Thanks to a productive relationship with SoftCo, including the affordable service offered by SoftCo Managed Services, Heitons has successfully met these challenges: cutting costs and maximising efficiencies while also delivering real improvements in customer service.
For a company like Heitons, enhancing customer satisfaction isn't as simple as offering new technological self-service tools. Rather, Heitons needed a way to remove the delays and inefficiencies of delivering information to customers who frequently rang or visited its dispersed branches. One of the company's most pressing problems was in its Accounts Receivable department. Customers would regularly visit a branch, asking for copies of proof-of-delivery notes (PODs) to back up the invoices they had received, and Heitons urgently needed a better way to fulfil these requests.
The challenge was that the Heitons family of stores, which at that time in 2002 comprised of 20 branches, could not efficiently share information. Each branch produced invoices for its own customers, including PODs signed by customers. Heitons already had a system for scanning these PODs and making them available to the branches, but the system wasn't ideal. For one thing, after the PODs were sent away to Head Office for scanning, each branch would receive back a separate CD of their own PODs. This meant 20 different islands of data as each branch could only view its own accounts documentation for its own customers.
Even though Heitons' data wasn't mobile, its customers were. A customer may do business in multiple branches yet ask for copies of PODs from the local branch. Each such request began a lengthy paper chase between branches. Multiply this process by hundreds of transactions in every Heitons branch, and the extent of the problem becomes clear.
After analysing Heitons' requirements, SoftCo implemented its Accounts Receivable solution that included SoftCo Managed Services, an affordable service where SoftCo staff scan all the Heitons Accounts Receivable PODs. Right away Heitons saw the benefit of lower costs.
"We liked the way SoftCo approached the solution and the efficiency of their scanning service - it also proved to be more cost effective than our original service, and we're very pleased about that," says Andrew Hewat, Business Development Manager for Heitons. "We're also happy that we have a dedicated team at SoftCo looking after our scanning process, and if there are any issues that emerge, we can ring the relevant individuals directly."
Once the documentation is scanned by SoftCo, it is delivered into the Heiton electronic archive which is available to all branches. This has delivered tremendous benefits to Heitons, since a credit controller can now view accounts documentation for any transaction or customer, instantly, regardless of where in the country they have purchased their goods. As a result, staff time is no longer wasted in making or satisfying requests to dig up documentation that customers want.
"The SoftCo system has revolutionised how AR staff go about meeting their customers' proof-of-delivery requirements," Andrew says. "It was a very time consuming process before, whereas now they can print off whatever they require, there and then."
Andrew notes that the SoftCo system, along with other business process improvements Heitons has implemented since 2002, has reduced debtor days, which benefits the company's cashflow. Reaction to the SoftCo system among Heitons staff has also been "fantastic," he says. "AR staff were used to spending so much time ringing each other and chasing paper- - the fact that they have instant access to all documents is a huge improvement."
The SoftCo solution for Heitons also includes a universal document archive and workflow for the Accounts Payable process. Heitons' own in-house team scans incoming invoices and other AP documentation into the archive. The SoftCo solution facilitates routing, authorisation and signoff of supplier invoices. "With this system everything is available electronically, and it's made a huge difference to the work of our Accounts Payable team" he says. "We felt we could greatly improve efficiency in our AP team when we set out with this solution, and that's certainly been the case."
Heitons is particularly pleased at the service and professionalism of the SoftCo team, and Andrew says he would have no qualms about recommending the company. "I found SoftCo to be extremely customer-focussed in terms of the project we put in place. We had both software and hardware with our solution which was implemented in a very professional manner," he says. "They're a very good company to deal with. We always have access to the senior people in SoftCo when we need them, and their knowledge of the system was a key selling point."