This proposal lays out the benefits and impact of applying technology in order to reconfigure invoicing and payment method acceptance at Sunny’s Landscaping. The company suffers from low collection rates and long collection times. Its traditional method of work and invoicing is both ineffective and costly. Additional staff is required just to attempt to collect past due bills which are oftentimes erroneous and outdated. Moreover, the company would further benefit from a customer database that would compile all work orders and reduce or eliminate redundancy. The lack of technology use has put the company at a disadvantage in the industry.
Problem The issues to be addressed are to lessen collection time of payments while simultaneously reduce overhead costs, create a customer database that can be accessed through marketing, finance, and customer service departments, and greatly improve upon operational processes.
Approach Establish if implementing a handheld credit card acceptance method at the point-of-sale will effectively reduce payment collection time and give the company a competitive advantage. Further determine if electronic invoicing and database creation will eliminate redundancy and reduce costs.
Methodology Meet with appropriate department heads—finance, customer service, operations, marketing—to determine how each will benefit by the reconfiguration and how to maximize profits from those benefits. Decide which database program would be most compatible for meeting the needs of the organization. Additionally, establish the costs and time associated with educating and training staff on the products and software being introduced. Allocate the time and expense and determine the best quarter to implement the changes. Company expenses, due to lack of payment collection and overhead, severely cut into profits. Immediate payment by way of a mobile credit card processing adapter at time of service will help increase company profitability and efficiency. Each program will tie into the next. The credit card processor will automatically generate electronic invoices to be emailed to the customer. These invoices will be housed in a database that will collect and store relevant customer information. The impact on the company as a whole will be positive as departments will have the ability to share information and collaborate for optimal efficiency.
Milestone 1 Problem The issues to be addressed are to lessen collection time of payments while simultaneously reduce overhead costs, create a customer database that can be accessed through marketing, finance, and customer service departments, and greatly improve upon operational processes.
Company Background Sunny’s Landscaping was formed in 1976 by one man in Pennsylvania and started operations with only two additional employees. Sunny’s provides construction of ponds & rock walls, irrigation, lawn maintenance, flowerbed design, and all landscaping needs to its customers. It has grown to employ as many as seventy-five people and has net revenues of almost one million dollars per year. Sunny’s (The Company) services both residential and commercial properties with commercial generating nearly 75% of its annual revenues. In the early 1990’s the Company began providing additional services, such as snow removal and ice buildup prevention that would allow it to stay operational year-round. With these additional services came an increase in new accounts; most of which have been residential. The profit increase with respect to the new accounts has been mediocre at best. The Company’s inability to collect payment on the new residential accounts has begun to severely decrease profits and it has been proposed to reduce services. In an effort to continue all service and grow, the Company has begun to seek solutions.
Approach Internal financial research has shown that decreased profits are due to a multitude of issues including the high number of delinquent or late accounts, excessive staffing expenses, and a general lack of sufficient and effective use of technology. Determine if introducing a new method of point-of-sale payment collection will reduce expenses related to residential accounts. Further determine if an electronic invoicing process will enable the Company reduce staffing costs while simultaneously creating a customer database.
Methodology Convene with all the appropriate departments—finance, customer service, operations, & marketing—to determine how a database should be constructed so it is cross functional for each department. The company currently uses Microsoft Access for its customer list. Information pulled from this list is oftentimes outdated and erroneous. It is inappropriate software to use in order to transfer customer information to an invoice. This process increases work hours and is redundant. As work orders are issued and workers are dispatched, each should be provided with the ability to adjust the invoice electronically onsite for immediate customer payment. The method used now is to issue the order, perform the work, adjust the invoice if necessary, and then mail it out in the traditional fashion. The increase in new residential customers has also caused an increase in non-payment. The use of a mobile credit card processor could help reduce this payment delinquency.
Options/Solutions Sunny’s Landscaping has very little collaboration amongst its departments and few tools to work with. Each department is independently operated from the others and has not yet adapted to the influx of residential accounts. Whereas, the larger commercial accounts are well known and recognized, the smaller residential accounts are given very little customer service. The Company must find a solution that will reconcile both the residential and commercial accounts with company’s overall needs and each department’s ability to operate. One centralized system would allow the Company to function as a whole.
The Company has a need for a system that can accomplish three goals: 1. Generate invoices 2. Allow for point-of-sale credit card processing 3. Create a database that is cross functional All three systems must work in tandem and allow information to flow from one process to the next. For example, as work is completed a foreman requires the ability to generate an invoice on the spot. Then they must also have the ability to accept payment from the customer. Lastly, the customer’s information and work performed must be electronically transferred into the database where other departments will be able to access it for a follow-up service. Marketing could use the information for promotional mailers, customer service could use it to obtain feedback, finance would use it for records, and operations could use it to find out the type of service performed. If one system can be constructed that will support all three functions, it will reduce costs company wide, allow for customer information to be used effectively throughout all departments, and increase profits while reducing delinquent accounts.
Milestone 2 Sunny’s Landscaping will need to research further to determine if and what additional resources will be required to reconfigure its invoicing and payment methods. It must also determine how much training will be required for frontline workers and supporting staff. Sunny’s Landscaping should consider the following questions prior to making a decision about which software and hardware to use:
1. What point-of-sale device will allow for data to be stored in a database and extracted for invoicing? a. Is there one device that is superior over the other in price and performance? b. Will this device need any additional in-house hardware to function? c. Will customer’s financial and personal information be stored and processed securely; how can we ensure customers that it is? 2. How long, if at all, will funds be held for before deposit? 3. Will one database be able to support all the functions that each department requires? 4. Can prior customer’s information be easily entered into the new database? 5. Will a lack of mobile or internet connection affect point-of-sale processing; and if so, how are payments accepted otherwise?
Point-of Sale Device The two most compatible devices with Sunny’s Landscaping needs are SquareUp and Intuit GoPayment. Each device works similar to one another. Research has shown the greatest differences are in payment deposit time and customer service. SquareUp appears to have a longer slower deposit time of funds, especially with new accounts. Moreover, the first few months of service do not allow new customers to withdraw entire deposit amounts. According to the SquareUp website, this payment hold is to reduce fraud. GoPayment by Intuit seems to have the greatest customer satisfaction. GoPayments device hardware also seems to be of a better, more secure design as can be seen in the figure below.