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Saving Dough With Net Stat


Business Week e.biz -- Web Smart 50 -- Customer Service

Saving Dough with NetStat

O.K., maybe you've never dialed that 800 number on the package for a tete-a-tete with the Green Giant to discuss his peas. But a lot of people have, and for years the folks at Pillsbury have been overwhelmed by customer feedback. The Minneapolis food colossus gets about 3,500 calls a day. Sorting through all that information was giving the big guy a headache.

To help ease the pain, Pillsbury research scientist Fred Hulting cooked up a high-tech solution called NetStat. It's a Web-powered program that analyzes reams of customer data, handling more than any off-the-shelf marketing software could ever dream--and fast. NetStat takes only a few hours to crunch data and spit it out to a Web page as a chart, giving marketers more precise information about consumer tastes. Using NetStat, Pillsbury can find out, for example, that croissant lovers in the Northeast prefer a flakier crust than their friends on the West Coast.

It's not just about taste. The Net helps Pillsbury flatten costs, too. Customer service has a handful of analysts who cost up to $3,000 each for just a week's worth of digging. But NetStat data, because they sit on Pillsbury's internal Web site, are instantly accessible to every laptop-toting employee. That means once NetStat is fully deployed, it could save Pillsbury up to $1 million a year. In the cutthroat food industry, programs like NetStat are "critical to keeping a competitive edge," says Prudential Securities analyst John M. McMillin.

Although it's still new, NetStat is expanding from a test in the frozen-breakfast division to all Pillsbury brands. Soon, Pillsbury will be able to rise above its customer feedback worries.By Roger O. CrockettReturn to top

TABLE

Pillsbury

Fred L. Hulting, Senior Research ScientistThe Project: Online statistical analysis software that gives execs more information about consumer tastes, including regional and demographic differences.The Payoff: Helps target products to the right markets, and saves time and data-crunching costs.Return to top


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