Lying software sales people

A newsagent considering our software in NSW was told by a competitor this week that our software had a deficiency in the way it managed bringing in new magazines into the business. The claim by the competitor was put with such conviction by the competitor that it made our prospect doubt us. What was a certain sale for us is now something we need to work on. While we are happy to show that what the competitor has said is a lie, sometimes part of a lie sticks.

I hope that the experience this week is a one-off and that appropriate counseling for the new employee of the competitor involved will guide them to focus on their offering rather than lying about us.

I stress to all within Tower Systems that we need to focus on what our software offers and to demonstrate every claim we make. I also remind our team that we can bring any prospect into any of our retail businesses and show first-hand how we use the software ourselves to achieve we claim it can achieve.

The software sales person who lied is now in our sights. We will watch him carefully. Another lie like this week and we will take action. It is disrespectful of newsagents and it demonstrates a lack of confidence in his product to win the sale on its merits.

Saturday Help Desk

Three weeks in and our new Saturday help desk service – on top of our usual after hours support coverage – is proving popular with our small business customers. Feedback from customers has been appreciative of the service – especially that we can connect ton their businesses to resolve any complex issues – something which is difficult through a traditional after hours service.

On a day like today, AFL Grand Final in Melbourne, it is especially appreciated as everyone is in a such to get work taken care of so they have a free shot at watching the game. It’s times like this that access to good support is essential.

The export question

We have been invited to export our software to a European country and now face a difficult decision as to whether to take up the opportunity. While it may seem easy to say yes, we need to weigh up the real cost of such a move.

I know from experience in New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji and Malaysia that each new export market brings new challenges which need to be resolved quickly. Despite someone saying your software is a perfect fit and would not require change, this is rarely the case.

So, the decision will come from consideration of time, resources and potential return. I have a month in which to do some due diligence.

Training the trainers

Our senior support team is very busy at the moment training several new help desk team members. It is a long process given the complexity of the various marketplaces in which we operate. The nature of Help desk calls from small business is such that we cannot train in all questions one is likely to encounter. Instead, we focus on the process, how to get to the heart of the problem and where the solution is going to be found.

We have no time limit on training new team members. Indeed, we’re happy to providing training over months if new team members find it helpful. Rather than push new team members out of the next we let them decide when they are ready for solo flight.

Frustrating local computer suppliers

We have received three early morning calls (before 7am) this week from customers who have recently upgraded part or all of their hardware with a local computer supplier only to have problems when opening the shop in the morning. In each case the problem was directly caused by either faulty hardware or incomplete setup the afternoon before.

In each case our customers called us because they could not raise their local computer supplier. We took the calls and provided the advice without cost.

Two of the customers I spoke with told me they went local to save “a couple of hundred dollars”. This kind of saving is false if you can’t reach the business which should be supporting you.

I appreciate that local computer suppliers do it tough in business competing with Dell and other majors. My complaint is that if you sell a business like a newsagency hardware and offer support then you need to be accessible 24/7.

The outbound Help Desk

We have been given a list of newsagent clients who are not meeting industry standards in terms of EDI data flow. The supplier involved has provided details of where compliance is not being reached. Armed with this, our Help Desk team is making calls and, in some cases, visits to help get our clients on track. We have a reputation for the most compliant user community in the newsagency space and it is this effort at no cost to our customers, which helps us maintain that.

We started this proactive supplier facilitated compliance work years ago and the dividends for all stakeholders is considerable.

More free advice sheets released

Simon Frost from our Help Desk team has published five new advice sheets at our website:
G25 Catalogues; G23.1 Label Settings: Barcode Labels; G23.2 Label Settings: Shelf Labels; T9 Symbol P460 PDE; G24 Shortcut Keys. These advice sheets are available to anyone free of charge – we’re a pretty open company. Just click on support and then select advice sheets.

A good way to compare computer systems is to compare user documentation. We’d be glad for you to put our advice sheets on the table next to the documentation of any of our competitors. Our advice sheets are designed to provide point-by-point simple guidance in the use of parts of the software. By segmenting overall advice by subject we narrow focus and help guide you to the outcome you need at the time.

Gift voucher gift continues

Over July and August we offered our brand new gift voucher software module free of charge. While hundreds took up our free gift offer, some of our customers did not get their response in on time. So, we quietly, extended the offer. I mention it here as there may be some clients reading this blog post who missed out on the free software. If you use Tower Systems software just email us for your gift voucher software code. Our plan at present is to end this giveaway extension in a couple of weeks.

Expanding in NSW

We have decided to create an additional help / desk support position in NSW – along the same lines as the expansion announced this morning for our Queensland office.

