Delivering revenue beyond the sale

Thanks to an exclusive relationship, newsagents using our software now have access to generous trail commission on a product. We have negotiated this for our community of newsagent users to further enhance the value of our software and this product which is sold through our software.

Having more than 1,500 newsagents in our newsagent user community means that we are able to deliver a bigger footprint and mroe commercail value than any other single group representing newsagents.

We have negotiated this trail commission on the basis of no cut for us. This is an impoirtant factor in delivering value for our newsagent customers.

This relationship takes us beyond what is traditional for software companies. We respect that and take our role at the negotiating table very seriously. A good outcome further separates us from other software companies serving newsagents. No only because they cannot offer this product but also because it is another way we can practically show that our software is more financially rewarding than what they offer.

In today’s economic climate, delivering value beyond good software and good support is vital for software companies like us. With the cost of switching between systems so low, we need to prove ourselves at every opportunity.

Seven ways to cut employee theft in retail

We help users of our software reduce theft. We do this through the security bridge between our software and sophisticated camera systems as well as through straightforward advice. Here are seven ways you can cut theft by employees in retail.

  1. Background check. Once you have found someone you want to hire, get their permission for a paid police check. This will send some candidates running.
  2. Have tight processes. The most common theft we see is because of lack of control over cash. This is an invitation. Track every cent from the moment it leaves your customer’s hands to when it hits your bank account. This may seem obvious. The times cash is not tracked are considerable.
  3. Change the roster. By changing routine unexpectedly you can find entrenched behaviour through which people take money and sock from the business. Breaking people working with friends is crucial.
  4. Pay above award. This tells your staff they are above average and respected.
  5. Respect employees. Let them buy things for themselves for a good discount, cost even.
  6. Be open about the business. Involve your staff in paying the bills. If they understand that all of the cash you receive is not yours they respect the business more and may feel less tempted.
  7. Be personal. The more connected your employees in retail feel to you as the owner, the more they know you, understand you and respect you the less tempted they will feel since they know it would hurt you.

The keys with employee theft are to be involved in the business, have tight processes and have a zero tolerance policy.

We know from our own retailer interaction that theft is on the increase in retail at the moment. We offer a free Theft Check service to our customers to help track theft which may have been tracked through our software. We have secret facilities we can use to uncover this.

Magazine marketing for newsagents

magazine-christmas-3.jpgClick on the thumbnail for a larger image of the free magazine marketing poster we have designed for newsagents. The artwork is available in high resolution print quality form at our website for download (A4 and A3). We are using our in-house design services to help the newsagency channel promote magazines as Christmas gifts. We are fortunate to have these excellent design skills in-house and to have the opportunity to help our customers and others in this way.

New repairs software moves into testing

Next week we commence in-house testing of our new repairs management software. This is used by our jeweller and bike retailer customers. After months of customer consultation followed by a major development project, we are a few days away from completing programming. This completely new software will be in testing for some weeks as it is put through its paces against strict operational and performance criteria.

The repairs software is something like the space shuttle to NASA in that this development for a specific purpose has resulted in skills and facilities useful in other parts of our software, even for markets which have nothing to do with repairs.

The continued enhancement of our software is crucial to our existing customers and important in attracting new customers. Anyone who saw our software more than a year ago does not know what it can do today given the work completed by our six full-time skilled Delphi software developers.

New communications contract

Yesterday, we signed a new telecommunications agreement with Optus to cover fixed line, mobile and data services for all of our Australian offices and our field team. This new agreement importantly provides our team with access to high volume mobile data services, enabling emails, our CRM system and other data services to be accessed more easily on the road. We take great care in assessing these back office arrangements from an operational suitability / customer benefit perspective as well as from a business cost perspective.

The Optus contract is key to the quality and cost of our customer service. When we first switched to the company it enabled us to better serve customers across Australia through a more advanced communications infrastructure.

We continue to offer local number support access in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – we carry the cost of transferring calls to the office best resourced to handle the call.

Coming to Darwin next week

We will be in Darwin next week for a use meeting and training session.  We will also make some store visits and catch with some of our more recent customers – this is a growing marketplace for us.  Our user meeting is on Wednesday at 2pm at the Holiday Inn.  You would be most welcome to attend- I’ll see you there.

Embarrassing sale

A computer company won a sale recently because the customer was too embarrassed to say no.  After the sales demonstration, the sales person arranged for a system to be shipped. Once a bunch of boxes unexpectedly arrived the retailer felt it would be too embarrassing to point out that he did not order the system.

This is a true story.  It happened a week ago.  The same approach was commonly used by the same company fifteen years ago.

