GGP Magazine talks to Rhonda Ridge, MD of Ab Initio, about why installers should take a good look at their business management systems to see if they could be running their business more efficiently and cost effectively.
GGP: State of the art technology has become part of our everyday lives, yet when it comes to the IT infrastructure of a business, installation companies will often be at the mercy of old equipment and systems that are doing more harm than good. Yet they can be resistant to change – why do you think this is?
Rhonda Ridge (RR): It obviously takes a lot of time and effort in researching a business management system, and then there is the cost of having it installed and a learning curve to get used to how it all works. Once a team has become comfortable with various functions, and are in the groove so to speak, it’s human nature that people will be reluctant to switch systems and start all over again, even if they are told that it will make their working practices easier and more efficient.
Investing in a new, easy to use and intuitive system however, one that can fully integrate all processes from point of sale through to servicing, can be a relatively painless experience, and ultimately, one could totally transform the way an installation company operates.
GGP: For installers that are struggling with old and clunky systems, wouldn’t it be easier for them to simply update their software or upgrade their hardware?
RR: All hardware will become obsolete over time, and systems can become effected as a result, but simply swapping out older machines for faster and more powerful computers is really just a sticking plaster solution – typically, it will just reveal other flaws, especially if you don’t update the software, which might not even be compatible with the new equipment.
Also, it’s worth noting that software, like hardware, will eventually become obsolete, albeit at a slower rate, which could mean that users will not have even realised just how clunky their IT tools have become until it is too late. A good CRM system, it has to be said, should always have the ability to evolve.
GGP: Just how important is it to have one integrated system, rather than a combination of programmes?
RR: It’s really a question of reliability and efficiency. The more separate, non-integrated programmes you are running, the greater likelihood there is that they will conflict and cause issues. It may well be the case that the person responsible for looking after it all has figured out ways of keeping it all ticking over, and that everyone knows the quirky fixes to ensure things keep running on a day-to-day basis, but this is far from an ideal situation. Aside from the continuing stress and inefficiency – and let’s not forget that time is money – when systems do not communicate ‘as one’ users can find themselves duplicating tasks, re-entering data over and over again, and the potential for making mistakes becomes greater.
If this is the case with your installation business, you should really be considering an upgrade to a system that will allow a single input of data that can run through every department in the company, updated in real time, seamlessly. It might sound fanciful, especially if you’re struggling with an old, outdated CRM, but it is absolutely possible. The future is now!
GGP: For installers who want to upgrade, what should they be looking for with their new business management system, and how can the latest technology help them move forward?
RR: Firstly, you should know if it’s time to change your management system, if it has got to a point that it is becoming detrimental to the health of your company. If it’s resulting in serious errors, ongoing reliability issues and even poor sales, then it is time to stop and take a look at how a new, modern system – one that is developed specifically for window and door installers – can actually drive sales, improve accuracy, eliminate old fashioned pen and paper orders, speed up payments and create a fantastic impression with your customers.
As well as fully integrating the entire sales process, as I mentioned earlier, by seamlessly collating and storing all information from point of sale, survey, installation and service, your business can become more streamlined and, as a result, more profitable.
Importantly, the latest advances in mobile technology mean that your system should also be capable of working away from the office, and in people’s homes. This means that canvassers, sales people, surveyors and fitters should all be in direct contact, at all times, with the office, through their own tablets, using specially designed, easy to use and intuitive apps.
And if your system doesn’t do any of this, then you really should be thinking about switching to one that does…