You’ve been in the software business for over twenty years. What has automation come to mean in business today?
I’ve always been a big believer in automating activities that are otherwise manual so people can add more value to their business. When I think of what the banking industry has done – 30 years ago, where people wanted to withdraw funds – they actually had to talk to a teller to take money out of their accounts. This seems quaint or silly today in light of bank machines. For the banking sector with the competitive pressure and the technology, the industry realized this was not a good use of fairly expensive people .
How does this shift relate to the distribution sector?
I’ve seen a change over the last couple of years in the mindset of distributors; in the past, some of them still felt that the activity of adding that order into their system was valued by their customers and it was worth paying people to do that. I talk to distributors today and their strategies are more about having their customer service reps, these front-line people – focus on higher value added activities –it’s becoming a competitive market and people are looking for that edge to compete and at least operate with the advanced standards we’ve created today.
Is there still resistance?
I do still come across resistance. When people consider automation, they ask “how do I justify this in my business?” And “how much money is this going to cost or save me?” When people try and analyze what it costs per line to enter orders in – there’s a wide range of thought and studies out there about what it costs to do this – and I’ve not seen companies be successful coming at it from this angle. I encourage them to build a case viewing this strategically. “Are we in the business of paying people to manually type these lines in?” Businesses have to decide whether that has value. This is where Conexiom is so powerful.
Why has Conexiom been so successful over its competitors?
EDI is costly and takes time to implement – you have to make your customers change their process. And then, what people have tried in the past, as a non-process change for their customers is OCR technology. It’s been around for a long time, but the reality is, it’s not 100% data accurate. With Conexiom, there’s no process change for your customers and you have that accuracy. And the beauty is, some of their customers don’t even know they’re using Conexiom. It’s that seamless.
You’ve seen this solution enable companies to substantially increase their revenues. How does automation cause a company to grow?
One of our customers, for example, has been able to increase their revenues by 30% without increasing their staff and their customer service department. That’s been one of the critical benefits of the solution, where there’s more time to deal with problems and issues and making sure your customers are dealt with appropriately when you pick up the phone and trying to figure out what their order is, what the status is… they have more time to focus on those personal touches. We’ve seen companies utilize their customer service reps to focus on being more competitive, more up-selling opportunities; when they’re dealing with customers on a daily basis, there’s more time to understand what they’re looking at from a product point-of-view. Maybe a customer is buying a certain product from you and there are complementary products they haven’t been buying from you. Conexiom allows a better opportunity for these people to try and understand their customers’ needs.
Do you apply this strategy to your own business?
Absolutely. We’re always looking to reduce manual intervention. And we know, at the end of the day when we know we can automate something, it will open up the possibilities in terms of the other things we can do with these people and their time that add a lot more value to our own business. And that’s what I’ve seen with distributors.