INDUSTRY: Wholesale and retail sales for the Auto Parts after-market.
LOCATIONS: 20+ locations in Ohio and Kentucky.
COMPANY DESCRIPTION: Approximately 370 employees, including counter personnel, drivers, warehouse personnel and corporate office employees. Serves a customer base of more than 12,000 customers, consisting of walk-in trade, jobbers, dealers, installers, repair and paint shops.
"There is a theory that, 'He who gets his bill to the customer first, gets paid first.' I don't know if that' really true, but we do know that the sooner you can get your billing out, the faster the money comes in."
Chuck Smith, IT Director at Smyth Automotive
Interview with Chuck Smith of Smyth Automotive
Q. Why did you choose Cloudstreet Portal?
Most importantly, we get paid faster! However, postal rates are also increasing. The postal service has changed its policies regarding sorted-rate discounts, now requiring a printed postal barcode to receive the discounted postage rate. The added expense of printing barcodes to receive sorted-rate discounts has become cost-prohibitive.
CloudStreet Portal allows customers to retrieve invoices online, so we have been able to reduce the time that our Accounts Receivable staff spends making copies of invoices and mailing, faxing or emailing them to customers. The ability to maintain re-printable statements (from any given date) on the portal, is something that our software doesn't easily handle without additional disk storage of monthly files. Also, our salespeople can have access to customer documents, so as they visit the customer, they know the collection status and how much they are spending with us.
Many of our vendors have already moved to using cloud-based portals, and like it or not, that is where the future is moving. We want to stay ahead of our competition in technology. Soon, we hope to add the ability to have signature capture, which will make our need to warehouse old copies of paper invoices unnecessary, and again save us money for data storage costs. And in the future, we will probably use CloudStreet Portal to store reports for our stores, sales personnel, and for management.
Q. Did you consider competitive products when you were looking at the Cloudstreet Portal software?
Yes, we considered a company that works with the same database that our applications uses, but their solution was to convert documents to searchable PDF files. At first we thought that would be a good idea, but the PDF files take up so much more room than the XML files (used by CloudStreet Portal), and therefore, either you are spending more in hardware to store everything or you are limiting the amount of data that you provide to a customer. Storing document data in XML files also allows you to export data; you can't do that with a PDF file! You can also build other databases from the xml files.
Q. How has your experience been with Blue Prairie?
Bruce Decker is one of the most patient people that I know. If you call him with an issue, he's not the kind of person that takes offense trying to defend his work or code. He always is willing to double-check and see if there is an issue that may not have surfaced in the past. He understands the user's perspective, and at least for us, knows the automotive after-market industry. Bruce also has great resources for solving problems, even if it's something that he's not familiar with.
Q. What do your customers say about CloudStreet Portal?
We have customers who really love the product, and with the directions we want to take this product for them, they see it as a useful tool.
Q. What benefits or cost savings has this product brought to your business?
Cost savings in the long run will be more than management realizes right now. No longer will we have to purchase expensive, perforated statement forms. The added postage savings is another significant factor, but I feel that the biggest savings is the time it takes to manually fold and mail statements out every month. When we start to electronically capture our invoices and signatures, we will be able to discontinue storing paper copies of invoices, which will result in even more savings.
Q. What are the three most positive things about the Cloudstreet Portal Software?
Reduction in hours spent folding and mailing statements each week, the expense of paper forms and postage, and the time used to generate invoice copies for customers.