Sales in NSW have been exceptional so the additional position is essential to maintain excellent customer service levels.

We are looking for someone with excellent IT skills and a commitment to small business. Drop me an email if you would like a position description.

Announcing Queensland expansion

TOWER SYSTEMS EXPANDS IN QUEENSLAND FOLLOWING 200% SALES GROWTH

Sept. 24. Tower Systems has significantly expanded its Queensland office, adding three new Brisbane based training / support staff and leasing new and larger premises.

Newsagents in the Brisbane suburban area will now have local call access to the entire Tower Help Desk team thanks to the company’s use of Voip technology connecting its three Help Desk locations.

“With our new office and a larger Brisbane based team we will be able to provide even better service to our customers” commented Tower Managing Director Mark Fletcher. “Our sales to Queensland newsagents are up 200% on last year so it was essential that we added to our team.”

From the new office Tower will be offering regular free group training as well as one on one training for newsagents who prefer to learn away from their business.

“POS Solutions users switching to Tower will particularly benefit from the move as the company offers access to its free mentor service … making leaving POS easier.”

Jared, Anthony and Jason, the three new Tower Queensland team members, will be available to serve Queensland newsagents as soon as they have completed training, including working at Tower Systems’ own newsagency.

www.towersystems.com.au

Tower Systems was founded in 1981 by Mark Fletcher. Today, the company serves in excess of 1,400 newsagents. It has owned and operated a newsagency for 11 years and has recently opened, with partners, a second newsagency. This hands-on experience sets helps set Tower apart from other software providors.

For sales information please call Luke La on 0434 072 417.

Brilliant customer service from Connex

carriage.JPGThis is a brilliant piece of customer service from Connex, the operators of trams and trains in Victoria. There is no ‘I’ in Carriage is a booklet by Martin Merton. It has advice on being a more considerate commuter – all very tongue in cheek. Hilarious!

Martin Merton, the book and the accompanying website have all been created by the Leo Burnett agency.

Communicating regulations and the like can be a challenge. This campaign shows how it can be done with fun. It’s a brilliant example of a left field approach to customer service.

Fuel for the week

We balance the usual office fare of sweet biscuits, candy, coffee, tea and hot chocolate with a tray of fruit and breakfast bars. We’ve been providing it for years with stocks replenished through the week. Here is this morning’s offering:

monday_fruit.JPG

Even though we’re only a small business we have, for years, provided extras such as breakfast bars, fruit and freshly ground coffee to underscore a more enjoyable work environment.

Will the real Tower Systems please stand up?

We have lodged a formal complaint to Google about the infringement of our business name by a competitor as shown on the screen below when you search Google for Tower Systems. The headline used by Access POS on their AdWords ad – Tower Systems – has nothing to do with what they are advertising.

accesspos.JPG

We contend that their goal is to pass themselves off, on Google, as us – certainly that is what the headline for their ad suggests. Our advice to people searching Google for Tower systems is BEWARE! AccessPos is not Tower Systems.

New Brisbane office for Tower Systems

Queensland is on fire for us this year. Sales are extraordinary – this is why we have hired two Installation / Training / Support people.

To serve our expanding Queensland team, we have signed a lease for a new office in the Brisbane suburb of Capalaba. Our new Queensland home has more room and is serviced by a telephone exchange which enables connection to our Voip network – ensuring local support call access for Brisbane customers to our National help desk. We should be settled in within the next four weeks.

Watch for an exciting announcement next week about further developments in Brisbane

Free business management training

We are hosting a second series of business management discussion sessions. These free sessions are different to the usual user meeting format as they delve into the software in pursuit of better business outcomes. Anyone is welcome to attend – Tower Systems users or not. My approach to get everyone involved in discussing the case study business in the context of their own business – it is amazing what comes out of these discussions. Feedback is that everyone gets valuable takeaways from other participants. The dates are:

Brisbane – Tuesday October 2 @ 10am.
Sydney – Wednesday October 3 @ 10am.
Melbourne – Tuesday October 9 @ 10am
Adelaide – Thursday October 11 @ 10am
Newcastle – Tuesday October 16 @ 10am
Perth – Wednesday October 17 @ 10am

Book by email: bookings@towersystems.com.au. We will confirm all bookings.

Customer appreciation from Qantas

I booked a meeting room in a Qantas Club lounge earlier this week for an hour. What used to be a free service now costs – but I digress – ten minutes after the hour was up I was asked if I wanted to pay for an extension. I said I had an email to send – the frown I received in response led me to pack up and leave right away. Outside I could see that five other meeting rooms were empty – Qantas didn’t need the room back, they weren’t losing revenue. This was a Qantas employee enforcing the user pays rule.

