Five Tips to Help Distributors Embrace Advanced TechnologyBy Robert Kravitz | July 7, 2015 << Back to Articles
In the coming years, we anticipate that more jansan distributors will become very high-tech.
Increased use of technology is one way some distributors are going to prove their added value to end customers and compete with mega-retailers that are trying to make inroads into this industry. For example, some forward-thinking suppliers are already using software programs or web-based “dashboard” systems. These systems are designed to make ordering processes quicker and easier, or in some cases, take this a step further and provide distributors and their clients product alternatives such as selecting products that are more cost or performance effective, greener (if a green cleaning strategy is being implemented), or that can help improve worker productivity.
However, even though these new technologies may prove to be effective, not all jansan distributors are ready to jump on the high-tech bandwagon. According to Leah Waldrop, marketing manager for Afflink and someone who works with distributors on how to use new technologies, here are five suggestions on getting even the most reluctant distribution-company managers on board:
- Set clear goals and select wisely. Top management must take the time to first decide what it wants to accomplish with the new technology and then select the most user-friendly system. One of the worst outcomes that could happen is for a technology to be accepted only to find it is more difficult to use than originally believed or does not satisfy intended goals.
- Know the whys. It must be clear to everyone in the distribution firm why the technology is being adopted. Is it to increase efficiencies? Make it easier for the client to make product selections? Help streamline the ordering and re-ordering process? Elevate the value of the distributor and his role? Reduce costs for the client? Improve worker productivity for the distributor and/or cleaning contractor? Some of these technologies are designed to address some or all of these issues. What is key here is that the entire distribution team—from top management down—clearly understands the goals and benefits of the technology being implemented.
- Rave about it. Once a new technology proves its value, early adopters are encouraged to rave about it. Point out the benefits derived; this draws greater interest from those who are not on board. Recognize that when learning any new technology there is a learning curve, no matter how user-friendly it is designed to be. If early users are finding it valuable, it will help encourage others to get involved.
- Employ “wave” training. Proper training is invaluable not only for learning a new technology and having it meet the objectives for which it was selected, but also for the ultimate buy-in. Depending on the complexity of the system and what it offers, one way to accomplish this is to teach the program in “waves.” Start with one feature or component of the system and educate the team members on how to use just that component before moving on. Then move on to the next feature. For instance, let’s say a system helps a company and its clients select green alternatives to traditional cleaning products. Instructing company personnel on how to input client data, including the type of facility, the cleaning needs and challenges of the building, the number of people using the location, how it is used, etc., into the system and allowing the technology to present product alternatives provides a fairly significant first step in understanding the process―and to realize and appreciate its benefits.
- Conduct checkups. Finally, check in regularly with the stakeholders to see how they are using the new system. See if they are having any problems with it or if they need further instruction. Many times issues materialize as the technology has been adopted. These concerns can be addressed with checkups on an ongoing process. The worst thing that could happen is to introduce the system, train team members how to use it, and then abandon ongoing training.
What is key to know is for successful adoption and implementation of new distributor-focused technologies, managers must make sure they take the time to select the best technology to address their needs and then provide their staff with all the support and training necessary to benefit from it.
About the Author.
A former building service contractor, Robert Kravitz is president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a Chicago, IL-based firm that provides corporate communication services to organizations in the jansan and building maintenance industries. He can be reached at [email protected].