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Distributors & Software
It may sound like a paradox, but there is money to be made in helping customers save money. A new breed of specialists known as 'cost handlers' are emerging and their strategy for cultivating repeat business involves helping customers keep their costs down. Cost handlers don't just hunt bargains--they also help sniff out inefficiencies along the customer's supply chain. For example, many companies pay top dollar for tools with lifetime warranties, but then replace them each year. Others fail to track consumables, such as batteries and flashlights, or they rent tools and neglect to return them and thus incur extra costs.

Some of the ways in which cost handlers save money for their customers are by advising them about what they don't need. Another budget-preserving tactic is to find out where customers' dollars are being lost and implement procedures to stop the cash hemorrhage. A good cost handler will also point out to the customer that pennies add up, particularly when large systems are concerned, so it pays to use cost tracking software. Also, keeping good records to track where the money goes and how much of it stays is a must. A distribution cost handler locates customer cost incongruities and offers remedies. For instance, if a distributor rents a tool to a customer, a start date and an estimated end date are entered into a database. On the end date, the distributor sends someone out to pick up the tool so there's no need to hit the customer with a late fee. This is a good business tactic, but most companies do not do this and fail to earn the long-term loyalty of the customer.

Databases and other software are important tools for tracking and cutting customers' costs. One example involves employee badges being swiped through checkout stations which track. Critical information is collected, such as the employee's identity, what they took, how much they took, and the time of day. The software also provides better management reports by capturing points-of-use data and enables a single order to be split up and shipped to multiple destinations and departments. These systems give employees an incentive to behave responsibility and to return tools and materials.

Additionally, small hand-held devices allow delivery drivers to collect electronic signatures, which are added to the distribution database. When the drivers return to the warehouse, information is downloaded electronically, eliminating the need for painstaking signature entries. Salespeople use high-tech tools, too; with laptops, they have round-the-clock access to the database so that critical supply data is just a keystroke away. One of the biggest benefits of distribution software is that it facilities the rapid flow of accurate information. Salespeople don't have to make seven phone calls to find out what the current discount rate for a customer is. They just log on and check the database. Distribution software also streamlines the supply chain, which cuts costs by making the process more efficient, and reveals incongruities in spending.

Historically, buyers have only been able to see their own budget, missing out on the big, company-wide picture. With distribution software, a larger picture emerges which is available to all. Streamlining the supply chain with distribution software can produce considerable cost savings, and the centralization of data cuts down on confusion. Clearly, implementing distribution software can provide a boost for the organization overall.

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