the same customer, both jobs can be done on the same site visit to save time and effort.
- Generate and send reports and certificates with a click, populated with the data in Salesforce, with manual work and errors eliminated.
- Keep all documents also stored in the Salesforce accounts for future reference.
As a result, the company’s customer service has gotten better and even more reliable. Interactions with the customers are now easier and quicker, all through the customer journey.
Figure 5. A page of a field service report.
I hope this article has given you an idea of the vast possibilities of document automation in Salesforce for manufacturing companies – especially on solutions beyond the generation of simple sales documents.
Would you like to learn more about these cases – or perhaps some others, to take things yet a step further? Just contact us and let’s discuss!
Kimmo Salmela is a communications manager at Documill. Earlier on, he worked in several industry and solution marketing and communication positions at Nokia. Now Kimmo focuses on online collaboration technologies and their future prospects for businesses.
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