Easily handling Christmas offers

Our comprehensive catalogue management facilities are proving handy for our retail customers as they structure various offers to drive good Christmas business.  Our users can discount based on department, category or item, quantity purchased and other criteria.  While we have offered catalogue facilities for many years, they were reviewed this year and improved based on customer feedback.

We also work with several marketing groups to load their catalogues into our software – this enables the management of specials which have a start and end date with our users having to do little work themselves.  We have a couple of suppliers we have worked with to introduce this opportunity to them and thereby help them better serve their customers.

Prices remain the same

We flagged a few weeks ago that we would review prices in response to the fall in the Australian dollar.  I am pleased to advise that we are not changing our pricing nor are we cutting corners so that we can maintain prices.

We are focused on independent retailers, newsagents, jewellers, gift shops, bike shops and stationers.  This decision on price is another way we are demonstrating our commitment to helping businesses in these channels achieve efficiency in their operation.

The dual purpose accounting team

acteam.JPGNorman, Charbel and Georgia (left to right) are our in-house accounting team. They run the financial side of our software business. They also process accounting information from our own six retail businesses using our software.

This is a terrific and practical advantage to us as it provides us with experience on our financial reporting and the MYOB link in our software.

Norman, our Financial Controller also plays a role in testing our software interfaces to MYOB and Quicken to ensure that these work from an accounting perspective.

We are unique in this regard, in using our software in such a practical way. This provides us with additional experience and comfort prior to the release of software updates.

Aussie retail sofwtare popular overseas

We are experiencing a surge in interest in our retail management software from businesses overseas. Some enquiries are from countries in which have no presence. We first noticed the increased interest in September. It has gathered pace this month. In each case, it is our market specialisation which appears to be the attraction. With each contact comes an opportunity to learn more about needs we do not see in Australia or New Zealand, needs which can be incorporated into the sofwtare for the greater good.

Managing theft in retail

sr_thief_may08.JPGThe idea of “managing” theft makes me smile because who wants to manage such a negative part of retail? No one. Shop lifting and employee theft are among the most ignored business challenges based on my experience. Every week or two we work with another customer, helping them get evidence of illegal behaviour in their business. Our sense, based on recent work, is that theft in retail is on the rise. Either that or retailers are being more vigilant an therefore catching what they were previously ignoring.

We have some excellent free theft reduction tips available for any retailer at our website. Since we make money from theft management through our smart point of sale / camera system software interface, we felt compelled to publish the tips we know can help cut theft. This is part of our commitment to small business, to help where we can. The thanks for people who have embraced our advice from Australia and beyond is reward enough.

Christmas catalogues a breeze

We have tested a raft of catalogues for businesses using our software to ensure that they load successfully.  We handle industry standard file formats as well as many non-standard formats thanks to our file interface tools.  Where we have permission we load the files at our website.  Otherwise, we pass the tested files back to the suppliers involved and confirm that they are certified ready to load.  This is a free service we offer our users and their suppliers.

Helping newsagents

magazine-christmas-2.jpgWe are privileged to have a full time graphic designer working with us. Vienna develops our marketing collateral, images for our website and other design requirements. I asked Vienna to create a poster which our 1,500 newsagent customers could use to promote magazines as a Christmas gift. The image to the left is what she has developed. We are making this artwork available free to newsagents  for local A4, A3 or A2 printing from later this week. It is another way of thanking newsagents for their commitment to Tower Systems.

We are glad to have the resources with which we can help our customers beyond software. This poster, our marketing tips and other resources are created in response to talking with our customers. While we could just focus on software or link to the marketing work of others, we prefer to invest our time and money in helping, practically, where we can.

Building an action plan for your business

For years we have offered a free business check service. The service includes a thorough review of business performance data as gathered in our software. Whereas in the past we used to product a large report based on our analysis, today e product an email of action items – based on what our review of the data reveals.

In our proposed action list we focus on low hanging fruit – things which can be done with little or no capital investment which will deliver measurable bottom line benefits to the business. This list is presented in an email. as a TO DO LIST.

Since we own and operate six retail businesses and a warehouse using our own software, we have practical experience on which to draw – both with our software and retail more generally. Our recommended actions is a blend of actions with our oftware and in the business. The key is that they are easy to implement and should deliver rapid change.

The service is available for multiple use. That is, we will review the data. Our customer makes recommended easy to implement changes. We measure and review again and create a new list of suggestions. This approach is proving to work well – we have had some excellent success from the process.

If you would like to use this service, please forward a backup of your data and request a free Business Check.   Be sure to include your email address.

