Faster Food

— July 01, 2006

Musco Foods is a family-owned business based in Maspeth, N.Y., that sells high-end Italian foods to delis and shops throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Since its founding in 1928, many of the company's characteristics have endured: sales representatives still pride themselves on building personal, face-to-face relationships with their clients. And, until recently, reps used paper and pens to record customer orders--an outdated method often plagued by lagging response times and human error. "Generally, a sales rep would carry a cell phone, a price book, and a pen and paper," states Joseph Chiavetta, CFO of Musco Foods. "The difficulty we were having was that after taking an order, a rep would have to call a customer service rep back at the corporate office and transmit the order verbally, and the sales rep would write it down."

With so many steps, gaps in communication were unavoidable, and errors were costing the company nearly $200 a day. Additionally, the price book carried by sales reps was often out-of-date, so customers didn't always receive accurate pricing. And since accounts payable and receivable were not readily available to the sales reps, opportunities to resolve outstanding payments were often missed. "Typically, the sales rep would look at his accounts receivable before going into the store," says Chiavetta, "but not having it in front of him as he was talking to a customer could be a problem, since often the best time to collect outstanding revenue is when you're placing an order. We try to keep all communication between the sales rep and the customer as much as we can.

A one-on-one relationship often helps to finalize the sale, and it's sometimes easier for a sales rep to collect payment, instead of a cold call coming from the corporate office." Chiavetta knew that there had to be a way to automate the sales process, but it took some time before the company settled on a permanent solution. "One of the things we were contemplating was giving the guys notebook [computers]," he says. "However, a notebook's rather large and cumbersome, and sometimes there are connectivity issues." Plus, Chiavetta adds, "The type of customer we're selling to is always on their feet, and walking around typing on a notebook can be tricky. Every notebook would need a damage waiver!"

Stephen Pirolli, principal of ASK Technologies, agrees that a laptop would not be the most effective method of modernizing sales. In fact, he had a better idea in the works--a customized mobile solution on an easily portable smartphone.

ASK Technologies is one of The SCO Group's premier resellers specializing in practical business solutions. "Steve called us about The SCO Group's Mobile OE (order-entry) solution, where everything we needed could be put on the Treo 650," says Chiavetta. The SCO Group's Mobile OE solution is a mobile application that includes contact management, email and an order entry process that enables sales reps to complete entire orders directly on their Treo smartphones. "What's nice," adds Chiavetta, "is that all product information and customer data resides right on the phone. Also, if I'm in an area without coverage, I can still fill out all the information, save it, and send it when I'm back in an area with good connectivity.

With the application and database, we can process orders all day long." According to Blake Stowell, corporate communications director for The SCO Group, The Mobile OE system is part of his company's Edgeclick services portion. "Edgeclick creates and customizes services, and ASK Technologies made Musco a mobile OE system that would work on the Treo." "The software is tailored toward a rep going to a customer and having a sufficient amount of information at their fingertips, literally, to take the order right in the store," says ASK Technologies' Pirolli. "To be able to provide customers with price updates, overstocked items, accounts receivable, etc.--having that information is huge." Musco Foods has experienced significant ROI since commencing its adoption of the Mobile OE solution, although the full rollout is not expected to occur for a few months.

Prior to the deployment, Musco's eight salesmen were able to visit five customers a day. With the time saved by the Mobile OE solution, each sales rep now has time to visit one additional customer per day. As planned, sales numbers have risen 20 percent and instances of human error have been cut in half, saving the company $100 a day, or about $25,000 annually. The new mobile solution has also helped take the strain off of the entry staff back at the corporate office. Since the Mobile OE solution eliminates the need for them to re-enter order information into the systems, these employees are saving approximately 20 to 30 hours per week.

And with the new solution, the sales process will not collapse if one of the sales reps or a member of the order entry staff happens to be out of the office. "Let's face it," Chiavetta quips, "computers don't get sick as often as people do." Pirolli goes on to cite the inventory search and visualization application as particularly useful for Musco's sales reps. "You can search through 6,000 inventory items in five seconds." Also, he explains, if Musco is introducing a new line of pasta, for example, its sales team can use the visualization feature to pull up a product shot, which can help a store manager envision what a particular product will look like on his shelf. The Mobile OE solution also has several security perks. Each sales rep is identified by their cell phone number, and each rep can only access his or her own customer base.

"So, if a rep left the company, they would only be able to access information on their own clients," explains Pirolli. Additionally, if a smartphone is lost or stolen, a single button can be pressed to remotely delete all stored data. Sales reps readily accepted the change in procedure, according to Chiavetta. "They were certainly happy about it, because it gives them more information and the ability to save and store things on the phone. Then again, whenever you make a change, there's always a learning curve. Some reps embraced it excitedly, and others hesitated at first, though they came around. Now they're saying they can't imagine how they worked prior to using this device."

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