Free business analysis service

We are offering our free business analysis service again for a limited time. We invite users to send us a current backup of their data which we then deeply analyse. The result is a report outlining our business of how well our software is used as well as how the business appears to be performing.

We have offered this service for years and always enjoy the intimate view it offers us of client businesses.

The typical analysis takes us between four and six man-hours to complete. In almost every case there are unexpected learnings for us about how the software is being used as well as wonderful opportunities for improvement in the performance of the business we study.

Often, we find that the study leads to a deeper longer term relationship with the business as together we work through opportunities uncovered in the data.

To kick off a free business check for your business please send a current backup to Business Check, Tower Systems, Level 3, 22 Horne Street, Elsternwick VIC 3185.

While we announce this as a limited time offer – to help with managing the necessary resources – we undertake this work all through the year. We’d do anything to help our customers better understand their businesses.

Multiple catalogues the easy way

This time of year it is not uncommon for retailers to have two or three data bases offers running at the same time. Our software helps manage this process through its catalogue functions. We trans date and time based pricing and axiomatically sunset as per the rules established by the business.

A side benefit of our catalogue facilities is time based pricing. This enables users to set pricing to kick in the evening or overnight when they may have special requirements for higher or lower prices – as the case may be.

Our catalogue tools also enable our users to easily bundle items – but 2 and your third free or buy 1 at this price, 2 at that price and so on. It is this flexibility which helps independent retailers trade with the pricing flexibility of bigger competitors.

We first got into the catalogue business in the early 1990s – we have refined our offer considerably since then.

Replacing MYOB Retail Manager

We have replaced MYOB Retail Manager in a few sites recently where clients have kept the MYOB back end for GL and other business accounting functions and are using our Retailer software to manage point of sale, inventory and business performance management. It is an interesting process, one which reflects on the strengths of our offering and that of MYOB.

We use MYOB to manage our retail businesses and while we have considered getting into the business accounting side, the reality is that we are better off sticking to the parts of a business we understand better.

Roadworks botch up

roadworks.JPGThe Glen Eira council’s road works project is now six weeks in. Besides having access to our undercover garage blocked for days at a time, the two-way street made one way and most street parking removed in favour of the ever growing army of busses in and around us, someone made a mistake on a speed hum/pedestrian crossing. They built the thing in front of the driveway of a funeral home. On Friday, they dug it up (as the photo shows).

While the road works may seem irrelevant to people interested in Tower Systems, they are impacting on our business. There is considerably less parking for our team, we access to our street is considerably more difficult, you enter and leave the office through a haze of dist and the noise makes for an unpleasant workplace.

The Glen Eira Council, is doing it bit for the inconvenience they are causing by ensuring that they have two gun parking inspectors ready to pounce at 6pm each night when the permit parking kicks in. Having created the parking problem in the area, they have clearly figures that the 6pm curfew is a good money making opportunity. It’s another tax on the small businesses in this area as well as a major inconvenience for the residents.

Tracking boxes

back_room.JPGThis photo is what the store room of many jewellers and gift shops looks like. Indeed, any business selling items which come with a box. And it’s not only the back room – drawers, cupboards and all manner of places store boxes.

The challenge is tracking the box. This is where our software comes in. When you scan an item at the counter, our Retailer software reminds the associated of the location of the box and cut search time.

While we have been able to do this for some time, we significantly finessed implementation once we encountered the problem first hand in one of our gift shops. It’s all about customer service and ensuring that you provide the right box for the product purchased and in as short a time as possible.

And there was light

light.JPGThe road construction outside our Head Office got a little too close for comfort on Thursday. They jack hammered through the footpath and part of the foundation of our building and into a storeroom we have in our space in the underground car park. Now, we have structural engineers, road workers, council types, OH&S and all manner of experts coming and peering int and out of our hole.

The council promised their works would be good for the street. So far, we have had around six weeks of hell as they block our entrances dig up the road, build things, teasr them down and take up just about every spare car park – only to have parking inspectors in the starting blocks at 6pm when permit zones kick in and take the few spare spaces on the street.

Well, at least we have a skylight in our little store room.

Export sales continue

We are close to finalising agreement for another export sale of our point of sale software. Given that we are not actively pushing sales outside of our established offices in Australia and New Zealand, this business is a surprise and most welcome.

A side benefit from international customers is their perspective of business and how our software can better serve their needs. Several enhancements are in our software today as a result of new international customers – enhancements which our Australian and New Zealand customers enjoy.

While we appreciate and enjoy the international business, we are careful to ensure that it does not detract from our core local business.

With Skype and other tools at our disposal, we are able to provide timely local type support no matter where our customers are located.

Our sales team tell me that we should have even another international sale this side of Christmas.

