Be Careful What You Ask ForWritten By: Ron Slee
Article Date: 01-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
My complaints about technology companies may be coming to an end.
Many of you know how critical I've been of the software that's available to our industry. Well I might have to reevaluate some of my thinking soon. I've been involved in system work for some time, working both as a data processing manager and for a software supplier. In the early days, we operated batch computer systems. We'd fill out forms, send them to a data entry location and the process would begin.
Some of the largest dealers had computers in-house, but the rest had to use the services of a batch service bureau. Batch service bureaus would keypunch the data from the form onto a card and run the card through a card reader to have them read by a computer. For parts sales invoicing, for example, the computer process would be performed and the invoices or whatever would be sent back to the dealer to mail to the customers.
Today with IP (Internet Protocol), phones connected through a computer software solution can provide value-added customer service to our marketplace. The phone rings at the receptionist or a specific local and is answered. On the employee's monitor, a customer profile that includes parts, service, sales, rentals, accounts receivable, and other customer information appears. In real time, the employee knows who the customer is and everything he or she needs to know about this customer. (This is very different from the position we are in today where in most cases the employee has to ask who is calling before responding to the customer's needs.)
What could the employee do with that customer information? Are there any outstanding backorders? Are there any machines in the shop? Is it the customer's birthday? Does the customer have any overdue invoices? Did the customer recently purchase a machine? All of which is worthwhile and meaningful information that will allow that employee to personalize the service to the customer.
And just like in the television show "Cheers," everyone wants to go to a place where they know your name.
There are also "dashboards" to help you manage your business. When you sign on to your computer, you'll be met with a start-up screen showing how you are doing relative to the performance metrics that have been established for your department. Exceed them and everything is green like a traffic light; be on the verge of falling short and they'll be orange; and if you're below where you need to be, they'll be red. Direct expression of where you stand on your performance.
These are both either in place already in your market or coming soon to a market near you. In a year or so, we'll wonder how we did our jobs without them, and I might have to eat some of my complaints, because someone will finally be delivering what we need.
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