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The backbone to service: How an ERP can help businesses diversify

13 Nov 2020

Article by ECI Software Solutions regional sales manager for APAC, Deage Kalsbeek.
 

It’s been a tough year for field service. A sector which relies heavily on supporting businesses in an office environment is of course impacted when most teams switch to remote working, and the office we have known for decades is suddenly changed in a matter of days.

This core challenge in 2020 has only added to the existing ones that affect the field service market in the A/NZ region. Declining volumes and a transition to paperless offices throughout the pandemic have all resulted in managed print services (MPS) businesses reconsidering products, services, structure and processes. 

The industry is also grappling with re-evaluations of their business, sales and pricing models to understand their position in the market and how to stay competitive.

The pressure has been on to secure recurring revenue and to find new revenue streams. For some businesses, diversifying and improving service was always central to its core values. But with the challenges the market faces, all businesses within field service will be considering how they achieve these.

One of the big talking points of this year has been recovery. Ever since the pandemic hit early this year, MPS businesses have faced the challenge of recovering — and from there finding a way to grow again. Relationships and service are critical to this.

Customers tend to stick with service providers who understand their print needs and ensure the day-to-day is covered. So what can businesses do to ensure they maintain a high level of service?

According to a survey of companies in field service across the globe, 56% believe that establishing a service culture is vital to helping their businesses thrive moving forwards, while 83% want to increase efficiency of service delivery to boost margins. 

This means MPS businesses need to make sure the infrastructure of their business supports these goals. Their central enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and its functionality is often overlooked as a good place to start. 
 

Not All ERPs are created equal

Once upon a time, the central ERP system served as an admin function of the business — a place where sales, customer service and accounting could all record and store information.

Yet, as MPS businesses have grown and evolved, so has the functionality of ERPs on the market — they have had to become the backbone of any good MPS business as the emphasis on data, integration and automation has intensified. 

Instead of just supporting a team’s hard work, many ERPs are now designed to take on much of that work so teams can focus on service and strategy, rather than being bogged down in manual processes.

Take, for example, device management. Keeping track of all serialised equipment, from their location history, to contracts, transactions and usage, are all important to service. If this information is easily collected, stored and accessed by ERPs, it makes a big difference to the team from having to take time to do this manually.

Contract management is another time consuming but vital process for MPS businesses. With the right functionality, an ERP can automate meter requests and generate invoices which are emailed directly to customers. 

It can also send alerts if contracts or warranties are about to expire — this gives sales teams the nudge to pick up the phone at optimum times. These contracts can also be connected to your purchase orders and service calls, so organisations can have clear visibility on whether they’re meeting your margins.

Functions like these support MPS businesses angling to boost revenue through efficiency of service or diversification. A central ERP has to be scalable too — as volumes decrease, organisations may look to add signage or other product lines to their offerings, or expand managed services to IT. 

A flexible ERP with the functionality to seamlessly connect all areas of the business together is the first step towards increasing revenue.