While the time I paid for was up, Qantas should take a whole of relationship view. This is what good customer service is about – respecting the whole relationship and not just today’s transaction. The best example of this at Tower Systems is how we handle calls from people about hardware not purchased from us. We provide initial advice no cost. This initial advice fixes most problems. We have done this for years out of respect for the broader relationship.

Good customer service is about delivering the unexpected and not charging for it.

Maybe Qantas could pay for the times they are late and it is in their control – like not having enough staff to man the air bridge on arrival and leaving passengers waiting on board for an extra ten minutes? If you complain about this they will ignore you or send and off then self response which points fingers elsewhere.

Qantas is not the airline it used to be.

Broadband is essential at the sales counter

Broadband is not an option for retail businesses any more. With so many products and services sold over the counter and pulled from suppliers on an as needed basis, retail businesses cannot afford to be out of the game. From a support perspective, Broadband has come into its own – we connect daily with clients as if we are in their shop. Problems are fixed sooner and faster. Broadband is clearly essential to business.

If it were up to me and I were a product supplier to retailers, I’d make having broadband (where it is available) mandatory – otherwise business is too slow.

Fuel for Friday

Every Friday, without fail, we lay out a tray of breakfast pastries – including healthy choices. It’s a tradition of many years. here is today’s fare:

sep21.JPG

Whatever happened to originality?

Why do business people copy each other? One person copying a leader might by okay but the sixth or seventh to market with innovation copying a well established offering does not make sense. Take petrol. Who pays the pump price any more? If you do, you are either nuts or buying from an independent outlet where they don’t use cents off or other cons to make you think you are getting a good deal. No, the smart independents are giving you a good deal from the outset. This is where, in my view, the Safeway, Coles and other similar petrol offerings are a con. The discount is no longer real. It’s permanent and must therefore be built into their price.

Small independent businesses can be smart here. Don’t copy the big boys in the discounting and loyalty stakes. Entice more business with genuine offers which run for a limited time.

Growing the team

We have been thrilled with the calibre of candidates presenting for the three additional Help Desk and system installation roles we have created this month. After an exhaustive process we have been successful in bringing on two additional people for our Brisbane based team and one more in Melbourne. I am hopeful that we will be in a position to announce a further appointment in Melbourne, but with a national focus, sometime next week.

As I blogged here some weeks ago, our sales are at record levels – making these additional roles, plus an additional software developer role essential to maintaining exceptional customer service.

Shipping more than software

pack_ship.JPGLogistics plays a big part in what our small business software company handles each day. The collection of boxes in the photo are being shipped to one of the eight sites we will be installing next week. Each box contains components we have unplaced, installed and tested. We then repack and reinforce to protect against shipping damage.

The work done here testing and installing hardware is crucial to ensuring that our on site installations go smoothly. It allows our installation team to focus more on training than basic hardware setup work. It also ensures adherence to standards for system setup. By controlling all hardware centrally we can ensure quality – crucial for any business relying on computer systems.

The most frustrating aspect of what we do in configuring systems centrally is dealing with the courier businesses. It is all care and no responsibility. The impact down the line when a box goes missing or is damaged is significant. To protect us from this impact we usually work eight to ten days out – except for WA and NT installations, we give them more time.

We enjoy the hardware component of our business as it provides us more input on and control over the customer experience.

Gift Shop software marketing

Below is the latest ad we have created to promote our gift shop software which we signed off last night. The gift space is developing well with some excellent cross learnings between this space and our newsagency marketplace. Indeed, thanks to gift shop owner feedback we have been fortunate to include new facilities in our newsagency software.

gift_shop_ad_sep07.JPG

The artwork we have used for this ad connects with the direct mail material we have sent to every gift shop in Australia. It represents the freedom our software provides the gift shop owner – to help the business fly.

Expanding in Brisbane

We are recruiting for an additional support position for our Brisbane office. This will improve service for our Queensland customers and strengthen our pitch to attract more customers.

Our sales success in Queensland is such that we will continue to supplement our (expanded) Queensland team from elsewhere in our pool across the country. We anticipate having the two new team members online within the next month.

Hot interest in Eftpos link

The soft re-launch of our Eftpos link last week at this blog and in our email newsletter has sparked considerable interest. We expect more sites to be live with the refreshed link from next week. It is essential we have live experience with more banks given that each has their own processes for bringing point of sale links on board.

Roadblock

The works in the street in front of our office really started to impact today when they dug up the entrance to our car park. No warning – the sign was on the front door. People using the car park never go through the front door.

works.JPG

As I rescued my car from the car park just before the trench was dug it reminded me of the need for clear communication at all points. This is another reason we are producing training videos – to ensure consistent knowledge is shared with all stakeholders.