Thursday, August 19, 2010

Does ‘Over-the-Top’ Customer Service Really Work?

In a recent article by Harvard Business Review titled: Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers; we found some interesting theories in regards to what is actually necessary when it comes to customer service. The authors examined situations in which customers either return or banish companies and came to the following conclusion:

“Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be.”

Therefore providing over-the-top customer service may not build loyalty, but reducing the effort your clients and/or customers have to do to get their purchase made, or problem solved – will. Ultimately taking deliberate steps in this direction – rather than trying to find new ways to spoil customers may help you improve your customer service ratings, and reduce costs.

To read a partial view of this article, click here. (Note: Full article requires subscription).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Improving Logistics, Inventory Control and Supply Chain Management

For food and agribusiness companies it is now more important than ever to have the proper logistics, inventory control and supply chain management in place. Why? Because it ultimately leads to cost savings, and improved customer service – providing a much needed competitive advantage.

In order to create the appropriate strategy, your company should understand the nature of product demand, inventory management and supply chain capabilities. We recently came across a great article titled, Logistics, Inventory Control, and Supply Chain Management, written by Frank Dooley that covers these items in depth. However, some of the key points in the article were as follows:

Inventory Management
There are three general approaches used to manage inventory.

  1. An inventory control approach which is typically used by retailers.

  2. Production Scheduling and Flow Management used by manufacturers.

  3. And a non-active approach which involves keeping large inventory quantities on hand at all times, commonly seen in agribusiness companies.
Types of Demand
Inventory management is influenced by the nature of demand, including whether demand is derived or independent. Which is more applicable to your business?
  • Derived demand arises from the production of another product.

  • Independent demand arises from the demand for an end-product.
Customer Service and Inventory
The availability of inventory provides customer service. The Item Fill Rate (IFR) measures how often a particular product (often called a stock keeping unit or SKU) is available. A common metric of customer service, IFR is expressed as the percentage of time that a customer can obtain the item they seek.

To avoid shortfalls or stockouts, some companies may carry extra inventory known as safety stock. As more customer service is provided, you can expect sales to increase. However in some cases as you attempt to improve your customer service levels, some logistical costs may increase.

Inventory levels are affected by customer service expectations, demand uncertainty, and the flexibility of the supply chain. For products with relatively certain demand and a long shelf-life, it can be much easier to maintain the desired customer service standards and inventory levels. However for products that have unpredictable demand, a short life cycle, or product proliferation, a more responsive supply chain and larger buffer inventories may be necessary in order to maintain the desired level of customer service.

Consumers are demanding more customer service from companies throughout the supply chain. Those with a higher level are more likely to gain the much needed competitive advantage over those that do not have the supply chain capabilities in place or the ability to manage them. If you can study and gain a good overall understanding of your demand, recognize stock-out costs and carry the right levels of inventory – you’ll be more likely to manage it effectively. As industrialization affects agribusiness and agriculture in general, the importance of customer service and competitiveness becomes more and more important.

To read the entire article, please click here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of a Good Disaster Recovery Plan

Having a disaster recovery plan is like an insurance policy for your business, helping you get back on your feet as quickly and cost effectively as possible. Whether natural or man-made, disasters of any magnitude can strike at any time. Severe weather, technological viruses and crashes, as well as fire, and flood can all strike occur without warning. While it may seem like a hassle up front, a good disaster recovery plan can save your business should you need to call up on it.

A great example of this is the recent BP oil spill. Had they had a plan in place they may have been able to recover much quicker, saving not only themselves large quantities of money, but the surrounding industries as well. With damages estimated in the tens of billions, not to mention the PR nightmare they’re now facing – we’re sure BP wishes they had thought ahead.

The First Steps
First, make sure top-level executives within your company are on board and involved in the process. Their support is vital to the creation of a good plan. Step two is the creation phase. This is a slow methodical process and requires that each department be broken down into its smallest units, separating the function of each and analyzing it for its importance to your business. If this sounds like something that might be too much for you to handle internally, fear not. Many companies choose to outsource this task to an expert who has the experience and perspective necessary to come up with a comprehensive plan for your company. If you choose to do it in house however, the first thing you’ll need is a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). A BIA collects all of the information relating to your business and ranks it in order of importance. Then each function should be assigned a process of continuity.

Next, you will want to design an emergency procedure. This should include contact information for all employees, vendors, and partners as well as a comprehensive list of all equipment for all departments. These lists should be kept up to date and reviewed often.

Next Steps

  • Designate and prepare an alternate location that can be used as an alternate workspace should you need it.

  • Set up all data back-up and recovery processes. These should be kept on hard disks and stored off-site or uploaded to a 3rd party server. All data should be backed up regularly. The frequency depends on your business – some choose to do this in real time, some weekly, and others monthly.

  • Provisions should be added (if not included already) to the Service Level Agreements (SLC) with your suppliers, vendors, and other businesses you engage with. This reduces liability risk if you fail to deliver due to a crisis.

