‘IT’, ‘CRM systems’, ‘virtual showrooms’, ‘barcode tracking’ – this is the language of modern business, argues Sternfenster’s Sales Director Nathan Court, not a ‘nice-to-have’. We report.
During the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, Sternfenster quickly recognised that relying on traditional face-to-face selling was virtually impossible, even as demand was going through the roof as homeowners diverted funds away from holidays and put them into home improvement instead.
This sparked something of an IT revolution, as the Lincolnshire-based fabricator developed online systems that improved communication, bolstered the sales process, and created extra visibility of production, while building-in extra efficiencies that improved profitability.
“At Sternfenster, we were investing in IT long before the pandemic hit in 2020,” Sternfenster’s Sales Director Nathan Court says. “But during that crucial period when our movement was restricted, it quickly dawned on people that online tools and systems can offer new and efficient ways of working.
“Since then, we have invested in this side of the business further, and we are seeing huge improvements in our KPIs, which directly benefits our customers – sometimes by simply making them more profitable.”
One IT initiative that has delivered exceptional results is the fabricator’s PODFather, which uses a barcoding system to track frames and glass through the production process and on to vehicles. They are then electronically signed off when successfully delivered.
As a result, Sternfenster Transport team now consistently post on-time-in-full (otif) figures of more than 99.5% for delivering within the allotted two-hour delivery window, which feed through to improved profits and opportunities for its customers.
“Our drivers plan their journeys several days in advance, so they can give our customers a two-hour window for delivery,” Nathan says. “If we look at a recent five-week window over the summer, our drivers were achieving an average otif figure of 99.88%.
“If we take the latest week’s figures, we can see that the vast majority of deliveries (83.1%) arrived in the first hour. And of those that arrived outside of the agreed two-hour window (13.7%), all were early so there were no negative repercussions for the customer. None were late.
“We are proud of this achievement because it demonstrates that we have been investing in the right areas of the business for our customers’ benefit.
“Time spent on site is expensive,” he said. “If our customers know that we will be arriving on site in a two-hour window, it allows them to plan their day productively, either by scheduling time on another job, or by finishing on site early. We are putting money directly in the pockets of our customers!”
PODFather is part of a suite of IT tools that is designed to help customers to sell more and improve profitability.
At the heart is Sternfenster’s EasyAdmin system, which allows businesses to produce professional quotes very quickly for homeowners. It also allows window installation companies to have complete oversight of their profit and loss. This information is updated daily and allows business owners to see the health of their accounts in real time.
“More than 50% of our orders now come to us via EasyAdmin, and we are in the process of upgrading the software so that will integrate more closely with our other IT services,” Nathan says. “Exciting times are ahead – we have invested heavily in our eagerly awaited EasyAdmin+ software.
“Due to launch in 2024, our new cloud-based system is packed with features and benefits to help the modern day window company be more efficient and responsive to their customers ever-changing needs, as well as giving them more control over their operations, saving money in the process.”
EasyAdmin works with Sternfenster Plus (SF+), which improves communication with customers and gives them greater insight into the fabricator’s manufacturing capacity, and the new virtual showroom, which was completed earlier this year.
“These sit within a virtual showroom, which showcases each product’s technical specs, colour options, hardware options, brochures and locks – all presented in a series of drop-down menus. These sit alongside a CGI hero image with interactive ‘hotspots’ highlighted, which give contextual detail for the areas of the window. And the moment this page is opened our virtual salesman video will start to sell and present the window to the viewer in a relaxed but comprehensive manner.”
Nathan argues that developing an IT environment is critical in a modern window company.
“These tools aren’t there to look pretty,” he says. “They are offered to our customers so they can remove unnecessary processes, speed up operations, spend less time on site, and sell more easily.
“If your idea of an efficient use of IT is a spreadsheet, then maybe you should talk to us to see how we can make you more profitable, without excessive up-front costs!”
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