Who Do You Want To Do Business With? HVACR Best Practices and MITS

Submitted on: Mon, 06.01.2015 07:17pm - Annie Eissler |

This post is a continuing conversation with Richard Cook, President and COO of Johnson Supply, George Giudici, President and Andy Weith, consultant and retained Acting CIO of Crescent Parts & Equipment, and MITS’ President Gary Owen on the strategies behind deploying MITS business intelligence in the HVACR industry. (Part 3 of 3)

Gary: Are there any unique challenges or shifts that you’re seeing in the HVACR industry?

Richard: I can think of two shifts.

First, we are paying attention to new regulations and standards coming out of Washington, and using sales and customer data through MITS to audit compliance. As a distribution owner, this isn’t something I would have had to deal with five or ten years ago

Second, there is a major shift in the need to invest in technology. There were no computers when I started my career. We had pagers and payphones. For a long time, our industry remained pretty old school and we did not see a lot of play in technology investments. That has changed very, very rapidly in the last three to five years.

Gary: Andy or George, does that spark any thoughts for either of you?

George:  Technology is also helping us on the compliance side. The ability to easily drill into our data using MITS helps us manage the warranty and recall administration side of our business. We are currently going through an expansion valve problem and being able to pull the serial number, model number, and date ranges through MITS is so easy. I don’t know how we would have pulled this information out of our SX.e ERP.

Andy:  Expanding on what Richard said about changes in technology in the distribution industry, the whole world expects quick and immediate access to information. Imagine a sales rep goes to see a customer and says “Great. Let me jot down some notes. I’ll go back to the office and have our IT department run a report to some green-bar paper so I can get you some answers. It will be about a week or two” versus the sales rep that just pulls out their tablet and says, “I didn’t know. I wasn’t aware of that problem. Let’s look into it,” and with a click, click they continue “Here we go, here is the answer right here.” Who do you want to do business with?

Gary: One final question for all of you. What is happening today that make you excited to be in the distribution industry?

George:  We’re definitely seeing increased interest from our customers on… I don’t want to call it EDI, but the whole electronic business B2B activity channel of moving data, reducing costs, jointly having a conversation and saying “If it costs me this much to serve you, it has to cost you some similar amount to do that for yourself,” and try to work toward solutions to streamline that and lower the overhead.

Andy: I’m a huge fan of automation, so I’ll expand on George’s comments. Not only is the data digital today instead of on a piece of paper, requiring someone to key something in, but things can be automated and scheduled so folks don’t even have to self-serve; information can be delivered to them.

This makes me think of a project we’re working on right now to import invoices from vendors electronically so they can essentially pay themselves if there are no problems. Imagine applying that same approach to ten different areas of your company, eliminating gigantic sentiments of work that are just monotonous and don’t really need a human touch. This would free up your staff to do the things that only they can do, such as applying the necessary wisdom and emotion as Richard talked about.

Gary: What are you most excited about Richard?

Richard:  I don’t know if the emotion is excited or scared, but I think that the role of the distributor in the future may change rather dramatically in terms of why people do business with them.

I remember when I first started in this industry a lot of distributors had control of the information channel. The manufacturer would put out a product bulletin, it would go to the distributors, and then it would be our job—but also our privilege—to impart that information to our customers.

Nowadays, that type of information is available anywhere—just Google it. What isn’t available though is the marketing data, the customer data, the trend data that is unique to our customer base and to our market. For example, if a customer was looking at a rooftop unit and scanned the barcode with our app, they would get a lot of additional information from us, such as the warranty history.

How we manage, use, and disseminate this information may be our biggest competitive advantage. I think this is really exciting, and offers a real opportunity for us as a distributor to put resources into it and be thoughtful about managing and using our data.

Read Part 1 or Part 2, or listen to the complete webcast on reporting and analytics in the HVACR industry.