How Sub-Zero Freezer Co. uses technology to revolutionize customer service

How Sub-Zero Freezer Co. uses technology to revolutionize customer service

This article is the first in a new UW E-Business Consortium member spotlight series. Sub-Zero Freezer Company joined the University of Wisconsin E-Business Consortium in 2002.
People who are passionate about food tend to appreciate creative appliance design. The brand those valued consumers turn to is Madison, Wis.-based Sub-Zero Freezer Co.
Sub-Zero’s built-in refrigeration units can be seamlessly integrated to match a home’s décor, allowing customization to be driven by the imagination – why not have storage for snacks and beverages in the home office and master bedroom? In combination with premier cooking instruments from its affiliate, Wolf Appliance Co., Sub-Zero provides its customers the ultimate in design and performance. What’s important to this food preservation pioneer and design leader is knowing who are the discerning buyers of its brand and its marketing return on investment.
So how does Sub-Zero get a full picture of its customers?
“We’re harnessing technology to take a major leap forward with our marketing efforts and become much more efficient,” said Michele Bedard, corporate director of marketing at Sub-Zero and Wolf. “CRM is a foundation of marketing where we can be very targeted, especially with luxury consumers, collect data and analyze it, which allows us to make better marketing decisions based on that learning.”
Simply, CRM (customer relationship management) is a strategy to identify and manage the most valuable customer relationships. As an idea, it’s nothing new. What is new is how technology has evolved to create sophisticated ways to use the accumulation of customer data to identify how to market to, sell to, and provide world-class service to customers and qualified prospective customers.

How CRM will help Sub-Zero become more customer focused

“We spend a lot of money on marketing trying to get qualified leads,” said Bedard, “and we don’t sell directly to consumers, rather we give leads to our distributors and dealers who hopefully sell the product.”
One example of the benefits Sub-Zero expects from CRM technology is how qualified leads are converted into sales by its dealers. Product brochure requests that come through Sub-Zero’s website are passed along to qualified dealers. Through CRM, product registrations can be analyzed back to sales leads to determine the effectiveness of not only Sub-Zero’s partners, but also the impact of different marketing campaigns in various geographic regions.
The latest CRM technology helps organizations build a 360-degree view of its customers by tracking all interactions and centralizing the data. That’s how information technology supports the type of customer service expected from a world-class brand.
“We have a big brand name, but we serve a niche market,” explained Bedard. “And more competitors are coming out every year. We need to be more clever and use our resources more wisely. We want to continue to be the leader in the high-end segment of the appliance category. CRM will help us develop a more relevant relationship with consumers in this niche.”

E-business is a backbone to strategic approach

There’s no doubt CRM and e-business technology is the backbone to Sub-Zero and Wolf’s strategic approach, but is it the lone savior that will help the company maintain its leadership status among consumers of high-end, quality refrigerator and freezer systems?
“No, CRM is really the appropriate blend of technology and processes,” said Bedard. “It’s about becoming more customer focused, knowing who our high potential customers are, talking to them with a relevant message and tracking our success over time. Personally, I think it’s a cultural change. It’s going to affect a lot of departments … marketing, sales, customer service, and also help our distributors. It’s going to help all of us do a better job.”
Since its founding in 1943, Sub-Zero has been at the forefront of refrigeration trends and engineered quality products that meet its customers’ needs. How long will it take for the company’s latest innovative approach to better serve not only its customers, but service centers, distributors and dealers?
“When I was talking about this a year and half ago I thought it would be done like that! [snap of fingers, laughter],” said Bedard. “But since we’re all on a learning curve, it’s good to have the UW E-Business Consortium help us through this.”
Sub-Zero CRM initiative is above and beyond an already very full calendar. “We all still have our day jobs,” Bedard said with a smile. With the new initiative came a new position and the company hired Gale Otterson to lead it. “She’s attending the [UW E-Business Consortium] Peer Groups and learning a ton. She gets a lot of concrete examples and life stories of how things are done in other companies. I would really encourage other companies to be part of that.”
After 60 years of market leadership, Sub-Zero looks forward to the benefits its two-year CRM initiative will bring to the company in the decades ahead.
Nancy Gores is the communications, marketing, and events manager for the UW E-Business Consortium.