Shock to the system

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Shock to the system

Is it time to update your technology to improve customer relations, increase profits and make your life easier? Lisa Veeck looks at the industry’s leading tech platforms.

BMI

“The company is committed to being more than just a vendor. BMI is a partner in our success.”

Office Solutions Products and Services, Yorba Linda, California, has used Business Management Software’s (BMI) Microsoft Dynamic NAV since April 2009.

Bob Mairena, Office Solutions president and owner, explains why his company chose BMI: “Our biggest challenge was that we were using an ERP solution that was no longer keeping up with our needs and was soon to be retired. The lack of support and new development was hindering our growth, efficiency and data analysis capabilities.

“We looked at several software solutions. The decision came down to choosing between a general ERP solution, like Microsoft Dynamic NAV, and an industry-specific solution. BMI is a Microsoft partner specializing in ERP software and the company’s success rate with other implementations across multiple industries impressed us. BMI had also customized the package for the office product space, which at the time was our primary focus. The BMI team also really stood out. Their knowledge of Dynamics NAV allowed us to take advantage of the broad range of functionalities. All these factors played a part in our decision and it’s proven to be a good one.”

Since then, several things have confirmed they made the right call. “The software implementation was almost seamless and came in under budget,” recalls Mairena. “While we played a big part in the success, BMI was right there with us. Working together as a team was the key.”

The software’s user-friendliness is another advantage. “It is a Microsoft product; the user interface and navigation are remarkably similar to Microsoft Office,” explains Mairena. “This allows for quick adoption by new hires and facilitates training.”

But perhaps the most significant benefit has been the software’s effect on Office Solutions’ business. “BMI/Dynamic NAV is such a versatile solution—it has had a direct impact on our operations from day one,” he continues. “It has streamlined workflow for multiple departments, improved our data analytics and built efficiencies across our divisions. Dynamic NAV offers a broad range of functionality that covers various aspects of our business needs, from integrated financials and supply chain management to sales and customer service.”

While Mairena can’t put a dollar amount on how much labor or time BMI/Dynamic NAV has saved, he confirms that while the company has grown, “the headcount has not.” The software has also increased sales, he reports: “I can tell you we have had substantial growth and BMI/Dynamics NAV has played a role in that growth.”

Reflecting Office Solutions’ faith in BMI, the company is now embarking on the next stage of its journey with the provider. “We are currently in the process of moving to SaaS [software as a service] platform BMI SupplyAutomate, based on Dynamics 365 Business Central,” says Mairena. “We are excited to see the additional benefits and even more excited that this will be our last big upgrade. SaaS products are hosted remotely and updates and patches to the application or new features are automatically rolled out. The move to the cloud aligns with our company goal of forward-looking technology strategy and continuous improvement.”

Mairena wouldn’t hesitate to recommend BMI to other dealers: “BMI is a great partner—its team is responsive to any issue or need that may arise. The company is committed to being more than just a vendor. BMI is a partner in our success.”

 

Dealer Commander

“It’s saved us a full-time employee position and that’s a big deal for a business.”

Stuart Stuart (yes, a double moniker!), co-owner of Brown’s Office Centre, Sylvania, Georgia, reckons the company has been using Dealer Commander software for about 15 years. “When something doesn’t work, you know when you bought it,” he says. “It’s when something works good, the way it should, that it’s hard to remember.”

He does know that he wishes the company had adopted the software sooner, though.

“Our rep, Sonny [Arora], kept telling me we needed to upgrade and try the software,” Stuart recalls. “But I’m old school: you get into habits and it’s hard to change. Finally, I went kicking and screaming. If I’d listened to Sonny sooner, I’d be in really good shape!”

It’s not that Brown had never tried out different software; it’s just that none paid off like Dealer Commander has. “It’s easy for people in the office to use and works well with our website,” Stuart explains. “The electronic invoicing works really well. Not having to do paper invoicing saves us a ton of time. So does customers being able to sign for deliveries digitally. We have 25 to 30 tickets every day. Before, if there was an issue, we’d have to sort through the tickets and find the invoices to see who signed. It’s saved us a full-time employee position and that’s a big deal for a business. The software is even improving our cash flow because some people pay when they automatically receive the invoice rather than waiting for us to generate a statement.”

The software also helps his team input customer orders. “When we input an order, it shows the catalog and description so we can see what we are ordering to be sure it is right, which also helps with new hires,” he continues. “Being able to see the customer history also helps a lot. It tells us the last time they bought an item and the price we sold it to them for, so we know to stay in the same ballpark.” The software also displays the cost of items in each of the wholesaler’s programs so Stuart knows where to get the best deal without having to look each item up.

