In 1989, Jeff Lebesch took a bicycling trip through Belgium on his fat-tire mountain bike, stopping frequently for Belgian brews. As he pedaled through European villages, he dreamed of returning to his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, to make beer this delicious and interesting.
Lebesch returned home with a head full of recipes and started brewing in his kitchen. Two years later, in 1991, he launched New Belgium Brewing Company with the company’s flagship Fat Tire ale. As of 2012, New Belgium was the third-largest craft brewery and eighth-largest overall brewery in the United States, with 480 employees and an annual production volume of more than 700,000 barrels.
As an employee-owned company, New Belgium prides itself on finding better ways to get things done. The company urges employee-owners to find smarter ways to work, eliminate waste, and improve continuously. It was one of the first craft breweries to employ extensive automation and use Microsoft software from desktop to data warehouse to improve beer consistency, quality, production, and promotion.
Help Busy Beer Rangers
In 2012, New Belgium adopted a customer relationship management (CRM) system, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, as its single place to track everything relating to accounts—the restaurants and retailers that buy New Belgium beer. To maximize the efficiency of busy Beer Rangers—its 120 sales associates—New Belgium worked with Microsoft Partner Sonoma Partners to create a touch-enabled mobile app called Rangerland that runs on the Windows 8.1 Enterprise operating system and pulls targeted account information from Microsoft Dynamics CRM for quick and easy access in the field. Rangers can see their appointments, recap meetings, conduct quality surveys, and view key account reports.
“Our Rangers work brutal hours in harsh environments—beer coolers, basements, and back rooms,” says Jessica Schleiger, CRM Administrator and Ranger Relationship Counselor for New Belgium Brewing Company. “Because it’s in their hands and so intuitive, the Rangerland app encourages Rangers to feed account data to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and use our CRM data to sell more beer.”
Enhance Rangerland with New Capabilities
Rangerland was hugely popular, and Rangers flooded Schleiger with requests for new features. By working with Microsoft Services to upgrade Beer Ranger tablets (Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook Convertibles) to the Windows 8.1 Update, New Belgium was able to implement multiple improvements, including:
- Offline reporting. Thanks to the superior access to local storage provided by Windows 8.1, Rangers can now run key reports without Internet connectivity. “There’s often no mobile signal, let alone Wi-Fi, in a beer cooler,” Schleiger says.
- Easy access to more data. Rangers use the powerful Windows 8.1 search capability to quickly access needed information in Rangerland or other applications.
- Faster deployment. Schleiger and Jess Askey, IT Business Analyst at New Belgium who helps administer Rangerland, now deploy the app and its updates using Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, a software deployment and management tool. Previously, they had to wait until salespeople were back at headquarters once a year to manually install them on Ranger tablets.
Improve Ranger Productivity, Sell More Beer
Rangerland adoption has soared even higher with the Windows 8.1 Update improvements. “Rangers love this app more than ever and are using it constantly and thinking of even more improvements,” Schleiger says. Rangers have been able to whittle a seven-minute sales call down to two or three minutes and accomplish in seconds what used to take minutes. Instead of doing 10 quality surveys a week, some Rangers are doing 25. “With administrative tasks streamlined, Beer Rangers have more time to focus on selling,” Askey says. “From 2011 to 2014, our sales volume has increased 20 percent. Rangerland has helped us keep up in a high-growth culture.”
Equally important to New Belgium is work-life balance. “Our key goal is to save Rangers time and sanity,” Schleiger says. “Rangerland encourages employees to get their job done in the moment rather than at night. They don’t have to spend time digging through notes and searching for napkins in pockets to recap account notes.”
Improve Customer Education, Loyalty
Rangers have more time and more data to use to educate customers. Better educated customers are more loyal to New Belgium beer and sell more of it. “When Rangers are equipped with more data, they can do a better job of selling,” Askey says. “One restaurant wasn’t selling much New Belgium and was about to cut its order when the Ranger used Rangerland to pull up sales data from other restaurants in the chain and show him how well they were doing with our beer. The restaurant kept its order volume the same and asked for selling tips.”
Quickly Deliver New Capabilities
By using System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, New Belgium can deliver Rangerland updates immediately. “Because Rangerland is so popular, we have tons of requests for new capabilities,” says Schleiger. “Now we can deliver them as soon as they’re available.”
It’s always thrilling to talk to customers like New Belgium Brewing Company. They didn’t specifically plan to become a Microsoft shop. According to Askey, “It just so happens that Microsoft has the best-in-class solutions that meet the needs of our mobile workforce.”