Regular upgrades all part of service
PHASE one of the re- engineering of Brilliant Business Systems is over. Now sales director Pete Whalley can get on with what he knows best - selling.
South Africans have had to overcome a mindset that considers software a once-off purchase. Instead, he insists, accounting software forms part of a business service that demands ongoing two-way contact between client and software vendor.
"We have finished the restructuring phase of the business," says Whalley, "and we are now focused on the fundamentals of supplying spectacular service to our software users.
"We looked long and hard at the way the company was run and decided to make changes that would benefit our customers as well as ourselves. We weren't able to offer world-class service because the system was overused and customers did not get great support because they weren't paying for it. It was a double-edged sword - we couldn't provide an adequate after sales support service without the infrastructure.
"What we have done is to say here, take the box of Brilliant Accounting for free - the price marked on it is R0.00. Use it for 15 days and if you like it, register it with us for a year and pay the annual licence fee. You get the software, as well as any upgrades that are released during the year and unlimited telephonic support."
Whalley says the revenues generated from licence fees are also channelled into research and development to produce better products.
"What we are saying is that people don't need to buy outdated software - with our agreement they are kept up to date. We're not dealing with generic software here, accounting software is mission-critical.
"Instead of paying for a box of software, people buying Brilliant Accounting are paying for service. That way they have recourse if they are not happy."
He cites the example of an accounting software package that does not carry a mandatory service option: the software costs R1 299, an optional contract R450 and an upgrade R600.
"With our system, people buy a complete solution for R1 800 for an entire year. There are no hidden costs. This allows companies to budget without crystal ball-gazing.
"Many companies offer 30 days of free support with their accounting software. What users don't take into account is that, for the first 30 days, most of them are just getting to grips with the basics. When the time comes for help, typically more than a month after purchase, they have to pay. Our research shows that just 11% of people make use of a free 30-day facility."
The service element of BBS has also spilled over into the company's distribution channel. Instead of using value-added resellers, the company encouraged them to become value-added service providers (VASPs).
Says Whalley: "These are companies that come on board with us to provide a service as well as sales function. We provide them with training and incentives and they get on with business.
"We are building up the calibre of VASPs and they will become increasingly important to the company."
Whalley says the next phase of restructuring BBS will be to upgrade support available on the Internet.