Our company, PATH|ERP, interacts regularly with scores of W&D Dealers all over the country, and there are two main “camps” the dealers sort into. The first is what we could call the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Dealers, good people who have run an honest business for 20-40 years with paper folders, phone calls, and a wealth of knowledge. The second, most often those getting into the business as second generation or coming from outside, are the “I can’t believe we operate with paper folders and phone calls.” There is a seismic shift starting in the W&D Dealer segment, and it is important to understand what is going on.
Who Are Window & Door Dealers?
First, it is no secret the standard profile of a Window & Door Dealer is usually late fifties or older, white, and operates as a self-funded small business. Having gotten into the business and learned the ins and outs, this Dealer works long hours and sacrifices for the business and the staff. Surviving the economic tsunami of 2007/2008 and coming out the other side isn’t really celebrated—its acknowledged humbly, with lingering pain still accessible.
Adapting Window & Door Dealerships to New Technology
Second, like all companies, the tech revolution is having profound impacts on all aspects of the business. All manufacturers and jobbers have moved to some form of online configurator for pricing and ordering, and some for service. Those who cut their teeth with huge pricing binders are pretty happy with the ability to do a global change and run options with the press of a button vs. spending another two hours doing those changes manually. However, until now, Dealers have been somewhat buffered from having to adopt technology for their operations outside of the manufacturer-provided systems because of the fragmented nature of the industry, the significant burdens and costs of shipping and handling fragile items that are also large and heavy, and the generally slow rate of technological adoption in construction as a whole.
However, for customers now used to an Amazon/Google/Apple world, having to work with a dealer who does not offer the kind of customer service, quick answers, ongoing interaction, and product tracking is now a problem. “You mean I am going to spend thousands of dollars on one of the most significant projects of my life, and you don’t have systems to manage this order from front to back?”
Working Smarter, Not Harder
It is also no secret finding qualified and experienced W&D staff to do the work is not easy. The Dealership needs to get more done with fewer people, some of whom are W&D natives. The Dealer is now being squeezed with higher customer expectations, more competition, and fewer experienced staff. “If it ain’t broke, it will be very soon” is the new reality. Dealers looking to adapt for survival and longevity are doing these two things NOW:
- Streamlining systems and removed wasted work. Nothing wastes time like having to reinvent the process every time. Effective teams have tools to do each item well and without confusion. Just like a factory, every step in a job is planned for efficiency, and duplicate information and processes are removed. Every time an employee has to search for missing information, products, parts, or tools, the company’s ability to sell and process jobs decreases and costs increase. A ten-person dealership that finds ways to save 45 minutes of wasted time per employee per day saves over $40,000.00 in a year, without any factoring of additional revenue and throughput this redeemed time will create. Further, this increased efficiency means a better customer experience, which creates value for the Dealership.
- Getting a comprehensive system that integrates everything in one place. Highly-effective software is available for W&D Dealers, and these end-to-end ERP systems remind, automate, and communicate with and for the staff, allowing them to get much more work done. Salespeople send a proposal which allows for a low-friction E-Signature, and the system knows when to remind them to follow-up. The system collects and saves all important documents and communications for that job, all in one easy to find place. Staff from every department do their work, see the information, and everything gets recorded simply as the work gets done. Questions/emails are eliminated, correct addresses are obtained, costs are tracked, and accounting and management get reports automatically. Jobs with returns and RMAs are processed, with the system reminding the vendor rep to get the RMA issued. Services are easily created on a phone, tablet, or desktop, right when the client calls, and the service manager gets a notice. Customer communication can be done with the system reminding, or emails can go out from the system to the customer when a certain timeframe or milestone is reached. “Bob—it has been 10 days since you called us about your service issue, and we wanted to let you know we haven’t forgotten! We will be in touch when the parts arrive.”
Not many people like to be forced to change, and Dealers who think these fundamental changes to our society and business will somehow leave them unscathed are like those booksellers who figured their comfortable little “neighborhood treasure won’t be replaced by some electronic on-line bookstore.” Dealers who have the courage to adapt are surviving, and they are putting themselves in a position to grow and thrive as these inevitable changes continue.
PATH|ERP is a comprehensive system built for Window & Door People by Window & Door People. Our focus is on Window & Door Dealer success using breakthrough easy-to-use technology. Find out more by visiting www.patherp.com or by reaching out to Jeff Olson @ 608-576-3100 or emailing him: firstname.lastname@example.org.