The International Institute for Cosmetics (IIC) is the leading supplier of specialised mineral skin applications and anti-ageing products in the UK. Based in North London, they are the exclusive importer and distributor of some of the world's leading Anti-Ageing brands and due to the specialism of their products, only sell direct to the professional trade.
The company has come a long way since its early days when it sold a limited number of products. It has grown to become a multi-million pound business with over 2000 product lines and more than 10,000 active customer accounts. They have over 200 employees, with a busy department dedicated to taking telephone orders. Point100 has worked with IIC for over 25 years, on hundreds of projects. These are just a few examples of solutions that we have created for them.
As its business grew, it became clear to IIC that its paper driven order management system and manual procedures were too time consuming and inefficient, leading to avoidable errors. This was particularly so in management of the order taking, credit control, customer accounts and stock levels.
When Point100 began working with IIC, they used Sage Line 50 for their account management, credit control, and financial administration. As their business relies heavily on telephone ordering, their ordering department was staffed by 8 administrators taking orders over the phone, along with 3 credit controllers.
As an off-the-shelf software package, Sage didn't have the correct tools for credit control in the way that IIC needed. When taking phone orders, operatives had to access many different applications to find the customer's history, past orders, credit limit, and other important information. It was also not possible to obtain real time credit checks on customer accounts. In addition, certain customers were only authorised to buy certain products which required more non-automated checking and delay. Other difficult and time consuming processes were stock control, the back order management system, and the proper allocation of money received against the correct overdue invoice to unblock accounts.
IIC's customer base is made up of hundreds of salons and aesthetics clinics, all of whom had varying credit circumstances that had to be taken into account at the time of ordering. The workflow before Point100 was commissioned involved 6 members of staff taking handwritten telephone orders on paper, which would then be handed over to 2 more senior team members who would check and manually input the orders into Sage. Orders were being handwritten because the core financial package was unable to breakout invoices into multiple lines from different suppliers, or apply different price lists to certain customers. If there were questions about the order, these had to be raised with credit control. By the time that these issues had arisen, credit control needed to contact the salon owners, who were typically time poor and working during the day in a busy environment. Orders could be delayed from 2-3 days, making the system inefficient and costing IIC time and money. IIC therefore needed an order management system that would allow them to integrate credit control into the order process.
Point100 take the time to thoroughly understand the business objectives of our clients, and how the business operates on a daily basis. The solutions that we create are built to streamline processes and avoid the steep learning curves and training time associated entirely new software packages that do not adapt to the user’s needs. Following conversations with the IIC, we knew that we needed to develop a comprehensive front end solution incorporating all the required functionality, and fully integrated with a SQL server back end.
We built a system that had integrated credit control measures, meaning that an order wouldn't go through if the customer was either outside their terms or their credit limit. This reduced the potential for human error, and automatically carried out the verification process that took considerable time and effort from the credit control team. To address the issue of duplication of effort with a paper order system which would then be fed into Sage, Point100 also created a simple, intuitive digital order form that removed the need for an inefficient, insecure paper system.
In software, ease of use is paramount in business environments, allowing all personnel to quickly adopt new solutions and sustainably use them in their everyday roles. All order takers could now take payment from customers that were over their credit limit using the system created by Point100, rather than financial processes needing to be carried out by other members of the team. The telephone order takers were ideally placed to create this efficiency, and able to use the assistance provided by the software to carry out their roles with more autonomy.
This software solution built the foundation of Sequel, a bedrock system created by Point100 that now forms the cornerstone of the IIC's accounts, credit control, and financial processes. All projects that Point100 have completed for IIC are all directly or indirectly associated with the Sequel order management system.
A further issue faced by the IIC was that as part of the HMRC's Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative, all VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above £85,000 are no longer able to manually import totals from one system to another. The law requires that this process is done digitally as of April 1st, 2019. This meant that if a business used spreadsheets for accounting, it would either need to use bridging software or start using HMRC-recognised software instead.
Some organisations input into Line 50 on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. The IIC used Sage daily to put in sales figures for nominal codes to their accounting package. A report would then be generated from the system that clearly showed the data that they were looking for. However, this could not be done following the MTD initiative coming into force. Point100 therefore wrote a routine to export financial figures out of the Sequel system and import them into Sage Line 50.
This is a perfect example of where you might find a package Software which is designed for the mass market with generic features and functionality. Off the shelf software lacks the tailored features of bespoke software, but has wide appeal due to its catch-all design. It is also typically cheaper than bespoke options. Find out more about the difference between bespoke and off the shelf software here. that is designed to work with your particular industry, but it will never work exactly the way you want. You are then forced to mould your experience to the package, and you can’t do things in the way that you'd like to do them. If you have customised software, you mould the software to your business. Clients were unable go to Sage to resolve MTD issues, because although Sage has the ability to import, it doesn't have the functionality to know where to import from without a bridge module. Point100 was therefore able to render IIC's processes compliant with HMRC legislation without the requirement for an entirely new system being adopted.
At Point100, our philosophy is that all software for small to medium size businesses is the fundamentally the same on the back end. Every business pays rent, every business has staff, every business has stationery - these are all accommodated for in many off-the-shelf solutions because they are generic and not tied to particular industries or sizes of business. However, it's on the front end where we find that businesses should build their own systems, such as an order management system customised for their needs. This ensures that their software is aiding them rather than slowing them down. Our methodical approach to understanding the exact nature of your software pain points means that we can provide a system that seamlessly integrates with your business, meaning that you are not dictated to by software, and can focus on outcomes rather than processes.
At the beginning of the project, the IIAA were doing £25,000 of business per day with 8 order team members and 3 credit controllers. Within a few weeks of implementing the system, they had reduced their credit control team to 1, and were able to do £50,000 of business per day using their new order management system.
"We know these guys really well; they took the time to understand fully our processes and systems. They designed a dashboard which incorporates all the information we need quickly when a customer wants to place an order. We can see all account information, key personnel, aged debt, credit limit and order history. The system allows separate price lists for each customer and the ability to change them on the fly. It also shows the products each customer is authorised to buy," said Margolis, the Head of Finance and Operations at IIC.
"The ability to manage stock levels as orders are taken means we can fulfil back orders quickly and this ensures that stock levels are maintained at optimum level. We only need undertake a manual stock check quarterly. All of the information drives a powerful SQL database application. This means all of our sales information is linked to inventory management and customer relationship management, in a fully joined-up way and in real time."
Margolis singled out the system's reporting capabilities as being particularly effective. "Everything is fully synchronised so, from a desk just a few feet away, I can pull down any report I might want in a few seconds and in real time," he said. "There's almost nothing this system can't do."
"This has had a direct impact on sales. As a result of the customer account information being available immediately and all on one screen, operatives have more time to focus on selling more products to the customer. Also if the customer is over their credit limit, we are able to take a payment before processing their order. This has resulted in a big improvement in our aged debts."
Margolis concluded, "It would almost be fair to say that the solution built by Point100 has made us more profitable, but actually it has enabled us to sell more, increase efficiency, improve customer service, reduce aged debt and maintain stocks at optimum level."
But, more than that, Point100 are on call at any time to rectify and problems. "The support is exceptional," Margolis noted. "They're always available at the end of the phone."