By Tim O’Connor,
With more dealers and distributors looking for solutions that will reduce friction and work more efficiently as they contend with COVID-19’s economic impact, AutoQuotes has stepped up its efforts to provide needed technology solutions at this critical time.
The company, which provides software for foodservice equipment dealers, distributors, reps, designers, consultants, and manufacturers, recently released two new tools designed to streamline the sales process: Order Acceptance and AQ Pay. David Demres, AQ’s vice president of marketing and strategic development, said both tools are examples of how the company is shifting its priorities to help dealers that have had to reduce their workforce or are working remotely because of the viral pandemic. As a result, Order Acceptance and AQ Pay allow customers flexibility to do business anytime, anywhere, helping dealers to close deals more quickly and efficiently, without PDFs or paper quotes.
“It’s really going to improve the ability to do work from anywhere, both for dealers and customers,” Demres explains, adding that AQ was already working toward cloud-based features but is now speeding up implementation. “We see now as our time to shine, and to roll out everything we‘ve got as quickly as possible.”
Order Acceptance: Seamless Quotes
Previously, when providing a quote to an operator, dealers and distributors created the quote in AQ, then generated a PDF and emailed it or presented a paper copy to the customers. If the quote is revised, another PDF must be created and sent out, resulting in multiple documents and emails for the buyer.
The new Order Acceptance tool solves this issue, however, by digitizing the entire workflow. Now, dealers and distributors will be able to display quotes in a browser and instead of creating a PDF, they’ll be able to send a link to the customer directly with the quote. At that point, buyers can sign and approve the quote or even send comments back to the seller.
Not only has the entire process been streamlined, but the dealer can see when someone opened the quote, can confirm it was received by the customer, and can check where it resides in the approval pipeline. Customers also benefit from a seamless experience and interface, giving the dealer’s sales tools a more modern, sleeker look.
“It saves everyone time and it makes it a lot easier to handle the quotes,” Demres says.
AQ Pay: Solutions for Financing
Once a quote has been signed off on, AQ Pay helps dealers and distributors complete the process. The tool is a partnership with Currency, a California-based company that provides equipment financing and payment processing. Although Currency has its own lending capabilities, Demres says the big benefit of working with the company is its platform, which seamlessly matches equipment buyers that need financing with a best-fit lender. Currency has 80 different lenders on its platform, enabling it to offer credit lending across a broad spectrum of credit profiles. AQ Pay will allow customers to pay instantly once they approve the quote – via credit card, ACH, or financing.
“What that means is that it’s much faster than the way it’s been done before,” Demres says. “It will help dealers sell more – because if customers know they can get instant financing, they’ll buy more. We’re really confident that as soon as people start using this, it will take off.”
Taken together, Order Acceptance and AQ Pay automate the buying process from quoting through to payment, removing previous barriers and simplifying the entire experience. “If there’s less friction for the customer to buy, they are going to buy more,” Demres says.
Working with FEDA Members
As part of its commitment to equipment dealers and distributors, AQ enlisted FEDA members in the development of both new tools. Chief Product Officer Matt Kuo, who joined the company in January, implemented a new product management process that builds products around user pain points. AQ has been surveying dealers and distributors to better determine what they really want out of the platform, and has then followed up with focus groups as well as test launches with FEDA member companies to refine the tools. For example, eight FEDA dealers and distributors were given early access to Order Acceptance earlier this year so they could try it out and provide feedback to AQ.
“Every step along the way we have been working with FEDA members,” Demres says.
Although only a few dealers and distributors have already been working with Order Acceptance and AQ Pay, both free tools became available to all FEDA members in April. Members interested in using the tools can sign up on the AQ website, aq-fes.com.
Order Acceptance and AQ Pay are examples of how AQ is working to make stronger connections to the various segments of the foodservice equipment industry, and the company indicates it plans to build on that theme in the coming months.
Later this year, says Demres, AQ will roll out its ERP integrations, which has been a long-requested feature from dealers and distributors. Another key product that AQ is piloting with select customers is an e-commerce
application programming interface (API) that will allow users to pull data such as spec sheets, pricing, and photos directly out of AQ and place it on their e-commerce sites. Unlike the current method of exporting and manually updating that information, the API will automatically update the information for the customer – saving time and ensuring they always have the most up-to-date information on their e-commerce listings.
Having reliable and easily updatable information is especially important now as COVID-19 has pushed even more business transactions online, Demres says. “Everybody has been saying for years you’ve got to get an e-commerce solution but now it’s a ‘must have,’” he says.