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AQ Order Status - A FEDA Initiative

By Adam Gazaleh, Product Manager

Progress doesn't happen in a vacuum, and nothing helps us progress faster than an open dialogue with our customers. In February 2016, AutoQuotes surveyed AQ subscribers who participate in OrderStatus. The goal was to better understand who is using OrderStatus, what the user experience is like, and how OrderStatus can be improved. Thanks to the 1,200 industry professionals who participated, we now know what we need to start doing, what we need to stop doing, and what we should continue to do to best serve you, our customers.

Before we break down the survey results, this is a good time to clear up a few misconceptions about OrderStatus. Firstly, it's important to know that you do not have to create and submit purchase orders through AQ to access them in OrderStatus. Because orders are filled directly from the manufacturer, they will appear in OrderStatus regardless of how you create and send orders to manufacturers. Secondly, we don't charge anyone for OrderStatus. If you have an AQ license, you can use OrderStatus now. If you are a publishing manufacturer, there is no additional charge to start publishing orders. All you have to do is contact us.

Numbers speak louder than words, so here is a look at the latest usage statistics. According to the data, 15 percent of users check OrderStatus on a daily to weekly basis, and 26 percent check at least once a month. The data also tells us that, while this feature is used by people in many different roles, 40 percent of the users are involved in sales and 62 percent use OrderStatus to track their own orders.

One revealing statistic is that the majority of users, 79 percent, say they are likely to recommend OrderStatus to a colleague. Over 80 percent of industry professionals surveyed agree that OrderStatus is easy to use, improves their efficiency at work, and meets their order tracking needs. One respondent described it as, "the most complete database of orders the industry has ever seen." After a year of planning, development, educating, and troubleshooting, we are glad to know that we are providing you with a worthwhile product.

Survey Results

AutoQuotes has never been the type of company that rests on its laurels, and we understand that there is always room for improvement. Seven percent of users who tried OrderStatus abandoned it. Sixty-four percent reported that they needed to see more manufacturers participating in OrderStatus and see the participating manufacturers update data more often. We get it. Since OrderStatus was first introduced, we have continued to contact manufacturers and work with their IT departments to get them on board. As a resource to manufacturers already providing data, we have launched a massive quality control campaign. The primary goal is to make sure participating manufacturers have the resources needed to be successful. Manufacturers who have been responsive and put in the time and effort to provide the most accurate data possible deserve a big round of applause. They have made vast improvements in the quality of information provided since OrderStatus was introduced.

Last but not least, we asked ourselves, "why have some users never tried OrderStatus?" Almost 30 percent of survey respondents reported that they have never clicked on the OrderStatus tab in AQ. The two reasons we have heard the most are 1) not enough time to try it (19 percent) and 2) lack of training resources (23 percent).

In response to the concern about time, we believe that OrderStatus is, in fact, a time saver. We ask that the next time you are about to call a manufacturer to figure out when that oven is going to ship, stop dialing the number and open up AQ instead. Click the OrderStatus tab and type your PO Number in the search bar. You might be surprised to find that the tracking number, delivery date, and link to the carrier website is right in front of you.

AutoQuotes strives to offer extensive training resources to our customers. We are proud of our reputation for delivering quality webinars and one-on-one tech support. This year we are committed to providing more training opportunities for OrderStatus so that it's easier for you to take advantage of this valuable feature.

You spoke and we listened! Keep on the lookout this year for some exciting new improvements to OrderStatus, along with other AQ features. Again, a big thank you to all of our survey respondents, participating manufacturers, and all of our valued customers.

The FEDA Data Interchange

By Kent Motes

At NRA 2014 there was a meeting of the Presidents of all 5 associations. The discussion led directly to an initiative to work together with trust, technology, and innovation to improve the efficiency of the channel. The first step was to create standards for data structures, data distribution, and security. The initiative acquired a name: the FEDA Data Interchange. AutoQuotes was asked to participate in the design and in the startup of the FDI.

AutoQuotes works with FEDA President Brad Pierce and with the FEDA Excomm. We have had numerous discussions with 2014 MAFSI president Joe Ferri, with past NAFEM President (and AQ advisor) Jeff Rhodenbaugh, and with FEDA Board members. We read Michael Whiteley's President's letters and attended his NAFEM speeches. The FDI leadership tells us where the hot buttons are and what efficiencies need to be optimized. The first step is Order Status.

The FDI is not limited to FEDA members only. The standards and the data distribution are available to all channel partners at all levels. Although the initiative is very new, it has participation of most major manufacturers; although the data distribution is not yet complete, it has begun.

For Manufacturers

To manufacturers, the cost of distribution (independent reps, customer service, sales staff) could easily be 10% of the $9.94 billion revenues estimated by NAFEM in the 2014 Size and Shape study. The FDI targets the labor costs of phone calls and emails: the most exacting, tedious, and unpleasant tasks of customer service. It is estimated that 50% of the calls to manufacturer customer service are for Order Status.

For Dealers

Payroll (after merchandise) is the highest expense in dealer distribution. At the dealerships, purchasing agents and project managers spend a significant percentage of their time expediting orders through phone calls and emails. The FDI will deliver the status of orders directly to the dealer desktop, ERP system, and the mobile devices of the salesforce. This will save payroll time and speed up the response to the end user customers.

