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Gaining customer loyalty through informatio

This article appears in the issue October 1998 [Volume 7, Issue 11]

Electric wholesaler wins with fast access

When customer loyalty is important-and it always is-having information available quickly to settle discrepancies and disputes is infinitely valuable. Gerrie Electric (Toronto), a wholesale distributor of electrical supplies, has implemented a workflow, imaging, document management and COLD solution to make certain that customer information is at the ready.

The company, a firm believer in information technology, has an E-commerce system in place to take supply orders online and show online availability of its stock, but only recently upgraded its invoice and order systems.

"Our business is based on high-volume transactions, with relatively low-dollar value," said Jamie Elchuck, PC network specialist for Gerrie Electric. "We needed something quicker than our filing system for tracking this information."

Until recently, Gerrie handled invoices and packing slips with paper, requiring hand signatures and filing. While those signatures could confirm that a package was received and by whom, they were not the easiest medium to handle. Also, those records were filed at one of Gerrie's 12 branch offices and again at headquarters.

Now, items are scanned by a high-volume Fujitsu (www.fcpa.com) scanner, OCRed by Readsoft's (www.readsoft.se) Eyes and Hands engine and moved into a Siemens Nixdorf (www.sni.ca) ARCIS-NT system. Once in ARCIS, the information is instantly retrievable by invoice date, customer ID, customer name, purchase order number, invoice number or packing slip number.

"Ultimately, it's about better customer service," said Elchuck.

Gerrie started with ARCIS slowly nearly a year ago, with a test group of about 10 people accessing the system and a former file clerk handling the scanning and OCRing. The company is in the process of expanding the system to more users.

The solution has opened unforeseen doors for the company, which is expanding its use to legal documentation, accounts payable information and shipping information.

For example, Elchuck said, the company is working toward using ARCIS to combine a legal document from one format with follow-up letters done in Microsoft Word into one file.

Gerrie is also considering ARCIS Web as a tool for delivering information over the Web. Currently, Gerrie's E-commerce takes two forms: a tool for customers to recommend inventory and an EDI outlet to invoice Gerrie's bigger customers who want to do business electronically.

According to Elchuck, the ARCIS Web component would allow customers to obtain all their information in ARCIS over the Web without having to go through a customer service rep.

While fast information is the gain, paper was the biggest problem.

"Once something becomes paper, it stays paper and that's inefficient," said Elchuck.


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