What Defines a Good Distributor Partner?

Principle Cleaning Services in the UK has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with its distributor, Futures Supplies & Support Services Ltd. Jim Freeman at Principle Cleaning explains what he expects from his supplier.

“It is important to us that all of our suppliers share our commitment to genuine partnership working. We look to have trust in our cleaning products supplier to help us meet the promises we make to our customers.

“This is not only in meeting deadlines and supplying the correct products but also in being actively involved in sourcing innovative new solutions and guiding us through the range of products available.” He adds:

“Futures Supplies has helped us with exploring new cleaning products and have helped us incorporate these into our tender proposals. It has a very proactive account management team who are always on hand to offer advice and to provide support.”

Freeman describes Futures Supplies’ key strengths as being in its product knowledge, proactive account management and its availability. “It is imperative in a cleaning product supplier that we can get answers to the questions our customers raise. The management team are all very happy to support our business and regularly go beyond the norm in helping us meet the demands of our customers.” And he is confident that Principle’s relationship with Futures Supplies has had a positive impact on the business. “We have supported each other through our development and we have both benefited through a reputation for delivering a genuinely world class service.”

At Futures Supplies Mandie Kemp explains the company’s ethos. “We aim to deliver service, quality, value, and reliability with environmental consideration through continual improvement and technology. Our role is to deliver more than just cleaning products.”

Kemp continues: “Our role involves providing, through a dedicated account management team, the best advice on the right products to deliver value and quality, outstanding customer service, reliable and efficient deliveries on time, back office support, as well as delivering innovative and original technologies in both products and the services we provide.

“This begins through support at the tender process, the provision of on site training, regular meetings, reporting and maintaining high standards throughout the provision of contracts and beyond.” The distributor has always sought to be at the forefront of delivering new technologies, not just in the product range it offers but also throughout its business processes and operations. Sustainability has been at the heart of its drive to introduce new cleaning products. Futures Supplies also has a highly credible approach to climate change, offering Carbon Neutral supplies since 2006 and achieving a net zero carbon footprint. It worked closely with Principle in fact, when the cleaning company attained carbon neutral status and has been a valuable partner in its environmental management.

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Heavy Investment Provides Added Value

Mandie Kemp who runs Futures Supplies and Support Services, a distributor of washroom, cleaning and janitorial product has invested heavily in upgrading and streamlining the technology at her company’s south London premises. “We started up in 1995 before website and other technology was generally available and, as we know, it turned out to be a key development in driving the industry forward,” she said. “We have always tried to be at the forefront of technology and were among the first to offer an online shopping facility. Having such robust systems in place have certainly helped us grow our business.

“Our software offers a fully integrated suite of multi-user application software designed to enable us to support and fulfil the specific individual requirements of our customers. The software encompasses facilities for call management, sales order processing, stock control, invoicing, sales purchasing and van routing. And it provides comprehensive management control, including detailed sales, stock and purchase reporting.”

Futures Supplies’ website order processing system runs at a hosted data center linked to the company’s main office server via its own dedicated broadband line. This enables the smooth transfer of customer orders directly into the main order processing system round the clock. Orders are then allocated to a delivery route, giving the customer an accurate date for their arrival, enabling Futures Supplies to manage deliveries more efficiently, provide more accurate delivery dates and be more efficient with delivery costs.

The company’s delivery fleet is equipped with a Telematics GPRS tracking system that has led to improvements in routing and fuel consumption, and keeps customers informed about the location of their order during transit.

The Futures Supplies website, meanwhile, has recently undergone a major upgrade. The site already generates 70 per cent of the company’s business and online traffic and sales order volumes are increasing. And customers expect faster access to back office support and information, including their sales order history, proof of delivery and invoices and statements.

One facet of this is a fully integrated budget control tool that is widely used by the company’s contract cleaning customers, producing considerable benefits and efficiencies for them in terms of back office time, cost control and savings on management time. To set up, it simply requires:

• An agreed ‘materials’ and ‘rechargeable’ list

• The customer’s budget data uploaded from a spread sheet they provide

• A unique user name and password for the person nominated to place orders and for the customer administrator.

“Providing a clear definition between orders for materials and rechargeable, the system ensures that our client never forgets to invoice onwards for the rechargeables,” explained Kemp.

“The customer administrator has access 24/7 to download and monitor monthly spend, summary reports, products ordered by site and allow or disallow budget-busting orders at the click of a button. A copy of the order is generated as confirmation to both the person who placed the order and the customer administrator.”

As part of a quest to build long-term partnerships, Futures Supplies has also launched a number of partner website janitorial shops in a collaboration that aims to help its customers grow their business. The shop is accessed via a link on the partner’s website which enables their own customers to purchase an agreed selection of products. Futures Supplies takes care of the processing and delivery.

An unapologetic tree-hugger, Mandie Kemp is helping her clients make product choices with the environment in mind. Sustainable products are signalled on the Futures Supplies website by a green traffic light, indicating they have little or low environmental impact, are biodegradable, include recycled content or carry an authenticated ‘eco’ or green logo or label. Technology is also helping with the reduction of paperwork.

Integrated website

The Futures Supplies website dates from 2005 when Sean Heraghty of e-Business Systems brought in a proven e-commerce system that he then tailored to the company’s and its customers’ specific needs. A key requirement was for the website to be integrated with the system serving the back office, which processes orders and updates product stock and customer information.

“With an integrated website, orders taken on the website are automatically transferred to the back off ice system for processing,” Heraghty explained. “And on the other side, any updates made in the back office to products, customer details and prices are automatically transferred to the website. Other things like safety data sheets and product pictures can be placed in a folder which is picked up by the website.

“But you cannot buy packages that do all this – someone has to actually integrate the website with the other systems so that they operate seamlessly together. With a properly integrated set of systems, there should be very little additional administrative effort to keep the website up to date.”

With businesses so dependent on new-age technology, operational hiccups can prove costly. So Heraghty implemented a failsafe system that runs on a separate server and monitors the website every 15 minutes. “If the website doesn’t respond within seconds, it is then restarted automatically. So even if there has been a technical failure, Futures Supplies’ customers will rarely see any downtime on the website,” he said.

Heraghty added that flexibility was a key feature of the website, enabling it to respond to Futures Supplies’ evolving needs while providing the company’s clients with facilities they may not have themselves, such as the order budget control system. “This system can save contract cleaners a great deal of admin effort in controlling the costs of their cleaning contracts. So the Futures Supplies website is offering a lot of added value to its customers.”

Read the full article at:- http://www.europeancleaningjournal.com/uploads/dist-focus-emag_0_6acf490161ce322e.pdf