Atlantic Belgium makes processes transparent
Tens of thousands of Euros a year, that is what Atlantic Belgium had previously been loosing in profit due to discounts being incorrectly passed on to colleagues, invoices being lost and due to ineffective planning. The investment made in Archie has been earned back in no time at all. Now that the primary processes are in order, the focus has shifted to identifying the most profitable prospects and customers.
The Atlantic group produces central heating boilers, water heaters, air conditioning and ventilation systems for both the commercial market (shopping centers, office complexes, factories) and the residential market. In order to best serve the various target groups, the company has five brands, each brand selling through their own distribution channel. One distribution channel may be heavily involved with wholesalers and another channel may work in close cooperation with installation companies. There is also the service branch of the company that provides serving for existing installations.
Too many errors
For each market and every channel the sales process is set up differently but there are a number of different points where the process is transferred between tendering, sales, after sales and accounting. Up until three years ago this information was spread between Word, Excel, e-mail and the telephone. Due to this sometimes things did go awry: a sales person would forget to tell a colleague in the administration team that they had given a discount to a customer, resulting in an invoice being sent out for the wrong amount. A sales person might also forget to follow up on a tender they had submitted. “We were simply making to many mistakes in our processes. Things were being lost in the process and consequently we were wasting a lot of time looking into what had gone wrong and making good our errors. If we forgot to calculate a customer discount they naturally got in touch to have it put right and we sent out a credit note. But sometimes it worked the other way and we were undercharging a customer. This was effecting our turnover”, is how Hans Van der Perre sums up the situation as it was a few years ago.
"Archie provides all the functionality we need at Atlantic, and on top of that, it's very user-friendly."
Hans Van der Perre is Managing Director of the Benelux sales office. He spoke to his head office about the situation. A custom made package was developed that did address some of the problems but in his eyes this did not offer the necessary transparency. In his previous job Hans Van der Perre had worked with Archie. He knew that the Archie software offered all the functionality that Atlantic Belgium required and most importantly was very user friendly. “That is of enormous importance if you want everyone to use the software”, he believes. With his convincing presentation he got the green light from the French head office and started working with Archie. “But the head office did set very clear targets”, he laughs. “We had made quite considerable claims regarding improvements and now we had to actually realize those claims.”
Maureen Brynaert who had just recently been recruited from an outsourcing agency to streamline processes of the project sales, was responsible for implementing the project. “The greatest change was that we moved from an ad hoc way of working to a very structured procedure”, she told us. “That was a relief for some people and for others it took a lot of getting used to. Whereas previously sales people had been rather lackadaisical with information, we now say: if this information isn’t in Archie, it does not exist.” In order to encourage them to ensure the information was entered, their annual bonus was partially related to this aspect. “Account Managers would thus also see the benefit of making sure customer contracts were accurately recorded.”
Improved transfer of information
Maureen Brynaert is now responsible as Key Account Manager for the large wholesalers. Her time is primarily spent in the office but she now has a full time colleague who is out on the road visiting business customers. “With regard to information transfer between us, Archie has provided an enormous improvement. My colleague enters all his reported conversations on to Archie and at the end of the week he can print out these reports listing all the clients he has visited and what was discussed. Of course we use the phone a lot, but basic transfer of information takes place via Archie. We spend less time on discussions whilst I am much better informed.”
"The transfer of basic information takes place wholly through Archie. We're spending less time conferring, and still I end up being better informed."
In addition, Archie has given us a better insight into our customer relations. Hans Van der Perre quotes the maintenance of boilers in the commercial market as an example of this. “Our customer is the installer who has installed the boiler but as regards maintenance we are in touch with the owner of the boiler. The invoice often has to be sent to a different address, for example to the head office whilst the maintenance is carried out at the branch address. In the past, an invoice occasionally went to the wrong address because we had not entered the business relationship structure on our system properly.” Another advantage is that you can now review the history in Archie at the touch of a button: which parts have already been replaced? What breakdowns have occurred before? “Due to this we are in a better position to plan as you can predict which parts will need to be replaced soon.”
Close the loop
Although not all the possibilities for improvement haven’t been used yet, the investment has been recouped long ago. Two terms come up as central themes: close the loop and interconnected. “Right from the first contact with the customer up to and including the payment of an invoice and even the after sales, all aspects are stored in Archie”, says Maureen Brynaert. “Due to this integral insight, there is far less discussion required between the various departments.” Maureen gives another example: “The sales team is able to see the payment habits of the customers and which invoices are still outstanding. Previously they would have had to ask the accounts department to check whether a customer was solvent. They would occasionally forget to do this and we unnecessarily would have to write off invoices.”
"Archie contributes to cost savings by making our processes more efficient and more effective."
The initial implementation of Archie took place over a period of three months. The projects module was the focal point of this. Departments and different functionalities were gradually added stage by stage, such as the helpdesk module and various reports. Three years down the line and the basic are in place and now Atlantic Belgium are looking to take the next step.
“We can get a better return on the work we do if we more accurately assess our chances of winning tenders. At the moment we are chasing all tenders without any focus and as a result of this we are spending too little time and attention on orders we really do want to win.” Put another way: Archie is now mainly making its contribution by means of cost savings as processes are operating more efficiently and effectively. “In the future I expect us to gain more customers through urgent tenders and chance opportunities. That way we get the best of both worlds”, says Hans Van der Perre.
About the Atlantic Group
Atlantic Group is a manufacturer of central heating boilers, water heaters, air conditioning and ventilation systems for both industrial and domestic markets. The products are sold under the trade names of Atlantic, Thermor, Pacific, Ygnis and Hamworthy. The Belgian branch is the sales office for the Benelux countries. For more information please go to www.groupe-atlantic.com