Builders' Merchants News

Progressive users have their say

Published:  17 August, 2010

RUNCORN/READING: Progressive Solutions' customer events provided an opportunity for its users to share their views. Main merchant strategies were all about surviving the downturn and gearing up for the period after the recession. IT was cited as a key enabler of that aim.

Other challenges facing business was finance. Some businesses reported they had been 'hit hard' and that investment had been stopped in many areas. Reduced spend had led to reductions in training and possible damage to customer service. Reduced cashflow was impacting profitability and pricing and the general economic situation had restricted many plans.

Another issue highlighted was the number of customers going out of business or changing their buying patterns.

Those selling high quality products faced difficulty in making customers understand their value.

The challenges of maintaining a secure supply chain and the global effects of the recession on materials, logistics, costs and exchange rates were making it difficult for all customers to stay ahead of the game.

Commitment to the customer and 'going the extra mile' were seen as key attributes and virtually all respondents referenced the role played by their employees and their vital contribution to customer service.

The perception was that employees who offer customers a truly personal service - whether you are a 'one man' organisation or a big company – and whomever seems to be more interested in customer needs, will win.

A number of companies used the same word - consistency - as the key attribute they look for in a supplier to their company. A number said an important judging factor or 'moment of truth' was when there were problems - and there always will be - and how they were resolved.

Good suppliers were seen as willing to develop a proper partnership, not 'here today, gone tomorrow,' and had a willingness 'to bring something extra to the party'.

Some customers looked for their suppliers to reflect the corporate values of the buyer and so if prompt and reliable payments is the most important aspect then the supplier must also follow that same corporate value set.

As part of the exercise Progressive Solutions also examined how merchants purchased their software and what criteria they applied. The results of this exercise were then compared with a similar, but non-sector specific study conducted by Deloitte & Touch. Progressive asked respondents to identify the criteria they applied when originally purchasing the bisTrack software solution and then, using the benefit of hindsight, asked them if they would apply different criteria when buying again.

Functionality of the software and the software's ability to fit the business were the overriding criteria applied by the bisTrack customers at both first and second purchase, with price seen as less important, and also less important than ease of use and growth potential of the system.

This contrasted sharply with the non-sector specific survey conducted by Deloitte & Touch which showed price as the top consideration at first time purchase and moving down to 5th position out of eight at second purchase, when it was replaced at the top by support provided by the partner, followed in second position by vendor's track record of success.

Before arriving at the decision to purchase bisTrack, in virtually all cases customers researched the market even looking at long lists of 10 or more suppliers before short-listing.

Many cited the desire for a 'Windows-based system' that would promote familiarity and ease of use with a workforce conversant with Microsoft systems.

In terms of why people decided to buy from Progressive, overall there were two factors. The first being the functionality of the software and the second, its fit with the business. The decision always had a third dimension and was attributed to people and personality, the team employed and the confidence this created.

In consideration of what Progressive could do better, the most common theme was that of unravelling the complexity of the technology and bridging the gap between 'what the software does and what you know it can do'. The potential use for bisTrack was perceived as 'massive', and some customers saw their thirst to keep up with and get the most out of the evolving product as a 'problem'.