Resellers wanting to ride the e-commerce bandwagon will have to take a long hard look at getting their own houses in order before they can even hope to reinvent themselves as an e-business solutions player, leading enterprise reseller claimed last week.
In announcing it had registered its 300th customer to its Customer Connect e-business initiative, Volante's Integrated Technology (VIT) e-commerce manager, Peter Dostis, said the company had to undergo its own major reshuffle to be ready for electronic procurement.
"You really have to fix your own backyard before you go out there and preach the benefits of e-business to your customers," Dostis said. "You have got to commit enormous resources to it and whatever you roll out has to be integrated throughout your entire organisation. It has to be at the heart of the way your own business is operating."
Customer Connect was launched in mid 1998 as a means for VIT to service its customers online. According to Dostis it has proved to be an effective way of reducing costs for both itself and customers with less support calls and ordering errors.
"Because the customers place orders themselves, we have had a lot less returns coming through which was one of the major things we were trying to achieve," Dostis said. "Without being able to quote exact numbers, error credits and returns have gone from something like 37 per cent down to about 12.
"From our customers' point of view, it is easier for them to do business with us. They don't have to rely on getting onto one particular person to work out how much a particular product is going to cost. They can just jump on and access all their pricing and availability information."
While Dostis is adamant electronic procurement is the way to go, he does concede VIT is able to circumvent some of the costs by developing the Customer Connect solution itself. Having now undergone the reinvention of its own internal processes, the solution can be adapted and resold, he said.
"We [the Volante Group] have an e-business division that has actually sold off the solution to other vendors to help them sell their products to their own customers," said Dostis.
So just what was the reinvention that VIT had to go through to position itself as an e-commerce player?
"Part of the reinvention was looking at the type of business we are in," Dostis said. "We are not just box movers. We are in the procurement business. Once we understand that then the array of products we supply to our customers is also limitless.
"We are looking at other products that we can provide to them as well. Once you get that e-procurement infrastructure in place you have an opportunity to focus on your core competencies. For Volante IT that is now as a procurement facilitator - and it is not necessary to just focus on technology," Dostis added.
Wayne Morris, managing director of the Volante Group, opined that the 300 customers now using its Customer Connect system was a clear endorsement that customers want to manage their relationships with suppliers in this way.
"In the early days our customers were looking for us to provide them with a procurement management solution," Morris said. "Now many of these same customers are looking to only take advantage of the vendor management we have within Customer Connect.
"We have found a way to personalise our Web site for each business customer and extend our one-to-one customerrelationships."