Monday, September 29, 2014

Customer Self Service Matters

Most organizations understand that if you treat your customers fairly, they will return.  If you treat them really well they will refer others to your business.  What is equally true is if you treat your customers poorly, they will tell everyone they know whenever they can.

A positive customer experience should be at the heart of any system improvement, upgrade, or replacement.  Efficiency matters when it ultimately drives customer needs.  Automation matters when it means products are ordered, stocked, picked and delivered to meet your customer’s needs.

In what way can you serve your customer’s needs without significantly increasing your overhead?  What is your competition doing to serve their customers and attract your customers away?

Many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions have an integrated web or Ecommerce module.  Fully integrated is preferable, because of the efficiency, reduced errors and time delays in processing and updating. 

Less overhead is a good thing.

But what about the thought that your products do not fit the standard perception of what people purchase online?

As it turns out when you provide your customers and users with self-serve capabilities they feel empowered.  They feel like you trust them. They feel like you value them.

Adding this capability may not be where you would think you can increase productivity, especially when you look at the upfront costs.  However, by adding or upgrading Ecommerce, Sales force automation, and Contact Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to your system, you are removing roadblocks to growth. 

Customers know when you value them and are providing them tools to access what they need when they need it at a time when it is convenient to them.  Employees know when you are trying to help them do their job better by providing better access.  Management knows the satisfaction of being able to get the information they need when they need it.

Real-time access to information is the heart of your ERP system.

Increased sales as a result of these improvements is a natural result.  Increase customer satisfaction is priceless.  Customers like the ability to research products, view transaction history, place orders, get hard copies of invoices, check balances and yes of course pay balances online.  Customer self-service reduces employee resources needed to service the inquiries.

Automation allows a business to use their people where they can do the most good.  Sales force personnel need quick access to stock and balance information for their customer service needs.

Serve your customers and grow your business.

Providing web services will improve customer retention and capture business that might go to your competitors.  Even if your products are not something that ships easily or at all, providing the capability for your customers to browse, research and collect information will benefit your business. 

Take a look at how and where you do business.  Don’t you think your customers want the same thing? 

Not all solutions are created equal.  Integration with your ERP solution is key.  Some businesses build interfaces to integrate separate systems that have the functionality their customers need.  Keep in mind that the more pieces the greater the chance of a break down. 

Regardless of how your solution is built, the solution must address your customer’s needs and not yours.

With the potential return on investment (ROI) and the general movement towards a connected world, Ecommerce, Sales Force, and CRM solutions are prime areas for update, upgrade or replacement.

In what ways are you serving your customers?  What solutions are you considering or have implemented?  What returns are you expecting or received? 

Please share your thoughts with our readers.

At Dolvin Consulting we work with your team to find solutions that drive efficiency and automation in your operations.  Working solutions that are just-right for you, your business and your customers.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cycle Counting (Part 2): Tips for Choosing the Right Inventory Software to Support It

How accurate are your inventory records? It’s a question you've probably asked yourself on more than one occasion.  It is what every organization that handles inventory struggles with at one level or another, at one time or another, and coincides with automation and efficiency efforts.

Changing from Annual to Cycle counting does take some planning, but the long term benefits may well be worth the effort.  It also something that may need to be approved by your board or other regulatory body depending on your industry.  

We have found that many businesses need to do both Annual and Cycle counting until they show a consistent accurate inventory for at least one year.  After that time period the annual counting can be discontinued.  It is important that you demonstrate good accounting controls and financial reporting.

Please read the article series below to find out more.

Find Accounting Software continues their 2-part series and answers some additional questions about cycle counting.  Find Accounting Software has some great resources to help you navigate through the sea of change.  Read on for more information.


Where are you struggling?  Do you know how to get started?  What you should count and when?  What approach will you take?

At Dolvin Consulting we work with your team to find solutions that drive efficiency and automation in your operations.  Working solutions that are just-right for you and your business.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It

Are you finding variances in your inventory counts no matter how hard you try, no matter what controls are in place?  Enter the Annual Physical Inventory and all the prep work, resource allocation, overtime, headaches and putting business on hold while you try to lock down your inventory during counting.

