Drawing on the experiences of a number of customers, James Mitchell, Managing Director of Kerridge Commercial Systems in the UK and Ireland, discusses the ways in which remote services have kept merchants trading during the pandemic.
The last few months have created unusual trading conditions for builders’ merchants. The need to adapt to these changing conditions has never been more important — and the same goes for the companies providing the systems that keep business operations moving.
At the start of the pandemic, Kerridge Commercial Systems (KCS) saw an opportunity to help both new and existing customers by remotely offering services it would usually provide in person. This has coincided with a number of product launches, which have further enabled KCS customers to adapt to their new norm by trading differently.
Builders’ merchants wanting to thrive and develop during these unusual times have had little option but to embrace new tools and technologies. With this in mind, KCS has ensured its customers have kept up with the pace of change by giving them access to consultancy days, implementations and training sessions — all without the need for an on-site visit.
KCS has primarily been using Microsoft Teams to deliver its remote services; this collaborative tool allows for screen sharing, video calling and other functionality that adds a personal element to its remote offering. Customers are encouraged to use a webcam, as this enables the KCS team to gauge reactions and check whether they have understood the content that has been delivered.
Going live in lockdown
One of the companies to have benefited from KCS’ remote services is Haldane Fisher, which upgraded to the latest version of K8 a matter of weeks before lockdown. However, thanks to KCS’ remote services, training went ahead as planned.
Group Managing Director Ian Haldane noted: “We have been working remotely with the team at KCS on a weekly basis to get ourselves settled into the system and make sure it’s working the way it should be. We have also signed up to a number of training programmes to see how we can fine tune and develop the system to improve operational and processing efficiency.”
KCS has delivered online customer workshops during lockdown on a variety of topics such as inter-branch transfers and credit control. These will continue over the coming months as businesses such as Haldane Fisher recognise the obvious benefits to having staff take part remotely in meetings and e-learning courses.
Ian added: “Remote working has delivered a great degree of flexibility and timeliness — you don’t have to get on a plane or in a car to attend, you’re there for the duration of the meeting and that’s it. It’s not the right approach for every meeting, but it’s going to make us more efficient and effective in the long run.”
Another KCS customer who has seen the benefits of remote services first hand is Grant & Stone. IT Manager Dave Oliver highlighted that it’s been easier to schedule in the remote work at a time that’s suitable for the business.
He said: “We’ve used lockdown to crack on with various projects around our K8 system. KCS has been able to deliver consultancy using Microsoft Teams; this experience has led to a new, more agile and flexible way of working that we hope to continue using in the future.
“We can dedicate shorter slots to online configuration and training activities, which helps the learning experience. We are always so busy at Grant & Stone that this approach is well suited to us.”
Implementing new products
KCS has launched a number of new products during lockdown, which have enabled customers to continue trading — and open up new routes to market — in these difficult conditions. This includes a suite of ecommerce solutions, which have allowed companies such as Grant & Stone to quickly establish an online presence at a time when visiting physical stores was no longer possible.
Dave explained: “We have implemented a brand new customer portal for our trade customers. KCS launched its pre-configured WebTrade solution at the beginning of lockdown, and it suited our needs ideally. The remote implementation has been very quick and straightforward.”
Another product that has really come into its own during the pandemic is the ePOD electronic proof of delivery application. By capturing images and signatures electronically, delivery drivers can minimise social contact and continue to provide great customer service.
Hevac in Ireland is one of the merchant businesses where K8 ePOD has been implemented during lockdown. Operations Director Aidan Grogan explained: “All the set-up and training was done online. This app is very easy for our drivers to use, and it gives us huge gains in efficiency and customer service.
“Where needed, we will now hold on K8 the signed proofs of delivery and any photos taken at delivery. This is just brilliant for query resolution and credit control.”
Looking to the future
The remote method of delivery has worked well for KCS and its customers — the benefits have been far-reaching, making this an important focus for the business moving forwards.
For more information on Kerridge Commercial Systems and to download its merchant solutions brochure, go to: https://info.kerridgecs.com/merchant
Read the rest of PBM’s in-depth Q&A discussion on Kerridge Commercial Systems’ perspectives on the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic by clicking hereQ&A: Kerridge Commercial Systems.