Stuart believes Dealer Commander’s software is “priced fairly.” As for support, “I truly don’t think we’ve had any downtime; there’s never been a day when it didn’t work,” he enthuses. “If there is a problem, even though they provide good training, it’s usually something I don’t understand or forgot. So I post a support ticket and get an answer quickly—usually the same day, but never as long as two days. If I post a comment that the Dealer Commander team can’t understand, Sonny will call me and ask me what I am talking about.

“Another thing I like is that Sonny calls me from time to time—not because there is an issue but just to see if we are happy and everything is going smoothly. Not many sales reps do that anymore. I recommend Dealer Commander software to other dealers—I really do.”

 

ECI-JumpTrack

“I definitely recommend JumpTrack for dealers looking to improve their delivery efficiency”

OCOP Express, Dallas, Texas, was losing time and money with its delivery system. Drivers weren’t always using the most direct routes, packages were overlooked and misdelivered, and the paperwork was unwieldy.

That was 13 years ago, before the company started using ECI’s JumpTrack proof-of-delivery software to reduce costs, increase accuracy and improve efficiencies.

“JumpTrack has allowed us to make more deliveries, saving us anywhere from five minutes up to an hour per day per route,” reports president Ken Caldwell. “It plans our drivers’ most direct delivery routes, including fuel-saving measures like making left turns whenever possible. It also integrates with Google or Apple Maps, providing turn-by-turn directions so drivers can find new accounts easily with the click of a button. The app saves gas and time.”

Another key feature enables drivers to scan all the packages on the truck before they leave the warehouse. “It accounts for every package and tells drivers how many they should have for each stop. They know if they have an extra package or one is missing,” Caldwell says.

Paperwork reduction is another significant advantage of JumpTrack. “We don’t have to search through printed papers to find the right order to see who scratched their name on a piece of paper,” explains Caldwell. He estimates the time savings to be 30 to 45 minutes per week.

According to Caldwell, the company also uses JumpTrack as a sales tool by highlighting its advantages for clients: “Customers like that it eliminates phone calls. They don’t have to call in to see if a package has been delivered. They can go to our website and log in, and it shows the number of cartons, the day and time the packages were delivered, that they are in receiving, and the signature and printed name of the person who accepted the package. If no one was there to accept the delivery, drivers can take a picture of where it was left.”

While setting up JumpTrack and getting all the elements tied together took a little time, Caldwell says the system itself was easy to learn and that by day three, it was as if the company had always used the system.

To host JumpTrack, OCOP Express provides its six delivery drivers with cellphones that can be used for their personal use after hours. Caldwell is confident the savings in fuel and labor, paperwork reduction and increased customer satisfaction more than offset the expense. “I definitely recommend JumpTrack for dealers looking to improve their delivery efficiency,” he concludes.

 

Fortune Web Marketing

“Fortune Web has been an amazing vendor … Many companies would be lucky to work with them”

When Benjamin Office Supply and Services, Rockwell, Maryland, wanted to upgrade the website of its furniture division, Andy Stern’s Office Furniture, it turned to Fortune Web Marketing—a full-service online marketing agency based in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It helps clients establish and refine their digital presence through search engine optimization (SEO), social media and inbound strategies. The company has extensive experience in the IDC.

“The sites Fortune Web did for us four years ago worked great,” says Josh Benjamin, director of operations and communications. “But we were looking to expand our SEO and improve our content to get higher Google rankings and drive customers to our website. Fortune Web works with similar companies in our industry, so the team understands the mindset and type of customers we want to target. Fortune Web made sure we were headed in the right direction.”

Fortune Web used several methods to steer the company down the right path. “Their team sends us reports on how our SEO is doing and how we are ranking with Google, and explains what we need to do depending on what is working best,” says Benjamin. “Fortune Web also writes a blog with good content relevant to our customers. I can then use the blog in our newsletters with links to drive customers to our site and include links to products. Fortune Web gave us perspective so we can better focus on specific areas. They brought our furniture site into the 20th century.”

One of the improvements engineered by Fortune Web was the creation of subpages for everything from educational versus healthcare furniture to ergonomic design and collaborative space furniture. “It helps customers know where to find content they care about and products they would order,” explains Benjamin.

Seemingly minor tweaks that Fortune Web introduced to cater to online customers have also had a significant impact: “They added a ‘contact us’ call to action on every page so customers can get in touch with us and inquiries are sent to me and our leadership team so we can respond to them.”

Andy Stern’s site now uses WordPress. While transitioning from one software program to another can sometimes be a nightmare, Benjamin says the switch could not have been smoother. “The transition to the new site was fantastic every step of the way,” he recalls. “I learned a lot. Jennifer [Stine, Fortune Web’s president] and her team explained everything, including terms I’d heard and vaguely understood but not completely. They explained things in simple terms, which really helps and is not something many tech companies do.”