Are you considering cycle counting in addition to or as a replacement to an annual physical count? 

Please read the article series below to find out more.

Find Accounting Software starts their 2-part series and answers some important questions about cycle counting.  Find Accounting Software has some great resources to help you navigate through the sea of change.  Read on for more information.

Where are you struggling?  Do you know how to get started?  What you should count and when?  What approach will you take?

At Dolvin Consulting we work with your team to find solutions that drive efficiency and automation in your operations.  Working solutions that are just-right for you and your business.  Contact us today to see how we can help.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Do Your Customers Really Want?

Recently I had a well-intentioned discussion with someone.  The conversation was initiated by a request of a mutual contact.  The person who asked me to have the talk hoped that common points between me and this other person would make the conversation easier that it would have been for them. 

The conversation goal was to address a challenge and suggest a workable solution.  Seemed simple enough at the time.  After all, how hard would it be to have a helpful conversation?  It should have been a win-win situation.

I started with a true story.  I wanted to let him know that I knew that I understood the challenge and it was not just an empty conversation by someone who thought they knew everything.  The conversation started well, the approach taken was good, and he appreciated the heartfelt thoughts and the personal impact of the story.

What then was the problem?

What problems do most customers or prospects have with people (sales) that just want to help?

In my opinion the problem/challenge in this case was made worse and not better, because I made some assumptions.  Yes, I know the old adage about the word assume.  The personal impact story was a good start.  It created a bonding.  The person indicated that they appreciated the approach.  He uses the same approach with the people he works with. 

What I found out after our second conversation was that the conversation went bad, because one of the additional examples I used to make the point.  It was a third party story instead of a personal story and the person was put off by it.  I certainly did not intend it to be this way.  I was quite sincere in my presentation and just wanted to give an alternative example.

Lessons learned.

We can all take note of the point here.  People do business with people they like and are like them.  Personal stories help build a relationships.  What do “we” both have in common?  How do I know and what makes me believe that you understand my challenges and pains? 

We all want to be heard, and perhaps more importantly, understood.

We all know that we are supposed to ask questions.  What happens too often is we ask a few questions and then start in with a solution.  We make assumptions.  For many of us we have seen similar situations so often, that we go into an automatic mode of “I recognize this problem, here is the solution”. 

The reality is that it probably is the same problem we have seen so many times.  Something like inaccurate inventory, inefficiency of operations, missed or late shipments, management decisions based on old information, etc. 

When we deal with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for a long period of time the challenges do seem the same and we try to put them into a solution category.  We deal in efficiency and the sooner we find a match between challenge and solution, the better.  So efficient.  So perfect.

The problem is our prospects and customers have trouble seeing outside the box when they are in the box.  They need to know that we understand and actually care that they find a successful solution to “their” challenge.  They typically have a lot more riding on the solution than simply more efficient operations.  Almost everyone would like to be more efficient.  Everyone wants happier customers. Happy customers are the ones that refer new business and come back again and again and are loyal.

Our customers and future customers need to know that we understand.  

They need time to digest and discover that the solution we see in our minds solves their challenges.  You cannot tell them it will work.  You and I need to ask more detailed questions that identify our common interests, needs and wants.  The solution then addresses the problems or it does not. 

No sales, just conversation.

The people we interact with want to communicate.  A sale is the byproduct of great conversations, not the purpose of one.
At Dolvin Consulting we are always learning and would like to take the knowledge journey with you.  We want to listen to what is important to you.  Contact us today so we can start our conversation. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Life Cycle Part Two

Nature duplicates life we create or is it really that the life we create duplicates nature.  It really makes sense if you think about it, because we tend to replicate our environment in the way we live, learn and grow.  Last time we looked at the life cycle of ERP solutions with a comparison to Sunflowers and plant life.  Sunflowers are an interesting plant.  The flowers follow the sun through the day, supply food for birds and animals in their replication cycle.  Their plant-life-goal is to mature, grow and plant the seeds for the next generation. 

