The Edge - Q2 2011 - (Page 16)

AT RETAIL | by Stephanie Allemann Are Your Suppliers Giving You the Tools You Need to Succeed? RETAILERS, ARE YOU partnering with the right suppliers? In evaluating your current or potential new supplier relationships, a critical consideration must be to understand what tools the supplier makes available to you. The internet allows retailers and suppliers to be more tightly integrated than ever before. This integration enables you to access up-to-date information from your supplier when, where and how you need it, enabling your sales staff to sell more, reducing your administrative costs and making your business more efficient. your supplier has the spa in stock and if not, when he can ship one to you? To be able to provide answers to your customer, you need to access information from your supplier. In the old days, your supplier would provide you with a printed product catalog, you would place phone calls to your supplier’s customer service reps and perhaps your supplier would send weekly faxes showing their “current” stock levels. This level of integration is loose and requires phone calls back and forth to your supplier to obtain current information. This outdated mode of operation is all that many suppliers are offering, and it often forces you to answer your customer’s question with “I’ll call you later with that information,” then watch helplessly as the potential sale walks out the door. At the bare minimum, your supplier should provide you with web-based tools to allow you to access the information you need to answer those questions. Many suppliers now provide websites – called “portals” – where their retailers can see the supplier’s current inventory levels, as well as their own order status and expected ship dates. If you are working with suppliers that don’t provide these tools, start working with suppliers that do. • email notifications alerting the retailer of potential shipments or other issues, • online warranty processing, and • automatic updating of the retailer’s inventory control system when supplier’s prices or product lines change. Online ordering – Many suppliers provide some level of order entry via the web. The most basic form allows you to enter the item number and quantity of each item you’re ordering. More advanced order entry websites recognize when you have ordered an item that has accessories related to it. In this case, the system will display the matching accessories so you can order any of those. This greatly reduces ordering errors where, for example, the wrong color or size accessory is ordered. Some of these order entry systems allow you to specify a requested ship date. This is valuable when you have established an installation date with the customer and the items must be shipped by a certain date for you to meet the installation date. Some suppliers’ systems will even email you automatically when the items won’t be shipped by your requested ship date. This enables you to contact the customer early on to reschedule the installation, rather than in a panic at the last minute Email alerts – Some suppliers have emails automatically sent to notify you of other important events. For example, if you are placed on credit hold, you can be automatically notified by email. Being on credit hold often prevents orders from being shipped out, which can lead to customer service issues. THE BARE MINIMUM YOU SHOULD EXPECT The key to providing all-around excellent customer service is having access to information you need, when you need it. For example, when you have a customer interested in a particular spa, one of hundreds of questions that come up is: When can it be installed? Seems like a simple question, right? Well, if you don’t have that spa in stock, how do you answer that simple question? How do you get your hands on the information you need, such as whether or not If you are working with suppliers that don’t provide these tools, start working with suppliers that do. HOW SUPPLIERS GO ABOVE AND BEYOND Some suppliers go above and beyond, providing their retailers with advanced integration tools that rival the technology of the big retail chains. • online ordering with prompting for matching accessories, 16

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Edge - Q2 2011

The Edge - Q2 2011
The President’s Message
Letters to the Editor
Delivering Retail IMPACT
Are Your Suppliers Giving You the Tools You Need to Succeed?
Smart Tips to Boost Profi ts Today’s pool and spa professionals know how to survive a tough economic climate.
Project Focus
Succession Planning for Your Pool and Spa Business
Service Excellence Done Right Pools & Spas knows the secret.
Water Testing – Back to Basics
Promoting Your Business with Email
Index of Advertisers

The Edge - Q2 2011