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REI Scales to New Heights in Customer Service

Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) is a consumer cooperative formed in 1938 by a group of Northwest mountain climbers to supply themselves with quality ice axes and other outdoor gear.

Today, however, it has established a global reputation for scaling new heights in customer service and a corporate culture that strives for continuous improvement.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the company recently set out to enhance the shopping experience and create a single view of its more than 2 million active co-op members. To do so required integrating dozens of disparate systems into a centralized customer data warehouse and building a Web-based CRM offering for maintaining and updating that information.

To meet such a daunting task, REI turned to Frisco, Texas-based Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc., a long-standing provider of TeamPoS hardware and GlobalStore software for REI's 66 retail locations.

REI needed a system that could totally integrate customer information from many different sources and systems to create a single view of the customer, with one single tool. This Customer Service Application - or CSA as REI refers to it - was designed to support the company's "Shop Three Ways" philosophy of creating a uniform customer experience whether orders are received via phone, over the Web, or at retail, according to Noel Nelson, director, online sales and profitability.

Two-pronged approach

REI's Customer Service Application required a two-pronged approach to development and installation. During the first phase, completed in September 2001, Fujitsu consultants used the company's FasTrack development tool to build the "brains" of the system, a huge data warehouse that can generate reports from complex queries and analyze customer data to structure targeted marketing offerings to customers.

The "heart" of the system is REI's Customer Service Application - or CSA - the browser interface to Corema Context Server, which contains customer records such as name, physical and email addresses, phone number(s), creditworthiness, individual preferences for receiving information from REI, and purchase history, including what, when and how an item was bought. CSA was installed in tandem with a complete upgrade of REI's web site,, and went "live" in October 2002, just prior to the high-volume holiday selling season.

Nelson says that CSA reflects the retailer's significant efforts to enhance its ability to serve member-customers, whether in the store, online, or via phone or mail orders. In 2002, the company was recognized by Forrester Research as one of the country's best multi-channel retailers, and the company wants to continue service improvements no matter how a customer may shop with REI.

"The system allows sales and customer service personnel to update information in real-time," said Nelson. "The CSA project has been very painless - we've experienced no performance problems at all, even though this was one of the first browser-based customer service applications we've ever done."

Nelson said the application is "highly intuitive", for both in-store and customer service personnel, who were trained on the application in about two hours per person, on average, far less than the eight hours that were originally estimated.

"REI is now gaining actionable insight into its members' unique spending habits with the data the company derives in real time from the Corema Customer Service Application," said Keith McNamara, Fujitsu's senior vice president of general merchandise and software operations. "The CSA is a great example of how the power of a single view of a customer can benefit the retailer's business processes and customer service, and how it can greatly improve operational efficiency. Helping REI understand their shoppers is crucial; most of them are not just shoppers, but members of the REI cooperative."

About REI

REI, founded in 1938 as a consumer co-op by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers, is a leading multi-channel national retailer of quality outdoor products. REI sells all of the top outdoor brands, including its own line of award-winning gear and apparel. While anyone may join or shop at REI, members pay a one-time $15 fee and receive a share in the company's profits through an annual patronage refund based on their purchases. A portion of REI's profits is set aside each year for support of conservation, outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship causes, with $1.8 million to be awarded this year and more than $9 million since 1976, to such efforts around the country.

REI currently operates 66 retail stores in 24 states; two online stores - and - and an adventure travel company, REI Adventures.

Web site:

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  • Retail/Wholesale

Offering Groups:

  • Retail Products

Solution Areas:

  • Retail Solutions


  • United States


  • Enhance the shopping experience
  • Integrate dozens of disparate systems
  • Improve the multi-channel customer experience


  • Access to actionable customer insight
  • Real-time visiblity to customer data
  • Improved customer service
  • Improved operational efficiency