Text by Silja Kudel
To say that digital technology is radically changing the way we do business is an understatement. With customers growing more digital-savvy, demand is growing exponentially for sophisticated online customer services.
For well over a decade, UPM has been ahead of the curve as a digital pioneer, offering a palette of online tools unmatched in the paper industry.
UPM's digital journey began with its user-friendly Customer Online (COL) digital portal, which offers functionalities uniquely tailored to the needs of the individual customer. This easy-to-use portal provides paper customers with full access to their inventory and account history, invoicing and order status.
"Through COL, our customers can log onto their personalized dashboard and check for themselves what has been ordered, delivered and invoiced. They can also browse products, conduct various transactions, enter claims and request samples," explains Mark Hatfield, Director of E-Business at UPM Paper ENA.
Only a few clicks away
With COL steadily gaining popularity, this year marks a new digital milestone for UPM with the launch of eOrder, a new online 24/7 purchasing tool taking COL beyond just information-sharing.
Easy-to-master, time-saving and hassle-free, this new tool enables customers to order paper anytime and anyplace – whether at six in the morning or ten at night – literally as easily as any other kind of online shopping.
With eOrder, the customer simply logs in, browses the digital catalogue, picks the product, selects the desired quality and delivery date, and then submits the order, all in a few simple clicks. The order is then processed instantaneously.
"What's really nice is that the order goes directly into our SAP system – that's the really big change. Customers don't have to email us and wait for us to review our capacity. With the new tool, the order is automatically aligned with our processes," explains Hatfield.
As eOrder is integrated with UPM's existing information infrastructure, it provides reliable real-time feedback on UPM's order fulfilment capabilities. The risk of mistakes is minimized, as the system automatically scans the input for potential errors.
Fast track to satisfaction
With eOrder, UPM is able to guarantee its promise to the customer from the very moment the order is placed – with unprecedented speed, transparency and convenience.
"The eOrder tool is more than just a handy order channel. The order is automatically tied into our business processes, so we can offer speedy, accurate order confirmation – which of course means improved service and faster customer satisfaction."
The official external rollout of eOrder began at the start of 2017, after a run of customer trials last year, during which UPM worked with selected customers to deepen insights and fine-tune the system for a smooth user experience.
The initial feedback from customers has been highly encouraging. "If you can use Amazon, you know how to place an order with eOrder, it's not more difficult. And you can see the delivery date right away; you don't have to wait for a confirmation," states Bastian Steinmetz from Steinmetz Briefumschläge in Schenefeld, Germany.
Will digital replace face-to-face?
For as enthusiastic as Hatfield is about UPM's new digital interfaces, he hastens to add that UPM has no intention of moving all its business online. Personal service will also remain part of the portfolio, as the paper business is fundamentally a people business.
"Using digital channels doesn't mean that our contact with our customers will change altogether. We have always wanted to offer choices and build alternative channels for our customers to work with us, but this doesn't mean that digital platforms will ever fully replace traditional face-to-face service."
Quite the contrary, affirms Hatfield: "When routine, repetitive tasks are handled through automated self-service, it frees up more time for our sales teams to deliver better, personalized service and to be more focused and proactive in talking about new products and services."
When asked to predict the "next big thing" in UPM's digital offering, Hatfield fires a quick reply: "Mobility is a major growth area. Mobile apps are the new norm, so we are looking at making our digital services mobile-accessible. We are also looking for ways to improve our communication with customers by adding features such as an online customer chat to our COL portal."
UPM's aim is to eventually have all its customers using Customer Online (COL) on a regular basis. "We'd like to grow our active customers this year so that as many as possible are using eOrder by the end of 2017. External implementation will be expanded in years to come based on our experiences this year," reveals Hatfield.
With few competitors offering comparable resources or platforms, UPM looks set to remain the clear digital forerunner for the foreseeable future. "We offer digital services beyond any other paper producer. We can justifiably call ourselves 'best practice' in the industry," Hatfield concludes.