According to Benjamin, Fortune Web’s overall support was equally impressive: “When there was a small hiccup, they would assess it and fix it and figure out how to avoid it in the future.”

All in all, “Fortune Web has been an amazing vendor,” Josh concludes. “They’ve given us so much time and attention. I think many companies would be lucky to work with them.”

 

GOPD

“GOPD has all the bells and whistles we and our customers need … the owner and team really understand independent dealer challenges.”

Jackson Data Products, Inc., Ridgeland, Mississippi, knew it was time to try a new software provider. The system the dealer had been using was becoming increasingly expensive and the service wasn’t there: small bugs that disrupted business took too long to be fixed. Topping it off, the system was difficult to use. So the company started researching other options and in November 2023 switched to GOPD.

“GOPD has all the bells and whistles we and our customers need,” says co-owner Stacey Philley. “It offers a better price point and is user friendly and customizable; and the owner and team really understand independent dealer challenges.”

Of GOPD’s many features, Philley particularly likes that the customer experience can be customized. “We can add a logo, graphics and copy specific to each customer,” she explains. “We can put a school’s mascot on the shopping cart. It makes the experience more personal.”

She also likes the price comparison feature that allows Jackson Data to match or beat competitors’ pricing, with the option of letting the customer see the results: “It saves time because we don’t have to be constantly searching online to see what Staples is selling an item for. It helps us keep up with market trends.”

GOPD’s mobile version is another plus. “The mobile technology is a big feature for us because all the younger generation shop by phone,” reports Philley. “The GOPD version offers the same features as the website and fits in our budget.”

According to Philley, the transition to GOPD was easy: “With the old software, often we couldn’t figure things out ourselves and had to call support a lot. The GOPD team held our hand, but we found the software to be intuitive. There were not that many hiccups—maybe one or two—but the GOPD team were quick to fix them. They made sure we were happy through the set-up and it is still important to them. They call every two weeks to chat and make sure we are happy and all is going well.”

Philley also believes the switch to GOPD has boosted Jackson Data’s sales. “The website’s front end looks more professional,” she says. “We offer all the features necessary to keep up with the big boxes—for example, when customers click on an item, batteries or other items they might like or need pop up.”

Would Philley recommend GOPD to other independent dealers looking for a software provider? “Definitely!” she enthuses. “The price point is so good, yet it offers all the features of more expensive software. It helps our sales and is easy to use.”

 

Logicblock

“I don’t think there is a better system out there.”

Zuma Office Supply, Houston, Texas, started using Logicblock in 2009. However, president and co-owner Mason Kramer became acquainted with the software long before then. He clearly remembers why he switched to it at his former employer.

“We were more into the traditional office products then and were looking to get further into the e-commerce space, and the old provider we were using wasn’t suited for that and showed no signs of improving or wanting to develop in that area,” he recalls. “So, we looked at different options and came across Logicblock.”

The company liked what it saw and made the transition; and when the time came to pick a solution for Zuma, Kramer didn’t hesitate.

“We wanted a customized site and with Logicblock, we have that,” he says. “Logicblock offers an out-of-the-box website that is e-commerce friendly and allows them and us to customize. We can do anything we want. That was a big reason we chose it. The back end is also user friendly, which makes it easier for our team.”

Two years ago, Zuma completely revamped its website and again was not disappointed. “We fully customized the look and improved the experience for existing and new customers,” Kramer explains. “The types of reviews we are getting are usually reserved for big, well-known sites like Target or Walmart. The look and experience of the site have increased our sales. We’ve added sales because new customers feel comfortable placing an order; and it’s helped with customer retention because they feel comfortable coming back based on their initial experience. The back end also continues to improve.”

In fact, Kramer credits Logicblock’s back end with helping Zuma—once a strictly e-commerce company—become a hybrid and go national: “The back end allows us to tie into different areas nationwide with a local look and feel.”

“Logicblock has great integrations,” he continues. “We can add different nontraditional vendors and it works great with pay-per-click; and Google feeds to update pricing and add products instantly. That’s been huge for us. So has being able to pull reports to look at the business as a whole. We can analyze the data to make decisions, which has helped run the business.”

As for support, Kramer admits that initially he had his doubts. “I very much prefer picking up the phone and having a conversation versus email, as I find it easier and faster,” he says. “But Logicblock has an internal ticket system. You fill out and rank the importance of the request from ‘urgent’ to ‘it can wait.’ It works fantastically well. Of course, if we need to jump on a call, including with the executive team, we do.” Kramer is equally pleased with the training, reporting that the company’s Knowledge Base includes in-depth how-to videos on whatever his team is looking to do.

Kramer concludes: “If you are an independent dealer and want to stay relevant in office products today, you should probably use Logicblock. I don’t think there is a better system out there.”

 

Prima Software

“I had been looking for a better alternative to our system since I started in this industry in 2014; Prima finally had it.”