For Young People and Jobs

Attracting millennials to jobs in distribution in the foodservice equipment industry has become a challenge. Teaching young people about design, sales, installation, and customer service is complex. Commercial kitchen products are high priced, highly configured, or highly specialized (by size, color, pattern, etc). There are 500,000 SKU's and multi-million possible product configurations that are necessary and available in the foodservice equipment marketplace.

But just as important to young people is their lifestyle in the workplace. They grew up with the internet, social media, desktops, and mobile devices. They don't like phone calls (too inefficient), and therefore jobs that require phone calling. They want to work online, anywhere, at any time. The FDI is an investment in technology to automate the tedious tasks in the entry-level jobs and to appeal to their lifestyle.

The FDI Mission Statement

Introduce innovative new technology to the distribution channel. Keep it simple. Charge nothing. Reduce payroll costs. Attract more young people by creating better jobs in distribution.

Then, if successful, iterate. Tear it apart and rebuild it again. Technology is exponential and the opportunities to improve the channel, from manufacturer to rep to dealer to service agent to operator, are comprehensive and diverse.

For more information about the FDI, go to MyOpenOrders.com.

Special FEDA Member Only Features on AutoQuotes

AutoQuotes has taken AQ360 to a new level. The ' new look' is familiar but simplified and cleaner, stylized much like the look of Microsoft Office 2013. You will see ribbons instead of toolbars and drop down menus. You will see more buttons appear and more items selected with mouse-over action. Commands appear conditionally and intuitively, easier to find and more context sensitive.

FEDA members have exclusive access to the AQ Catalog Data Export, which is also new & improved.

  • FEDA members can export catalog data on over 500,000 products from over 500 published manufacturers. This data can be used to update your back-end systems or websites and includes model numbers, specifications, list prices, physical data (weights & dimensions), pack sizes and brand names.
  • FEDA members can also export the entire database of color pictures. This includes over 390,000 single and group images, a great addition for web catalogs and point-of-sale systems.
  • The FEDA member privilege also includes the ability to export over 248,000 spec sheets from the AutoQuotes database.

  • These are privileges exclusive to FEDA dealer members. To take advantage of them please contact Rosemary Connor (rconnor@aqnet.com) or Michael Greenwald (mgreenwald@aqnet.com). The AQ Catalog Data Export must be "turned on" for a licensed AutoQuotes user.

    Once enabled, simply right click in the center panel of the catalog, click "Export Catalog Text," and download. It places a new icon on the desktop (AQ Catalog Data Export). When it is opened, it will automatically verify your login credentials. Also, it takes 24 hours before any catalog data will download.

    The exported data can be directed into a local folder of your choosing or into your own MSSQL Server database.

    We hope you are on board with AutoQuotes and will reap its many rewards.


    AutoQuotes on the iPad

    By Kent Motes

    The popularity of mobile devices and the expansion of WiFi and cellular connectivity has made Apple and its I-series of products the largest company success in economic history. Last week Apple sold their 100 millionth iPad. Dealers, Reps, Manufacturers, and Consultants are beginning to adapt their workplaces to the mobility of tablets.

    We understand why our Users want to access business content and want to use a wide range of devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. But corporations are not people, and deployment in our industry is more complicated. Hardware investments, sales force training, new OS’s, and full IT support are a big ticket commitment for FEDA dealers. And there is no yellow brick road.

    We believe tablets like iPads should be in every FEDA member’s short term business plan. Here are the reasons why.

    Tablets will replace most laptops. At about the same price, they are faster, lighter, more mobile, and a much better tool for sharing product information with a customer or for taking photos for a punch list. For business activity after hours, on sales calls, on weekends, and or on business trips, iPads are a convenient info-expediter.

    Tablets are not a desktop replacement. Word documents, Excel, and PowerPoint are apps designed for the desktop. You can view CAD drawings on your iPad, but can do only minimal annotations and editing. Access is not an option. And connecting to your LAN, or using a VPN connection to send stock orders to your AS400? Not now, not yet.

    Tablets today are more related to the smartphone family. The screen has an interface based on touch rather than a keyboard and a mouse. The pop-up keyboard is not great for writing long documents, but is OK for email and editing. Navigating applications with taps, flicks, long presses, and pinches is a bit organic and messy at first but becomes more naturally familiar and intuitive than a mouse click. (For tips on iPad gestures, tap this link to a gesture reference guide). Tablets open instantly and navigate easily. They can be viewed in landscape or portrait mode, with the screen automatically changing based on the angle that it is held.

    AutoQuotes now has an app in the Apple Store (search 'AutoQuotes' or 'AQ'). AQ is a fast and light version of AutoQuotes. It is not the desktop replacement but is reasonably complete. Not all the reports and the report options are finished. You won’t be editing PO’s, changing discounts in Manufacturer Setup, or modifying Admin functions in AQ. But the Catalog content, your Customer list, your Discounts, and all of your Projects are complete. It opens instantly and navigates easily. Searching products is surprisingly fast.

    The FEDA membership has been the core of the AutoQuotes community for 22 years. A big positive for us is to share ideas with you about mobile apps and about how they will benefit your sales force, your engineers, and your IT staff. Shared content delivered efficiently to multiple apps, mobile or desktop, is a business model that we want to assist and to help define. There is no direction but up.