Q: We’re a Facilities Management company, and our sales team are spending far too much time in writing quotes for customers.
We’d like to automate our quotation system and save time. What do you advise?
A: This is an excellent idea. We all know that most quotes will never win. If they did we’d all be millionaires. If a company closes one out of every four quotes issued, then they’ll consider that they’re doing reasonably well.
So it’s important to immediately recognise that most quotes lose, yet take up an unfair and costly amount of time to produce.
Online quotations are the smart way around this problem.
Online quotations allow, for example, telesales staff to give out quotes during the first call.
They also allow sales staff to calculate the quote with the customer, during the sales visit. Our own experience at Studio Rossiter is that our Video Quote Online page is one of the most visited pages on our site.
The first problem to overcome when developing an online quote system is to recognise that it won’t cover all quotes. There’ll be plenty of exceptions such as specialist or complex jobs. Nonetheless, 80% of quotes should be reasonably accurate online. So let’s work towards getting 80% of that workload reduced.
Obviously, you’ll need a caveat when you give a price online. At our Video Quote Online we say “This quotation excludes VAT, Travel, Duplication, Complex Graphics, Animation & Foreign Languages” Each company will have their own equivalent.
The actual work of developing a quote online involves three stages:
> Assessing the calculations used
> Programming the calculations into an online database
> Adding design so the online quote is attractive and easy to use.
Assessing the calculations is the hard part, as there are always exceptions to the rule, and it is these exceptions that will kill the project at birth by making it seem overly complex.
This is a good time to reassess the basis of your quote system. Ask tough questions such as:
> How much of what we include when quoting manually is really that necessary?
> What are all the fiddly items we’ve inherited through the years that are in actual fact now redundant or marginally useful?
> Can we arrive at a standard price, were previously we changed our prices according to the customer?
These are serious questions that need serious answers. But in the video industry “they said it can’t be done” yet 2 years ago we launches the world’s first Corporate Video Quote Online, and it works well.
Once the basis of the core calculations are agreed, a programmer will develop an online database (which customers won’t see, of course) holding all the calculation formulae. This database is then linked to an online quote page where staff or customers can make choices, using drop down menus and tick boxes, so no manual input is required.
The model needs to be tested hard and long, as errors in quotes can have consequences!
Once this all works, a designer needs to ensure that:
> It all looks good as web page, and is inviting to use
> It’s very simple to use
> Help is available as video, rollovers, popups or whatever is needed to ensure that people’s common problems are answered immediately.
Once complete, the page needs to be launched as publicised where appropriate.
Obviously this is a simple description, but as a model it should to give a useful outline and indication of the benefits to developing an online quote system.
© Studio Rossiter 2006