Crosby Hops, a family-owned and operated hop grower and processor, is transforming how brewers access the finest hops known to humankind. A recently-implemented customer portal is what it took to fully optimize business processes, enable self-service purchasing of their quality hops, and provide an elevated customer experience.
With generational roots that stretch back to the Oregon Trail, Crosby Hops has established itself as a leader by cultivating and sourcing the finest hops and investing in cutting-edge technology to support exceptional customer experiences.
The Crosby Hops business evolution was propelled forward after CEO and President, Blake Crosby, partnered with CSG to build a custom web-based portal application on top of their ERP system. The Crosby Hops team went from taking calls and hand-entering orders to successfully designing and implementing a self-service customer portal that automated their internal fulfillment processes.
Pre-portal, most information was tracked using Excel sheets that were stored all over the place. Equipped with workflow automation for order processing and fulfillment, the new modern customer portal app has taken the Crosby Hops customer experience to the next level. Since launching the customer portal just three months ago, they have already processed 40% of sales orders.
Growing up on a family hops farm, Blake saw the market trend transition from large-scale hop dealers to selling directly to craft brewers unfold. Fueled by his passion for craft beer and dissatisfied with what had become a cutthroat commodity-focused business model, Blake did the impossible—an about-face from a highly commoditized hop business to one focused on specializing in exceptional quality hops for craft brewers.
Blake knew this shift to working directly with craft brewers would go hand-in-hand with a substantial leap from traditional customer service to digital transformation. To bring the best hops to market for discerning craft brewers, his team needed an intuitive customer-friendly portal to communicate detailed product information and enter orders.
Blake sought out to partner with the CSG custom software development team to leverage modern digital technology and make the most of their ERP system, Microsoft NAV (now called “D365 Business Central”) with .NET Core and Azure, to lend greater sophistication to customer experiences and interactions.
Although this family business has always been about relationships and people, Blake knew a self-service customer portal would play a pivotal role in maintaining leadership in the hop industry. The portal had to both satisfy the customer experience while boosting business efficiency of fulfillment operations and customer service.
“We feel like we’re just scratching the surface,” said Blake. “We see the customer portal as becoming the central nervous system for our company.”
It’s always a challenge to chase after a customers’ ever-changing behavior and expectations. However, shifting business strategy from large-scale brewers to craft brewers as Crosby Hops has done revealed even more obstacles to overcome.
With automation, the customer service department spends less time dealing with order and fulfillment issues and more quality time interfacing with customers.
“Customer service was always challenging for us because of the high turnover and demanding nature of hops orders—a bit of an Achilles heel at times,” said Blake. “What was once a challenged department is now our strength.”
Customer success has skyrocketed, with clients taking to the portal at a breakneck pace. While some customers may still prefer to place orders in a traditional way over the phone, Blake anticipates that the portal will eventually accommodate 75% of Crosby Hops orders.
In the past three months, 40% of sales have come through the portal, with over $3 million in sales invoices paid via the portal. Because many repetitive processes were automated, the Crosby Hops team has been able to operate more lean and efficiently. A typical busy sales season used to necessitate at least five or more managers to complete orders on time…but they did it with only two this year.
“The more we invest wisely and partner with a company like CSG, the more likely we will make this portal industry-leading as it relates to customer experience,” said Blake.
“We have confidence spending those dollars because not only is it great for the customer experience, but it’s also paying off in terms of breaking down some of the inertia that was in our processes.”
COVID has wrought difficult days for organizations, where even the most narrow efficiencies are crucial to the lifeblood of the enterprise. The ability to go-live with a new customer service interface at a time when companies were faced with impossible decisions signaled to Crosby Hops employees to be positive about the future. Unveiling the customer portal reassured staff about better times ahead and boosted morale.
“The ease of use, the efficiencies, the customer adoption…implementing the customer portal was very timely for us,” said Blake. “We’re not where we probably would have been if COVID hadn’t happened. But we’re in a much better spot than we thought we would be. There’s no doubt that the customer portal is part of that success story.”
There is a lot at stake when an organization enlists a vendor to develop a custom app, like Crosby Hops’ self-service customer portal. A number of elements are required to ensure success. Perhaps the two most important elements are commitment and trust.
Crosby Hops never doubted that CSG was all-in, from start to finish. It didn’t take long before Blake realized CSG’s commitment to the project went far beyond our mutual appreciation for craft beer.
“We’re a growth-oriented business. The individual development of our staff is very important. And that’s not always just about going to a class or a seminar. A lot of that happens in the trenches,” said Blake. “Our team got better being around the CSG team. CSG’s senior leadership did a really good job mentoring our team.”
As with any custom software project, it’s crucial that both the vendor and the client see eye-to-eye in timing, costs, and overall vision. Oftentimes, this requires the vendor to educate themselves on their client’s industry.
“I always felt like you guys were highly engaged mentally with what we wanted to accomplish. Credit to you for capturing that data, for learning it, and for working hard to understand our business. That’s pretty rare actually,” said Blake.
With the implementation of a modern customer order portal, Crosby Hops is better able to deliver hops to brewers while strengthening the like-minded community of lovers of hops, ales, lagers, and special suds. This family-owned business is unique in that they are not interested in delivering a commodity as much as they are interested in cultivating value for customers.
Similarly, CSG embraces the value-add in working with clients from all walks of life. It’s always inspiring to see a client’s vision come to fruition. Additionally, broadening the internal team’s knowledge and expertise in a new industry better helps CSG serve future clients.
“We don’t only preach but we live by example in how we choose vendors like CSG,” said Blake. “We get the outcomes we want, which is quality work, quality relationships, and business outcomes and innovation that we need to continue to be industry leaders.”