Phil Davies, Commercial Manager at Border Merchant Systems, argues that effective training is essential to ensuring merchants get the most from their IT solutions and offers his predictions for 2020.
In 2020 merchants need to use whatever tools are available to drive efficiencies inside the business, maximise revenue from existing customers and acquire new ones.
Helping our merchant customers get maximum value from their IT systems is always a challenge. Like many IT suppliers, at Border we find that customers utilise only a percentage of the facilities available in their software system — like many of us who use Microsoft Excel, you get to a certain level of knowledge that you need and then stop learning.
It is a real shame — with merchant software, they have an application that could help transact business efficiently, run a tight ship from a financial point of view and provide the information required to help drive additional revenue.
Of course, we do understand that customers are very busy from day to day. When trade is there, it has to be taken. So one of the ways we help our customers get the most from their investment in our CounterAct software is to carry out system audits at user sites and write a report with recommendations on improvements that can be gained from their system.
We encourage learning by holding User Meetings — free events available to every user — and these meetings are part development steering discussions, part training and part feedback sessions. We also produce YouTube videos and host Webinars that explain certain areas of the systems and how to use it effectively. And this is not to forget customer training, carried out either online or at customer sites.
For 2020, it would definitely be worth considering how you are using your applications — and if you’re utilising your IT systems as effectively as possible. Challenge yourself and your providers to increase your knowledge, and make sure this understanding is shared throughout the business with adequate and planned training.
Sometimes I will speak to a company for whom we did a demo a number of years ago only for them to have purchased another IT system — and to be told that it has never worked properly since it was put in! To hear that such an important investment for a business has gone so badly awry always disappoints me.
For new customers, we can work with them to project manage the new installation from the start to ‘go live’ and beyond. System setup and initial system training are absolutely key. Our trainers are all Border staff (ie: we don’t employ third parties) and the training, in most cases, is carried out on a customer site using their data on a test system.
The object of training must be to get the new customer live using the system to their required and unique specification. A plan is worked out, based on sensible and realistic timescales in partnership with the customer.
Look for a supplier that will work in partnership with you, whether you are a new user or have had the system for years. CounterAct’s stability, managed enhancement process and the support we provide all adds up to a low cost of ownership.
“Helping our merchant customers get maximum value from their IT systems is always a challenge. Like many IT suppliers, we find that customers utilise only a percentage of the facilities available in their software system.”
Predictions for 2020
With the uncertainty of what 2020 will bring in terms of our UK government policies, I am however certain that the merchant trade will continue to grow and evolve. Customers need to make sure they are ‘business ready’ and that their IT can support and progress with them, helping them to react to what may be both a challenging and exciting year.
Greengates moves forward
Based in the Lancashire town of Accrington, Greengates is reportedly one of the few remaining independent, family-owned builders’ merchants in the area. It supplies both trade and DIY customers with a huge range of products, and prides itself on offering a fast, friendly, efficient and knowledgeable service at competitive prices.
The company’s previous site was positioned behind a row of terraced houses, where access and space was limited. In 2019 it relocated to a new, more central location at a purpose-built development site on Whinney Hill Road — just down the road from the famous Accrington Stanley Football Club — giving Greengates excellent access to both the town and the M65.
Part of the investment planning for the new site was the decision to implement a new IT system. After a number of key demos, as well as existing user recommendations and site visits, Greengates chose CounterAct Software from Border. System setup began in October and the merchant is now participating in a comprehensive onsite training programme with the team at Border.
CounterAct is designed as a tailor-made system for merchants, ranging from small family run single sites to large multi-branch companies. Of the new partnership with Greengates,Border’s Phil Davies said: “I am delighted to welcome Greengates into the family of CounterAct users. We look forward to working closely with Steve and his team to get them live on schedule. We will ensure they get the many benefits of business efficiency, cost reductions, improved delivery and stock planning alongside superior management information from their strategic investment in CounterAct.”
For more information on Border’s IT solutions for merchants, visit https://www.bordermerchantsystems.co.uk