  • Hold regular ‘disaster drills’ to check the viability of your plan and backup systems. It is crucial that you do this prior to experiencing a disaster. So many companies (roughly 76%) never test their systems. The very damaging downside to this is that when and if it comes time to use it, they find that their plan is inadequate and/or incomplete, resulting in huge financial losses and downtime.
Adapted from How Disaster Recovery Plans Work, Dave Roos posted here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

EDI: How Low Can Your TCO Go?

Register Now!

See how Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Transaction Manager for Sage PFW ERP, powered by TrueCommerce, can save you up to 60% on your EDI Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). (1)

Painless, Easy and Affordable! EDI is a widely adopted form of electronic commerce and is required by many large enterprises. EDI Transaction Manager, powered by TrueCommerce, is a painless, easly, and affordable way to:
  • Import purchase orders with the click of a button
  • Reduce data entry mistakes and save on administration costs
  • Export and send invoices directly from Accounts Receivable

Backed by free and unlimited support services, (2) EDI Transaction Manager comes with no annual maintenance fees and free software updates.

Your invited to a free Sage Webcast:

"Reduce Your EDI Total Cost of Ownership With TrueCommerce Integrated with Sage PFW"

See how other companies have lowered their total cost of owning EDI by up to 60%!

August 4, 2010

  • 12:00-1:00 PM CT
  • 3:00 - 4:00 PM CT

Register today!

(1) Compared to other EDI providers. TrueCommerce does not charge annual subscription or maintenance fees, or AS2 license fees, mailbox fees, peak hour surcharges or delimiter conversion fees. EDI software updates are free as is support. No annual contract is required and there are no early termination fees.

(2) Free and unlimited support on EDI Transaction Manager is provided by TrueCommerce and is not applicable to any Sage product or upgrade.

The Scoop on Windows 7

Now available, Windows 7 is the upgrade from Windows Vista and XP. In the near future XP will stop supporting this operating system so migrating to Windows 7 is inevitable. However, before you install it, here are some points to consider:

  • New PCs can be ordered with Win7 already installed.

  • Upgrades from Vista to Win7 can take a long time and may be difficult.

  • It is faster than XP, and can work on older PC’s, but you cannot upgrade from XP.

  • Win7 offers scheduled backup / defragmentation routines.

  • Microsoft no longer supports XP.

  • New installs only take about 30 minutes and it will find most device drivers, or you can use XP/Vista drivers.

  • Upgrades will take a few hours, you can only upgrade from Vista, and you’ll need to do some system clean up after.

If you have questions or want help installing or upgrading to Windows 7, call our office.

FRx Replacement - Sage Intelligence

Sage Intelligence will soon be introduced as the ideal FRx replacement product for Sage PFW and Sage MAS 90/200/500. On target to be released by the end of this year, Sage Intelligence offers powerful and easy to use graphical financial reporting capabilities to access business-critical information, and makes complex reporting easy using a new report designer. Going beyond General Ledger reporting needs, Sage Intelligence will provide Business Intelligence across the entire Sage PFW and MAS system. Sage will discontinue shipping FRx with new license sales by the end of 2010, and will not include FRx in future releases of their products.

With Sage Intelligence you will be better able to:

  • Quickly identify and respond to trends using sophisticated, customizable dashboards.

  • Empower your staff with timely, meaningful information and trend reports.

  • Easily create in-depth financial, operations, customer, and vendor reports.

  • Efficiently view, manipulate, analyze, and distribute reports in a familiar Excel format.

  • Extract up-to-the-minute high level summaries, account groupings, or transaction details.

  • Effortlessly consolidate data from multiple companies, divisions, and databases.

  • Streamline customized work in Excel.

Sage PFW and MAS customers on plan will be provided with a trade-in option for existing FRx licenses. Details on this program will be provided very soon.

What’s New in Microsoft Office 2010?

Microsoft Office 2010 has many new features that allow you to get the most out of your software. Some of the new aspects include:

  • A new preview before you paste feature.

  • Enhanced navigation, search tools, new page versions and wiki linking.

  • Improved Navigation Pane to find documents easier and faster.

  • Co-authoring capabilities allowing multiple people to open and edit the same document simultaneously.

Media & PowerPoint 2010

  • Improved picture and media editing.

  • New artistic effects and a background removal tool.

  • Open Type typography.

  • Easily trim, add fades and effects to videos.

  • Broadcast Slideshow instantly via the web.

Excel & Access 2010

  • New visualization tools.

  • Dynamically filter data in a PivotTable or PivotChart to display only the relevant details.

  • Design your own database using Application Parts, adding prebuilt components with just a few clicks.

Outlook 2010

  • Improved Conversation View and Management tools.

  • Perform multi-step tasks such as reply and delete within a single click.


  • Easily post files to SharePoint or Windows Live SkyDrive and then access and edit them from virtually anywhere.

  • New powerful tools for Windows phones.

  • SharePoint Workspace 2010 enables offline updates to documents.

The most important piece of information you should know is that Microsoft will no longer support Office 2003. We encourage any that are still operating on the older version to upgrade to 2010.

If you have questions or need any additional support with transitioning to Office 2010 please let us know. We would love to help you.