Proving employee theft

A picture tells a thousand words as they say. It is true in court where you are trying to prove a case of employee theft. Take a look at the image below. Even though we have staged this, it shows the video footage and data from our point of sale software proving what was happening at the time – a canceled sale. This is hard evidence, proof of a crime and it is available directly from within our point of sale software using our exclusive theft bridge technology.

theft.JPG

Users of our technology can go into their system, call up a list of canceled sales (ot other suspicious activity) and in an instant have the data and vision marriage on the screen. It’s brilliant. More than that, in most businesses it pays for itself in no time since customer and other disputes are settled quickly and accurately.

Our link was a first and now we are enhancing it, new features will keep us in our own league in the mission to cut the cost of theft in small business.

Owning your data

We are occasionally asked by prospective customers to enter data for all their customers and stock prior to installation so that from day one they turn the system on and start using it. While we’re happy to do this work, we advise that the it does not provide a good business outcome.

Much of the data can be extracted from the old system or other sources. So we are only talking about limited details. It is the checking which takes time.

What we have found is that computer users who enter or check their own data make better users. They understand the system more and how the data has been setup. They have a sense of ownership over the data and this reflects more broadly on how they use the system.

Owning your data is, in my view, part of owning your own business. The more control you have over your business data the better your business decisions. we will still offer the service – but counsel against using it.

Help Desk traffic

We are seeing the benefits of increased Help Desk staff with calls being responded to sooner. On an average day we process150 incidents. These often lead to in excess of 200 calls. More than half are handled on the inbound call, 25% are called back within 15 minutes and the rest within a couple of hours.

On top of the calls there are inbound requests for help by email, fax, letter and direct from within our software – users can log a request for support within point of sale.

Close to 50% of support contacts are resolved by providing advice already published on our website. On the one hand this is frustrating – taking time to answer questions for which answers are readily available. On the other hand, our Help Desk is there for people to call when they feel they need it.

We are extending our training of our reception team so that they can provide basic assistance. This usually means finding the right advice sheet on our website. This training should help us eliminate 30 to 40 calls a day getting to a Help desk person and therefore free them up for more critical work.

Our approach to the Help Desk is to keep it personal. We don’t like the automated phone systems where you’re in a queue forever. We also don’t like keeping people for too long – hence the new team members we have brought on board this year.

A good help desk is a work in progress – we’ll remain focused on this goal.

Second multi store location

We have started installing our second multi store location and are advanced in planning a third. Multi store allows business owners to centralise data and business management for multiple retail locations. Our implementation is technically clever yet easy to manage – this is really crucial – having sexy technology but hiding the complexity from users.

Exclusivity demonstrates technical excellence

Our link offering phone recharge and other electronic voucher product for direct sale from our point of sale software demonstrates our technical superiority. Allow us a moment of well deserved arrogance on this.

We have achieved what none of our competitors has achieved.

This is not a sales pitch, it is fact. Touch (part of the TAFMO group) could have gone with anyone and the chose us. We know that they talked with others. We are thrilled they trusted Tower Systems to bring the benefits now bundled in our eziPass product to market.

We delivered on time and met every technical objective.

Why is this important? Well, others beat their chest about their superiority. We have proven our superiority, again. Action speak louder than blog posts.

Missing Gavin

gavin.JPGI missed acknowledging Gavin Williams’ passing his ten year anniversary with Tower Systems a few weeks back. Gavin is our Software Development Manager. While the title sounds lofty, it’s importance and Gavin’s responsibility is loftier. He is the keeper of our core intellectual property – managing the development team and liaising with suppliers, the support team, tales and our customers.

In addition to passing ten years, Gavin is our longest serving manager still in the same role and in the software development area this is a considerable asset. Gavin serves beyond his role and actively guides many key decisions the company makes. I’m glad Gavin is part of our Tower family.

Training over the phone

I was at client site yesterday and while there saw that a couple of team members were receiving training over the phone in the use of the MYOB accounting software.

We considered offering over the phone training but decided against it as face to face contact during training is essential. We like to assess what information is being taken on board and take a break or adjust the training approach. With over the phone training this is not possible.

Busy business people will multi task when on the phone and I’d be concerned that this would happen during training and dilute what is taken on board. Being face to face you can assess concentration and encourage interaction with the software.

While we will provide training like advice in response to a support call, we don’t plan to offer structured training sessions on the phone.

While the cost to us and our clients is higher, the face to face approach is, in our view, better.

Cutting theft 101 – check refund requests

It is easy to reduce fraud by customers at the sales counter with our software. If someone requests a refund without a receipt, our software can quickly verify in seconds whether they purchased the item when they say they did. By using this facility, most fraud attempts will be stopped. Sales staff can check without the customer even knowing what is being done.

This may seem like motherhood stuff – talking about proper checks to validate a refund request. Sadly, it is necessary.

At the small business end of retail, where personal customer service is critical, such refund requests are often processed without checking. This is why small businesses are often targeted by scammers out for some quick cash.

