Spruce serves up benefits on multiple levels
Even though the ability to offer innovative technology solutions well ahead of its competition has been a key element of the Spruce success story since the company’s founding back in 1985, for Ken Grause and his team at Pilot Lumber Do It Centers in Bellevue, Kentucky, it was not the technology side of the company that first got their attention.
"It was just so nice to find a service-oriented software provider with people who actually answered the phone when you called and who were as concerned about your business running right as you were," Ken recalls.
"Spruce has provided excellent customer service and technical support from the day we decided to convert to Spruce." says Ken. "They’ve got a great team of support people, most of whom came from in the lumber business and were Spruce users on our side of the aisle. They understand our needs and they want to help. And when we call, it’s very seldom that we ever need a follow-up call. The question gets answered or the problem gets solved."
The service side of Spruce was particularly welcome for the Pilot Lumber team after many years which saw virtually no system upgrades or enhancements from their previous software house, not to mention lengthy waits on hold when they called in with a service or support question.
But while superior customer service was the initial attraction, the more Ken and his team looked at the functionality and ease-of-use that came with the Spruce system, the more they liked what they saw.
"Spruce makes it so much easier for us to compete against the big box stores and everyone else," Ken explains. "My job here is to make it easy for my staff to make a sale and make them appear to be the smartest people in this business. Spruce is a great tool that allows me to do just that."
How exactly does Spruce do it?
"On one level, it’s through a lot of little things," says Ken. "Locating an item in our database is so easy with Spruce and that’s really important for a new person working the cash register," he points out. "Checkout has become an extremely fast process for us with Spruce— the credit card swipe and the signature pad, combined with printing tickets on a laser printer, means we can move our customers through the line so much more efficiently."
For contractors, Ken continues, Spruce has brought a higher level of security and greater control on their purchasing. With Spruce, if the contractor so desires, the system can easily be configured to automatically send an email to a specified customer contact every time someone tries to put something on their account.
And if a customer calls in with a question about a particular job or order, Spruce not only provides a fast look up on the detail but tickets can then be sent instantly to the caller—by email, fax or hard copy—regardless of where the Pilot employee may be—in the back office, on the sales floor or even out in the warehouse.
"Spruce has taken communications with our customers to a whole new level," says Ken. "It’s become totally on the customer’s terms. If they want email, they get email; if they want fax, they get fax and we can respond to questions and inquiries almost instantaneously. And that level of communication works just as well with our suppliers and internally with our own people."
Spruce has also brought more effective inventory management to Pilot Lumber, Ken reports. "Spruce has made it easier for us to make much smarter buying decisions and stopped us from bringing in product in quantities that we really don’t need."The result: Turns at Pilot Lumber have gone from 3.5 times a year under Pilot’s previous system to nearly 5 times a year with Spruce. And the company’s line of credit at the bank is 50% of what it used to be in pre-Spruce days, Ken reports; an improvement that not only reflects smarter purchasing but also better receivables management.
As Ken Grause talks about the many ways he uses Spruce, it becomes clear it is helping the business on many different levels. He and his team now have much greater visibility into just about every aspect of their operations and all in real-time. Spruce has not only strengthened relationships with customers and vendors through more effective communications. It has also boosted productivity at Pilot thanks to a document management system that now allows Ken’s staff to access sales and customer information—current and past—with just a few keystrokes instead of wasting valuable time trying to track down the information in a file folder somewhere like they used to.
"If we didn’t have Spruce, I wouldn’t appear to be nearly as smart as I do," says Ken with a wry smile. More importantly, though—and Ken is more than happy to admit it—without Spruce, the business wouldn’t be running anything like as well as it does today.