More time for customers

Marcel de Boer, Vice President Digital Customer Experience at Schaeffler on modern customer care.

When we introduced Salesforce at Schaeffler eight years ago, we implemented it as a classic IT project. During the gradual roll-out, we adapted, or “customized”, the software to the specific requirements of our units.

“The employees have to understand the benefits they get.”

Marcel de Boer,
Vice President Digital Customer Experience, Schaeffler

Initially only used by sales staff, we expanded the application to Marketing and Services in 2017. The aim was to increase collaboration between all customer-related functions to gain a 360-degree view of our customers – the right way especially for large, complex business partners. In the past, a colleague from one division often knew nothing about a process or order status from another, which was something customers couldn’t understand at all – and rightly so. We wanted to create transparency. Each employee should be able to understand which contacts and channels were previously used by customers to get in touch with Schaeffler.

It was clear then that tailor-made software adjustments hindered rather than helped us. Our company worked with three different system versions. We opted for harmonization and a way back to a standardized environment. User requirements were instead met with out-of-the-box solutions: in other words, functions of a software that are immediately available without any adjustments.

Taking people along

We had to rethink everything and switched the Salesforce implementation from an IT project to a change project. To be able to map the requirements of Sales, Marketing and Services with a standardized software solution, we focused more on organizational and process issues. This also changed team structures, with colleagues from various departments joining a team that so far had mainly consisted of IT professionals.

It’s not enough simply to introduce a software solution. You have to create the structures and know-how so people can use it. Marketing and Sales will become more data-driven with a CRM system. Individuals need to understand how they will use this data. And there will be new tasks for the organization as a whole. IT provides personalization options such as client newsletters. However, addressing everyone individually simply requires more content than before, which has to be created and assigned.


is software which enables customer data to be collected, managed and maintained. Marketing, Sales and Customer Services can use this data for optimal customer contact, acquisition and customer care.

Focusing on the customer

Creating an understanding and willingness to take this new path can best be achieved through personal contact to employees. Here, three aspects play a role. People have to understand the benefits they get from this tool. The message from managers is also important. They have to communicate clearly that they expect everyone to work with this tool. And of course employees need to get the necessary technical support through training and always know who to contact if they have any questions.

The process has been successful. In many areas, Salesforce has been very well received and used from day one. Some people were against it, but that’s an inevitable part of change. Today, 6,000 employees worldwide work with Salesforce at Schaeffler. The effort has paid off. Collaboration between Sales, Marketing and Services is more intensive, and the focus is on the customer. There have been many improvements for individual employees, especially for those who constantly use the tool. They benefit from the exchange of information with other divisions and automation in administrative activities. This allows them to look after their customers better and more closely. Because despite highly digitalized customer management, one thing hasn’t changed: personal relationships are still the key.


The Schaeffler Group is a global automotive and industrial supplier. With approximately 92,500 employees, Schaeffler is one of the world’s largest family-owned companies and, thanks to around 170 locations in over 50 countries, has a worldwide network of production locations, research and development facilities and sales companies.