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Merlin Business Software’s Ashley Jones reflects on the recent economic downturn and how his Company has reacted to their customers’ needs…

7th March 2012

“It is often said that American Economists use the sales figures of luxurious Winnebago motor-homes as a very simple indication of the change in peoples’ spending patterns; clearly when times are tough and money is tight, luxuries like these cannot be afforded.

I dare say that when suggestions of a recession were first muted, I was naturally concerned on the impact that a down-turn, particularly in the construction sector, would have on us, given that any likely expenditure plans that independent merchants might have had for a new IT system would be quite easily be “put on the back burner.”

However, it is clear that more Merchants than ever before actually consider efficient IT solutions to be a necessity and not a luxury that can be deferred. Indeed, our management figures spanning the two financial years of the current down-turn attest to this, given we have had two years of very reasonable sales and profits under the current economic climate.

Significantly, the last 12 months alone has seen a surge in enquiries from independent merchants, resulting in five new customers from this extremely active sector. Given that over 30% of our new business stems from referrals, we can only conclude that both we and our customers must be doing something right. …and very right for that matter, considering the significant level of investment associated with business software solutions of this nature.

We continue to be encouraged and spurred on by our customers and their suggestions for new and innovative features in Merlin. Indeed our latest Release Notes contain over 38 pages of beautifully illustrated features new to Merlin that customers will be receiving over the next few weeks – just one of a handful of updates that we have planned for our customers in 2012.

Indeed, new features that Merlin customers can expect this year include a new, dynamically integrated Dashboard Application which, unlike third party offerings, actively reports on live data (not a copy of yesterday’s) and will be available to all Merlin users free of charge. Just another example of how we understand the needs of our customers and our ability to react and deliver solutions to meet the requirement with a simplified integrated module solution.

Merlin’s integral Call Management module receives a significant makeover, too, including many new features requested by customers to help them drive their contact activities with not just customers, but suppliers and prospective ones, too. Indeed, hot on the heels, are further planned developments to provide capturing and automatic logging of Outlook e-mail traffic.

One particular request from a merchant customer is nearing the end of our development “pipeline” and will see the introduction of touch-screen Android Tablets on the trade counter. When they’re not displaying a slide-show of products or marketing information between serving customers, they switch to capture a customer’s signature directly in to the current transaction – this is another excellent way to instantly resolve disputes over proof of delivery, complimenting Merlin’s existing delivery / collection ticket scanning techniques.

In fact; in order to spread the word to our customers about all of these new features, February will see four more events around the Country, where we will be taking Merlin on the road to meet our customers. Indeed, the phrase “your ideas count” features so frequently in the presentations that it is becoming the unofficial slogan of the events – and why not?

Clearly, good IT solutions are worth their weight in gold. The reason they are good? This can only come down to a direct and personal relationship between the customer and the author, and the author’s willingness to listen directly to their customers’ needs and ideas. Certainly, this is something that can never be achieved as effectively where a dealer/reseller channel exists between customer and author. After all, where else in business would you actually encourage the inclusion of a “middle-man” when you can deal directly with the source?

We’ve lost count of the number of times customers have informed us that the benefits provided by a certain feature of Merlin has effectively paid for the entire system; and given the new features about to be released; I dare say we would not be surprised to hear more of the same, very soon.

2012 marks our 10th anniversary in our current Head Offices as well as our 38th year in business as a limited company and we thank all of our customers for their support, their ideas and contributions – and we continue to encourage them for more.”

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