5 Questions gives LBM businesses the opportunity to provide their expertise by answering relevant issues in the LBM industry.
How can technology tools help LBM dealers grow businesses and better manage territories?
It’s about being available to your customers wherever and whenever they do business. So that means if the only time a contractor can review invoices is 9 p.m. on a Saturday, then you should offer a way for them to do that. Outside sales reps should be able to provide the same level of service in the field as they would at the service counter; they should be able to check inventory, get pricing, and submit an order when meeting with the customer at a jobsite. For multi-location dealers, customers should be able to walk into any branch and easily get an answer about invoices, past orders, and open quotes created in other branches. Don’t make customers come to you; you should go to them. Offering that level of convenience, accessibility, and immediate responsiveness, that’s an immense value and it builds loyalty.
How can a robust Enterprise Resource Planning system help create efficiencies for labor-strapped dealers?
With the current labor shortage, it is crucial to have systems in place to organize work for each day and assign your staff accordingly. Dealers must be able to anticipate the workload, especially when it comes to yard staff and drivers. A robust ERP allows managers to have access to the information needed to make essential decisions and keep things moving. The full scope of inventory and transactions is available immediately. Systems must be in place to show if orders are off track due to backorders or a production delay. Having a process with an ERP allows dealers to make plans to get orders shipped on time and keep commitments made to customers.
When it comes to warehouse and order management, how can technology help streamline processes and improve accuracy?
It’s about improving clarity. A good warehouse management solution creates clarity around processes so team members know what they should do. For instance, if your solution provides descriptions and images of products, employees—especially new employees, are more confident they are getting the right item. A good solution guides users through your processes by giving prompts about the next step the person should take. This not only improves consistency and accuracy for the business, it also improves employee morale. When people are confident in how to do their jobs and can perform their jobs quickly and efficiently, they feel more positive about their place of work.
Where do you see the future heading for e-commerce or self-service technology and its impact on LBM dealers?
In the future, online services will be expected by every customer; simply having a website will no longer be a competitive differentiator.
At that point, dealers will compete on the quality of their online service. So, dealers with sites that are very easy to use, that have a lot of self-service tools, that provide supporting content such as videos or product sheets, those dealers will have the edge. That might sound “techie” and intimidating to some, but competing on online service-quality is the same as competing on in-store service-quality. Online service is service. Dealers that understand that and approach online service as a way to provide value will build stronger relationships with their customers.
Now, even if online service will be standard and expected, that doesn’t mean dealers should have to bring on web teams. E-commerce/self-service sites should be easy for customers to use and easy for dealers to manage. Your existing sales team should be able to add products, create a landing page, or set up a marketing campaign on your site without having to go to coding school. That’s a reasonable standard to expect from your technology vendor.
When it comes to technology, what’s out on the horizon and what can we look forward to?
Advances in technology have led to increased demands for quick and easy access to information across the board.
Around the clock accessibility through web-based software solutions is the standard that customers have come to expect. In the future, we will certainly see continued growth and improvements in software solutions and integrations that make processes faster, and easier, and benefit your business.