The value of Tyro eftpos processing

tyropad.JPGWe are completely ditching our older bank terminals for eftpos processing in our retail businesses in favor of the Tyro connection in our Tower Systems point of sale software. Approvals are faster through the Tyro interface as it connects by broadband – bank terminals are usually dial up. The Tyro link is more accurate since it is embedded within our POS software. Sale value is transferred, thus eliminating possible mistakes.

The pinpad itself is flexible since it wireless – we can easily get to any customer in store.

We have a Tyro sign up form specifically for users of Tower Systems software for our customers who want faster, more accurate and more valuable eftpos processing. Email us if you would like a copy.

Since we use Tyro ourselves in our own retail businesses, we are able to provide a more practical level of customer service around its use.

Saturday Help Desk support

Tower Systems continues to offer a fully operational Help Desk service on Saturdays in addition to our after hours mobile phone support service.  Our Saturday service is a real point of difference – important to retailers who trade on Saturdays.  While support people on a moile phone can help, it is only from a staffed Help Desk that we can connect to a user location for faster and more direct resolution of any issue.

We are committed to delivering excellent service and the best way to achieve this on a Saturday is through a staffed Help Desk.

Access POS is not Tower Systems

Despite what they might want internet browsers to think, Access POS is not Tower Systems.  Access continues to pay to purchase the Tower Systems keyword on Google.  They even headline their ad Tower Systems yet the ad has nothing to do with Tower Systems.  We have complained to Google that this is a form of passing off.  Google refuses to act.  All we can hope is that people searching for Tower Systems click on the Access ad to rack up their costs.

We would be happy to put anyone interested in the Access versus Tower comparison in touch with any of the many who have switched to us. We estimate that they have ariound 100 newsagents left using their software.

I have posted this item in the hope that it comes up in Google natural searches and thereby combats the paid ads being run by Access.

Christmas offer announced

newsagent-christmas-special.jpgWe have mailed out a special Pre-Christmas offer to prospects in our various marketplaces. This package offer matches pre Australian dollar fall prices and includes additional time on site for installation and training.

The overall offer delivers a considerable discount for what is usually a time of the year retailers do not want to purchase computer systems.

These hardware and software packages are the best value packages available and offer total solutions.

To be fair to prospects we were working with prior to the release of this offer we have matched the offer.

While Christmas is traditionally a slow time for retail, we are busier than ever with every member of our installation and training team booked up well into December.

Planning for 2009

In between the final stops in our national user meeting tour we have been meeting key people within Tower Systems around the country to plan for next year. Yesterday, our Software Development Manager Jonathan Tay, our General Manager Gavin Williams and I met with our NSW State Manager Nathan Morrison over lunch. We shared with Nathan our plans and discussed his thoughts for what our NSW / ACT users would be looking for in the New Year.

This consultation is essential not only for our own team but for the many small businesses we represent. Nathan is face to face with retailers every day and this coalface connection is important in driving our priorities.

The consultation also demonstrates the importance of the Tower Team. Everyone has a voice and debate is encouraged. Our decisions for next year represent the view of the team.

Software update released

We have released a patch to our latest software update to take advantage of learnings from broader in-field use.  Yep, this is code for bugs.  I am not afraid to say we have bugs in our software from time to time.  The key is to fix these as soon as possible.  Our latest patch does this and has been made available to our users.

Townsville user meeting

We are thrilled to be coming to Townsville next week, 2pm Wednesday November 26 at Jupiters Casino to meet with our users.  This is another stop in our successful Spring User Meeting Tour.  We will present business building ideas, providing training in our latest update and answer technical questions until you run out.

Any newsagent is most welcome to come along are see our commitment to Townsville newsagents first hand.  We visit Townsville more often than any other software company as we do all Far North Queensland locations – we understand the challenges of remote areas.

Exclusive bonus margin for Tower newsagents

Last week I blogged about additional margin for newsagents selling certain product through our software.  I have been challenged by a competitor about this.  They say I am making this up. My claim is true.  Newsagents using our software will make 50% more margin when they sell certain specific products from our software compared to them selling it using other software.

This is another way Tower Systems is putting more money in the pockets of our users.  It demonstrates how we are leveraging our market share for our users. 

To some newsagents, this additional margin is worth more than $5,000 a year.

Mandarin and Cantonese support

We first introduced Mandarin and Cantonese support to our software Help Desk in 2004.  It has been in regular use since.  The provision of support in these languages is a factor in our strong penetration in businesses owned and operated by Asians.  Wile there is a cost in providing the service, there benefits from users gaining more from their software are more valuable to us.  Call time is less and compliance to industry standards is higher.