As employees accomplish more in their daily tasks, customers will see faster responses and more accurate service. For example, collaborative order entry reinforces customer confidence and prevents expensive errors from incorrect material orders and deliveries.
Likewise, mobility in more modern ERP systems can extend the application to workers outside of the office; e.g., giving the sales team data connectivity on the road to update order status. According to one distributor, "In an environment where everyone expects information now, I believe mobility with our ERP system gives our sales team access to the data needed to meet those expectations. We also receive real-time information that allows us to review open quotes, outstanding A/R, etc. to address while making a call to an account. In short, it allows us to work smarter, faster, and with the most up-to-date data."
Modern systems can also offer other sophisticated functionality that is important to HVAC and plumbing distributors, such as volume rebate tracking, customer-facing order entry, front counter capabilities, document imaging, job-based pricing, assemblies, disassemblies and modifications. For example, job-based pricing provides the ability to quote a job and store those prices for the material in a contract, so that the prices are guaranteed throughout the job.
Enabling Sales and Profits
Bob Dylan wrote, "If you're not busy being born, you're busy dying." The same seems to be true in the context of operating a distribution business. The wholesalers who are most energised and, often, most successful, are the ones who understand that technology is a sales and profit enabler, not a cost center. They are continually looking for ways to harvest additional competitive value from their systems, and when those systems have been maxed out, they carefully select a new system with proven potential to drive their growth for the next several years.
Conversely, there are businesses that continue to rely on an outdated solution simply for the reason that it still turns on every morning. It's no wonder that many of these business owners are working harder than ever just to maintain some semblance of the sales and profitability they enjoyed 10 years ago.
Which are you? A business owner committed to aggressive growth and to attracting and retaining high-energy employees who look forward to coming to work each day? Or are you experiencing a steady erosion of your business as customers move to competitors?
If you're the former, I congratulate you on your willingness to seek continuous improvement through leading edge technologies. If you're the latter, I urge you to make the investment you've been postponing for so long. Haven't you already paid too high a price?
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