Dragonflies are also interesting in general and in their similarities to ERP solutions. 

First there are some 5000 varieties of the species.  There are a lot of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions too.  

Each solution has its benefits, limits and niche where they work best. 

Dragonflies start as larvae in water where they spend the bulk of their life.  The early stages of ERP is often a developmental stage where a lot of the work is not seen and includes implementation, migration and training to fully take advantage of the service offerings.  

The winged version of dragonflies are what most of us are familiar with and comes after growth and trials and struggles to survive.  Once mature there is the need to stay alive, stay current and continued growth.  This is similar to ERP as more and more function is utilized in the solution and give need via growth and life cycle to a new generation. 

The next generation is inevitable. 

That next generation can be an upgrade or new solution, but it will come.  No new generation and the solution will eventually wear out and perish.  

Business needs and cycles change and ERP solutions need to change and adapt to the way your customers prefer to do business.

Choosing an upgrade or new solution is not always an easy task even if what is currently in use does not work.  Decision makers need to decide if they want to keep a narrow focus on their industry such as manufacturing, distribution or application like order entry.  Or, the decision makers need to take a more broad view of their applications and embrace the ERP moniker and include more functional roles such as customer service management which would include order entry, inventory, procurement, and manufacturing applications, like capacity planning, in one big picture.

Enterprise solutions are optimized to maximize their return when the entire enterprise is integrated.

Industry solutions are an important grouping of applications that are used and optimized for specific industries such as retail, wholesale distribution, or manufacturing.  Decision makers now have to consider traditional on premise or hosted solutions as well as more traditional questions.

Some questions to consider:  

How long has the particular software been used and how successfully? 

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is an important factor.  Most people realize that the initial upfront costs are often outpaced by the ongoing administration and operational costs. 

What initial costs must be absorbed in your return on investment (ROI) calculation?   Hardware for on premise, software licensing, maintenance, support, implementation, migration, and training?

What type of support is available?  On line, documents, phone and what time windows?

What skills are needed?  Who will provide training?  Train the trainers?  How much time will it take to get your staff up to date?  Which modules will you activate and in which order?  Do you need to know how to run everything all at once or can you train as you go after having covered the basic modules first?

Should your solution be an open-source solution or is a proprietary solution better?  What size provider is right for your business?  Are you a global organization?  Do you need a global solution? 

An open source solution may seem like a winner especially with lower license fees, however, getting support may be limited or a challenge when you get locked into a custom solution that few outside of the solution provider know how to support.  A proprietary system actually can be more “open” in the sense that people that know how to support the system will have knowledge of how to support any solution running on this same platform. 

Regardless there may be nothing worse than having a solution that is not a fit for the culture of your organization and how your customers prefer to be served.

Maturity of the solution may be a more important factor that what platform they run on.  How responsive is the solution provider to listen and understand the nuances of your operations?  Or, do they just want to pack you in a box that “works” and hope you can manage the internal changes needed to fit their mold.

Conversely, be wary of too much customization.  An over eager solution provider that will customize everything will equally box you in.  With so many customizations, how will you take advantage of new releases?  How will they keep you current with industry trends?  

Too many modifications either means the solution is not the right fit for your organization or you have highly unique business requirements.

Where will you get support?  Will it come from, is it available directly from, the solution creator?  Are there local dealers with expertise that can be onsite to help?  How many of your staff will need to be trained in support? 

It is one thing to purchase a solution, it is entirely another matter to maintain it.  Like our dragonfly, your ERP solutions need regular tending-to, environment, and opportunity to grow.  Likewise it also has to be protected from and fend off predators.  A dragon fly starts small and is usually unseen until it has passed through various growth stages until it emerges mature and winged.  It is only then we see and appreciate its beauty and appetite for the insects it consumes daily.

Let Dolvin Consulting help you navigate to a new solution, upgrade or to feel comfortable with the solution you are already using.  Contact us today to get started.  We are here to help.