Supporting the entrepreneurial spirit

Success Story: Preferred Office Products

E-automate® Office Equipment and FMAudit® Remote Managed Services Software Maximize Service Department Productivity

Testimony for ECi by Preferred Office Products in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Preferred Office Products

Fort Smith, Arkansas

If you’re looking for a way to maximize the productivity—and profitability—of your service department and, indeed, your dealership overall, you owe it to yourself and your business to take a look at e‑automate® business management software from ECi Software Solutions. 

Just ask Stephanie Whitehead at Preferred Office Products in Fort Smith, Arkansas. 

An industry veteran with more than 30 years of business systems experience, Whitehead says e-automate has given Preferred far more control over its service department operations, maintenance agreements, and meter collections since implementing the program in 2013. 

Preferred started out as an A.B. Dick dealership in 1968. Back then, its main business involved selling spirit duplicators, mimeographs, printing presses, and related supplies. The company quickly expanded its focus, though, to add office equipment, office supplies, and office furniture to the mix. 

Today, the business provides state-of-the-art business systems, document management, network services and managed print services to customers throughout Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Specialists sell and service equipment from Canon®, Ricoh®, and Xerox®

Like just about any dealership these days, Preferred isn’t starving for competition; Whitehead and the rest of the team know that a powerful technology backbone for their own business is essential if they are to keep it profitable and growing. 

That’s where e-automate ERP system software comes in

 E-automate has allowed Preferred to boost productivity in several key areas, Whitehead reports. In the service department, a screen on the system’s RemoteTech dispatch software shows where all of the dealership’s technicians are located in the field in real-time, making it easier to manage their time and service calls far more efficiently.

 “E-automate enables us to keep our techs more up to date and as a result, they are able to complete more calls in a day,” says Whitehead. 

In addition, the days when techs had to call in or stop back by the dealership to track down a part for a repair job are long gone. Now, the tech can check inventory and parts availability on site with the customer and select the needed part from there. If the part isn’t in inventory, techs can generate an order and the system will automatically send them an alert when it arrives, so they can schedule a follow up service call promptly. 

E-automate field service software provides real-time visibility into all areas of the business

Remote access to Preferred’s real-time inventory is just one aspect of how e-automate makes the entire inventory management process more efficient and accessible. 

Whitehead and her team now have real-time visibility on the dealership’s entire machines and parts inventory no matter where they are located—at the Fort Smith headquarters, the branch location in Fayetteville, Arkansas, or even if located in a technician’s vehicle! 

Before converting to e-automate, every location was inventoried separately, Whitehead recalls. “If something was in the Fayetteville store versus Fort Smith, and you would go to count it in Fort Smith it wouldn’t show up,” she remembers. 

E-automate has also made the dealership’s annual inventories so much easier to process. Before converting, says Whitehead, the annual inventory could take up to a week to reconcile. Now, she reports, the Fort Smith inventory completes in a day and the Fayetteville office is finished in half a day. 

FMAudit managed services software makes meter collection efficient

About a year after converting to e-automate, Preferred added FMAudit® managed services software from ECi, which also brought new efficiencies to the meter collection process at the dealership. 

Previously, collecting meter reads had been a time-consuming, labor-intensive process, which often kept billing from going out in a timely manner. “We would email customers a reminder at the beginning of the month, and if we didn’t hear back we would get on the phone and start calling,” recalls Whitehead. 

Over the past four years, Preferred has seen its installed machines base increase from 1,400 to 2,500 and while growth on that scale would be welcome news for any dealership, it inevitably put extra stress on meter collections. 

Switching to FMAudit took most of that stress away. Whereas before, the company needed two employees to make meter collection calls every month, now the task only requires one person, even with a significantly larger installed base of machines. 

The program also monitors supplies usage and automatically orders necessary replenishments. “FMAudit has definitely saved the company money in the amount of people needed to do the work,” says Whitehead. 

The productivity gains e-automate and FMAudit have generated for Preferred Office Products over the past four years would be invaluable for any business systems dealership. They have given the company the kind of platform it needs to manage key areas of its operations effectively and doubtless will continue to do so for many years to come.

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