The technology can be used as a friendly (to the business) barrier to refunds or it can at least be used to slow the process and thereby weed out the scammers.

Supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation

We have added the Make-A-Wish Foundation to the charities we are supporting this year. Their work in bringing magic and joy to children with life threatening illnesses is vitally important.

We are grateful to our customers as it is their support of Tower Systems which enables us to make charitable contributions.

This year we have been regular givers to the Choir of Hard Knocks and the Lighthouse Foundation. Both organisations do work we are proud to support.

Our contribution to Make-A-Wish continues a Christmas tradition which started three years ago.

Customers love our Saturday Help Desk

I received an email this morning thanking me for our new Saturday Help Desk service. The question they had was not urgent but they had not been able to find time to get to it during the week – they appreciated being able to have it resolved at a time more suited to them.

While we have had genuine 24/7 support coverage for many years, offering access to our National Help Desk on Saturdays is new. It means we a higher level of support since those manning the service have our full kit of tools and software available to them. This is a point of difference we are pleased to have created.

Automated backup

While more of our clients are choosing automated backups to protect their data – a move we are happy to accommodate – most prefer to manage their own backups.

Given the new and ultra fast fast USB stick technology we feel it is hard to go past this – there is nothing like being able to take a backup off site, share it with others or restore it at any time and place that suits.

Too often automated backup systems have a high cost and require help from others to restore. This is key in selecting backup approach – the time it takes to effect a restore and get the business up and running.

Ben Kay – a champion and friend

benkay.JPGBen Kay notches up ten years with Tower Systems today. Ben joined from a client site where he was using our software. He soon moved from a support role in Brisbane to a sales role and then, almost four years ago, to his current role as Retail Manager working out of Melbourne.

Ben covers more than his title suggests – he is the glue between the technical side of our business and our users. His advice on updates is invaluable. Mor important that all this is Ben’s friendship.

Congratulations on ten years Ben.

Free pos software

A competitor has announced that they are now offering the Windows version of their software to their DOS users free of charge. Beyond the disrespect this shows those former DOPS users who have paid for the Windows version, there is the broader issue of the value of the software. The move suggests that they see the software as having no commercial value. Unless, with the move the introduce a annual licence fee – this is where people considering such a free software deal need to be very careful.

No, I don’t believe this deal as pitched.

Help from a competitor

Thanks to my blog post here about a competitor locking out one of their users because they did not wish to continue with support arrangements, the competitor appears to have had a change of heart. This is a good first step in stopping their loss of users.

Successful seasonal catalogues

catalogue.JPGCatalogues are important in retail business, in each marketplace in which we serve. Whether it is a Christmas sale, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day – all retailers have seasonal ranges and promotions which need management and performance tracking. This is where we come in – tracking success at the item, supplier and category level.

Regardless of pricing associated with seasons, tracking performance and knowing this for next season is critical – especially with some seasons where local knowledge is more valuable than statewide or national data from suppliers. For many of ur customers seasons are not about pricing but about range differences this is what we straddle range management as well as price – to cover all required bases.

We have been working with some of our customers about how we can further improve seasonal reporting and have this slated for then update after next.

Rewarding retail success

The employee sales tracking tools in our software are being put to excellent use by one client who uses them to reward successful employees. While all employees earn award wages, many are earning up to 33% more in weekly bonuses thanks to our tracking of sales.

This retail business never paid such bonuses until the owner started using our software. Now, a year on, the business is having one of its best years ever thanks, in part, to the bonus payments and employees chasing their share of the spoils of success.

While we have tacked sales by employees for years, it was mid through last year that we delivered some enhancements suggested by users which made these tools even more valuable.

Many small businesses have trouble attracting and keeping employees – using these tools to track above average employee sales success – where they contribute to winning business which might otherwise pass by – businesses can show real respect.

POS software buyers beware

Small business owners evaluating point of sale software need to ensure they fully understand the terms of of any transaction. What may seem like a good deal today could be a disaster tomorrow.

I was talking with a small business owner yesterday who is facing mandatory support fees in order to maintain access to his business data. If he does not pay, he cannot access his historical data or run his business. I have blogged about this before but it angers me every time I hear of such a lockout.

Tower Systems software has no such mandatory fees. We would never place a barrier between you and your business data.

Caveat emptor.

Sharing the Thumbprint journey

We were thrilled to receive photos of the opening of Thumbprint in Hobart. Thumbprint, a retailer of silver jewellery, contemporary gifts & homewares, is a Tower client and the first user of our new multi store software. They are managing multiple locations sharing a common database.

thumbprint.jpg

As Charles and the team at Thumbprint navigate their new business we, with them, are navigating the first live use of mutli store. We were excited to see this phone and others showing the progress of creating their new store.

It’s wonderful when clients take us on their journey beyond the IT connection. If you are ever in Hobart, be sure to look Thumbprint up.