DDI System serves distributors with the innovative functionality of its products and its first-class support.
By Bianca Herron
When Adam Waller, president and founder of DDI System started the company in 1995, he did so with hands-on experience for distribution needs. Now, over 20 years later, DDI System continues to provide innovative Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for distributors with a laser focus on collaboration and customer engagement. Based in Sandy Hook, Conn., DDI now serves more than 800 distributors in a variety of markets, including HVAC, PHCP, electrical and lighting, paper and packaging, and industrial and safety products with the power of Inform ERP software.
Understanding the needs of each of these clients is most critical to delivering an innovative solution optimized for business growth. “Each of the industries we specialize in have unique workflows specific to them. We have been successful within these industries because of our consultative and responsive approach in automating industry-specific workflows that drive more effective processes and greater efficiencies for distribution businesses,” says COO Barbara Jagoe. “For example, in the HVAC industry, we understand the importance of a strong warranty-tracking module, which reduces labor and improves profitability. In the JanSan and paper industry – known for the strength of its repeat business – optimized mobile tools provide the necessary information for sales teams to easily identify purchase pattern behavior and engage with customers proactively.”
Jagoe attributes the ability to be agile to its mid-sized company mindset adding that flexibility is critical to each and every customer. “We know we’re not the biggest company out there. But we pride ourselves on focusing on the customer and providing a world-class solution,” Jagoe explains. “When you buy a system from a large public or PE owned software company, it could take years to get a new ERP system in place. Because of our size and the expertise we bring to each industry, we can implement a new Inform ERP system in a few months—ensuring minimal downtime. For an independent distributor, there is nothing more important than keeping business operations moving, especially with the steep competition in the marketplace today.”
It is that focus on the customer and expertise that allowed DDI to acquire the software division of leading HVAC distributor Johnstone Supply in 2014. The acquisition not only proved to be advantageous for Johnstone Supply, but also allowed DDI to enhance its Inform ERP platform and become the top solutions provider for HVAC distributors.
The rise of online ordering on the retail front has propelled businesses to raise the bar for a modern online purchasing experience. Elevating the ERP technology to enable businesses to compete against large retailers and against one another has became an immediate need for DDI, Jagoe says. “As part of our ERP software, we provide the tools for a distributor to have a very polished digital catalog with advanced search functionality,” Jagoe explains. “We offer our customers the ability to have real-time stock, customer specific pricing, order status and a full-featured customer service portal for their customers. Our ecommerce platform is an integral part of our ERP software eliminating double entry. It is mobile optimized and gives DDI users a modern way to be available to their customers 24/7.”
More importantly, this advanced ecommerce option is not operated by a third-party, Jagoe adds. “There are a lot of companies that sell e-commerce products and content, but if it’s not real-time connected to your ERP, then you aren’t really getting that up-to-the-minute information as quickly as you may think,” she says.
The change in consumer online buying patterns has also impacted the industry. “Consumers can now go to sites like Amazon or Granger to shop anytime. Distributors need to differentiate themselves to keep their customers buying from them,” Jagoe explains. “Now distributors have to enhance their personal customer service and focus. We call that ‘customer engagement management.’ Our ERP software opens right up to a customer’s contact screen, relaying information on what this person has bought and the price they paid for it. It also captures notes on the customer that may serve as an additional touchpoint in conversations, that ensure each and every time you connect with a customer, it is on a very personal level. With the click of a button, Inform CRM gives you the engagement tools distributors need to enhance relationships, drive sales and reduces a customer’s desire to go elsewhere.”
This is a key functionality that is not found in all distribution software platforms. As Jagoe explains, “Our software leverages customer information, performance data and readily available dashboards that can perform critical functions faster when you’re face to face with a customer. From there, a sales rep or counter person can launch a price quote, send an email or place an order. Being able to do so while on the go is an even greater advantage. Providing that omni-channel touchpoint leads to a very strong customer engagement experience.
DDI is dedicated to continuing to have the best customer service focus in the industry, Jagoe notes. “Often times you see competitors become so engulfed in growth and answering to their private equity owners, they lose the focus of the customer. Often times that means outsourcing an important component like superior customer service. Here at DDI, we have stayed focused on delivering the products distributors care about and staying customer service centric,” she says. “We really care about the businesses of our clients and maintain that with people all over the country through our main offices here in Connecticut, New Jersey and Oregon.”
Growth is also on DDI’s agenda. “We are going to continue to grow by enhancing the technology distributors need to improve their businesses,” Jagoe concludes. “We have cloud capability, ecommerce, mobile products, vendor-managed applications and hosted offerings. We will continue to move other applications into the cloud as it makes sense for our industry. Our clients rely on us for research and to bring forward technology that makes sense for independent wholesale distributors. We’re out there listening by attending trade shows and talking to prospective distributors and customers constantly. We need to continuously be engrained in the pain points and operational challenges they face every day so we can provide robust solutions to address their specific needs. If they ask for it, we can build it. Coupling that with the ability to provide exceptional customer support will further enable our ability to grow.”