Office Express (OEX), Troy, Michigan, started using Prima software in May 2021. President Jeff Eusebio explains what life was like before Prima: “Our previous supplier’s approach was more like, ‘If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.’ The company didn’t want to integrate with anything it didn’t own. We also had ongoing issues that the company took forever to fix and there was often an extra charge for some features. They kept increasing our software costs every year without adding any new functionality. I had been looking for a better alternative to our system since I started in this industry in 2014. Prima finally had it.”

Eusebio explains what clinched his decision: “We chose Prima because it was built with a modern code base on a relational database. It had been in development for decades, was already in use in the United Kingdom and had all the capabilities we need.”

Eusebio also appreciated the smooth transition. “The company has a really responsive development team,” he recalls. “If a feature we requested would benefit everyone, they didn’t charge to create it. They built quite a bit into their product based on our needs at no extra cost. We have also saved a significant amount of money with Prima since things like proof of delivery, printing and emailing are built in at no extra cost. Prima has a modern architecture and user interface. Their onboarding and training were quite good and thorough. There was a lot to learn, of course, and they patiently helped us work through it. And this training didn’t stop after we went live—they continue to be responsive to our queries to this day.”

OEX uses almost all of Prima’s functions, including company, contract, sales and purchase order processing; catalogs and mailers; inventory; invoicing; and reporting.

Eusebio gives an example of how this has helped sales: “When we were looking to make our final decision, we were courting a large customer with some unique requirements, including sending orders via PDF, tracking shipments in Aftership and real-time reporting. It’s only because we switched to Prima that we were able to land this customer, which resulted in a 10 percent increase in our overall supply sales over the next year.”

While Eusebio acknowledges it depends on the function, Prima has saved OEX time and labor overall. “It’s been an absolute shining star for our accounting department with the move to QuickBooks,” he elaborates. “We eliminated an entire paid role and the current accounting employees have a much better work-life balance. It’s also not embarrassing to show summer interns what we use for accounting. From an IT systems support perspective, it’s definitely a time saver. There is no more day-end or month-end processing. From a data maintenance standpoint, some things would take hours to accomplish before, such as mass data changes across hundreds of customers. With Prima, they are done easily in less than a minute.”

Eusebio concludes: “I recommend independent dealers look at Prima to see if it fits their business.”

 

SSI

“SSI offers the best of both worlds: great customer service and cost savings.”

Office Plus Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, opted to go with SSI software for one major reason.

“We used another program from 2005 to 2019 and the number one reason we switched to SSI was customer service,” says Brandon Guthrie, Office Plus operations manager. “The customer service [with the old company] was good initially. But toward the end, trying to get things handled when we had an issue was a challenge. We were running into major problems getting any support. If the company isn’t responding when there is an issue, I can’t respond to my customers, which is a problem. The front and back end of the other program worked well, but I am service driven. I have to have customer service.”

This lack of service ended up costing Office Plus business. “I had a large account with a punchout that had an issue and couldn’t place an order with the old system,” explains Guthrie. “I was losing orders and money because it wasn’t being fixed.”

Just as Office Plus was experiencing this lack of responsiveness, SSI came calling. Guthrie decided to make the transition—a move he has never regretted.

“SSI is far more service driven,” he reports. “I have Skype support if I need it, on top of the normal support, tickets and cellphone numbers. I haven’t had to use it, but it gives me peace of mind.”

Guthrie also likes that the service is personal: “I work with the key individuals. One was Charles Russell, who recently passed away. He was so supportive; I am sure many dealers will feel the loss. But it shows you how close we are to the people at SSI that we knew about his passing. With many other suppliers, you wouldn’t even know a person’s name.”

Customer service is so crucial to Guthrie that it overshadows everything else. “The features of SSI are good,” he enthuses. “They are user friendly and work well.  I also like that SSI partners with other third-party vendors. These partnerships allow me to develop direct relationships with the reps and SSI to focus on what it does best. But why I like SSI comes down to its responsiveness and support. When I ask for a tweak, I can see it being made. When I have an opinion or something I prefer, SSI is very responsive.”

As the software is dealer driven, Guthrie admits that he may not agree with every change SSI makes based on other dealers’ preferences. Still, he likes the collaboration and thinks the more dealers involved, the better the system is for the IDC. And apparently, dealers are increasingly choosing SSI, as the number of dealers the company serves continues to grow.

While it’s all about customer service to Guthrie, this is not the only benefit SSI offers. “I am paying one-third of what I was paying before,” he elaborates. “We were also able to consolidate our warehouse positions because purchasing, deliveries and order filling are more reliable and take less time. This allows me to work on other things and spend less time watching what is happening in purchasing. I am willing to pay more for good customer service, but SSI offers the best of both worlds: great customer service and cost savings.”