Increasing numbers of merchants are investing in their (often consumer-facing) showroom operations, and many are turning to tailored quotation software to help provide more effective and efficient customer service. With ‘seamless integration’ with back office systems a further key requirement, PBM considers the solutions implemented by a number of merchant businesses.
Developing as a trend over the last decade or so, more and more merchant businesses have established dedicated kitchen and bathroom showrooms to complement their core product ranges. The sector has seen a variety of different approaches, from small displays within an existing branch to the launch of complete new divisions, sometimes with their own bespoke brand names and standalone premises.
Within this broad framework come additional concerns. Often, showrooms will mean dealing with consumers rather than trade customers with all the implications that follow, such as a requirement to provide detailed, fully priced designs and a level of service that will match the expectations of those who might otherwise make their purchase in a boutique, high street showroom.
Perhaps more than ever, a fast-paced front of house service needs to be matched with seamless integration into back office systems.
MKM, which has enjoyed a period of rapid expansion of late and recently opened its 65th branch, is one example of a merchant firm that has successfully added a showroom element to its branch network. The majority of the company’s outlets now have dedicated kitchen showrooms, usually with eight different displays, and every new branch incorporates a showroom.
In 2012, the volume of kitchen business demanded that its approach of manual pricing — undertaken at that time in widely varying formats by each branch — needed to change. The merchant’s Anne Wallis said: “We wanted to ensure consistent, professional quotations from each branch for every single kitchen. It was also far too time-consuming to produce the number of quotations which were required with the current manual methods.”
In addition, the company wanted to be able to produce a variety of management reports, again across the branch network, for monitoring and future marketing activities. MKM already used the Fusion CAD system for kitchen design and a member of its support team identified that it integrated well with KBBConnect business management software from Smart Systems to produce a detailed, itemised quotation. Crucially, this data could then be ‘passed automatically’ to MKM’s K8 system and so the decision was taken to roll out KBBConnect across all branches.
A more recent customer for KBBConnect is family-owned Covers Timber & Builders Merchants. Richard Murrell, Depot Manager of Covers Home Ideas, said: “Some sixteen people across the three showrooms use the system to produce quotations for all our kitchens. Typically this is about a dozen quotations from the Chichester branch alone, in a single week.”
Like MKM, Covers also uses 2020 Fusion as its CAD software and a detailed quotation can typically be produced quickly in the showroom, whilst the customer is there. Once this approved by the customer, the information is transferred to Covers’ BisTrack EPOS software for ordering, invoicing and management reporting.
Turnbulls has joined its fellow Fortis member in deploying KBBConnect to produce quotations, both for the trade and for consumers, across the company’s six showrooms. Around 30 quotations are produced each week and Olivia Hopkins, Showroom Manager, said: “Originally we used another system, but this had become increasingly old-fashioned and slow for our business. It takes about half an hour to produce a quote, whereas with the previous system, we had ‘to wait for it to happen’.
“All the (supplier) catalogues and prices are in KBBConnect, so everything is ready to go as soon as we need it, ensuring we have absolute consistency of quotation pricing and production across all six branches.”
With roots that stretch back more than 175 years, Howarth Timber & Building Supplies now has more than 30 depots across the country. Fourteen already include extensive kitchen showrooms — the largest have some 20 room displays — and plans are place to roll the concept out to all branches.
Ratinder Sandhu, Howarth’s Kitchen Category Manager, explained: “Before the roll-out of KBB Connect, the branches were using either Excel spreadsheets or our existing Kerridge Commercial Systems’ ERP software to produce quotes. This meant lack of uniformity between branches and difficulties in obtaining management information on margins, number of sales and so on.”
Across the group, designs are completed in 2020 Fusion, and then passed at the click of a button to KBBConnect for pricing. All product codes, pricing and customer details are said to pass seamlessly between the two systems, with no need for manual intervention or any duplication of effort.
The quote shows the margins and thus the ‘true cost’, which is an essential element of any sale for Ratinder and her colleagues. Once agreed by the customer, the quote is then exported to the KCS ERP system which handles the remainder of the process, including ordering, delivery and accounting.
Ratinder concludes: “Prior to KBBConnect, quotes could easily take half a day to produce but it now takes half an hour or less to produce an all-encompassing quote for the new kitchen. It is extremely flexible — if we want to use a catalogue that is not in the system, we can simply load it in.”
Referencing the enhanced reporting capabilities, she adds: “We will now be collecting data which has not previously been available to us including margins, sales lost, sales gained, number of quotes produced, where customers come from and who they are. We will then use this highly accurate, real data for the development of Howarth’s kitchen business going forward.”
For more information on KBBConnect and the additional products in the Smart Systems portfolio, visit https://www.smart-systems.co.uk/smartsystems/kbbconnect