Petzl's Digital Transformation Reinforces Customer Service

Christophe Cayot, head of IT, and Boris Stephan, in charge of web projects for Petzl, oversaw the case study carried out by students from EMSI Grenoble. The students analyzed the impact of a digital transformation on client relationships. Christophe Cayot and Boris Stephan share with us the benefits of this experience and how it contributed to their 2016 roadmap.


What were the advantages of participating in an EMSI Grenoble case study? 

Christophe Cayot and Boris Stephan

We decided to participate in this experience in order to benefit from an outside perspective on our digital transformation. The objective was clear: to prepare a roadmap for 2016. Petzl is very B2B oriented, but we have more and more direct contact with end-users. This evolution is transforming our relationship with clients.

The students, who already had professional experience, provided us with top-notch analyses. They understood what we're about and identified our strengths and weaknesses. They interviewed our employees and provided us with interesting results. While they highlighted the excellence of our tools, they also pointed out that in certain sections of the company there was a surprisingly high lack of know-how concerning the use of these tools.

They managed to highlight several issues we hadn't noticed or had had trouble clearly expressing. The students also carried out a benchmark study with a similar company that works in an international market and sells goods based on a passion. This study allowed them to highlight ideas that worked and ones that failed. The results of this study helped us identify the key factors to successfully digitalize our client relations.

Their external perspective was the real advantage of participating in this study. The students met our objectives and now it's up to us to exploit and use this information in order to convince our leaders on which projects to implement. We are currently in the process of preparing our 2016 roadmap using the documents and advice provided by the students.

How did Petzl chose to approach the challenge of a digital transformation?

Historically speaking, users have always been a key component of Petzl's strategy. This can be explained by the fact that the company was created in 1968 by the explorer and speleologist, Fernand Petzl. Paul Petzl, the founder's son and the group's current president, is also very attached to our users.

Our digital transformation has allowed us to reinforce client relationships and be closer to our user-communities around the world. We began our transformation with social networks and opened a Facebook page in 2006. At first we approached this transformation from a communications perspective. Social networks provided us with a good means to share our expertise. Then in 2009, a community manager job was created.

Today, we are visible on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Ilooove.it. Over time, users transformed our approach to social networks. They used them to express their opinions and ask questions. We therefore evolved from simply communicating our developments to providing real customer service via these digital tools. This is one of the key characteristics of the digital world: Clients gain additional control. It's a very positive change as it helps us better know and understand the expectations of our clients. These tools also encourage exchanges and build trust.

Social networks have revolutionized your customer service. What changes for the company has this evolution implied?

In the digital era, honesty and reacting quickly are the keys to successful client relations. Today, we provide clients with an answer within 48 hours, whereas seven or eight years ago, an answer might have taken up to seven days. Every morning, an expert committee meets to deal with technical questions which often require testing. The rule is that we immediately inform the client that we're dealing with their question. The time it takes for us to give a final answer then depends on the nature of the client's request. This approach allows us to turn unhappy clients into satisfied clients who may even become ambassadors for the brand.

Inside the company, our job structure was greatly affected by the importance of social networks. The web team now has to manage communications and after sales service as well as act as a link between users and the various services that might have the expertise to answer specific questions. Our after sales team had to learn to answer customer requests at a much quicker pace. They can no longer simply answer emails, but also have to use Twitter or Facebook. The company had to undergo a real change of culture.

Our goal is to rationalize client relations. We're going to create a unique portal through which all client inquiries will pass. This will allow them to be automatically directed towards the right service. But this culture of client satisfaction cannot be limited to our customer service department. All of our employees have to be aware of this culture. In the end, each employee contributes to client satisfaction at his or her own level. 

The company is a great example of internal collaboration between IT and marketing departments. Was this one of the keys to Petzl's successful digital transformation?

Definitely. However, this wasn't always the case. Before, the marketing department created projects without consulting the IT department and sometime projects were impossible to implement. This was a real loss of time and a source of frustration. The IT department had to learn to understand what is at stake for the marketing department and the marketing department had to understand technical constraints.

The web is about content, design and IT systems. We launched an IT plan three years ago to provide departments with new tools and improve existing ones. By collaborating with the IT department, our marketing team is now able to create digital projects that fit within our technical constraints. This allows us to make better and faster strategic choices. 

What future digital challenges will Petzl have to overcome?

We've already launched our mobile-friendly website. We're now in the process of reworking our B2B website to offer our distributors more services, in particular the ability to personalize product flyers and obtain certification information according to each country. We're also working on a unique portal for customer service and we're improving our ability to handle multilingual data in order to better know our clients. Our marketing and IT departments are working hand in hand to overcome these challenges.