If you’re an HVAC supplier and distributor, the ability to aggregate and analyze your business data will have a significant impact on whether you can meet market demands. Mounting competition, increasing pressure on pricing, and shrinking margins have made it even more important to capture, manage, and analyze data to improve your ability to serve your customers. Business Intelligence (BI) systems gather data from databases and silos across your business and consolidate them into a single source of truth for your entire operation. BI converts your raw data into actionable insights that you can drill into the information with only a few clicks. In a matter of seconds, you can analyze the data to make quick and informed business decisions.

Benefits of Business Intelligence

HVAC parts are numerous and varied. The volume of data moving across your organization and between customers and partners can seem overwhelming. For many companies, tracking purchases, transfers between branches and warehouses, returns, and all the complexity associated with invoicing, margin, and rebate calculations, as well as discounts and promotions, can be a daunting, error-prone and time-consuming process. BI is built to handle these tasks.

Business Intelligence solutions can help you better understand and serve your customers. With a modest investment in BI, you can improve on time in full (OTIF) metrics, revenue and cost control; give management, logistics, accounts, and buying teams the ability to drill into valuable data for their own needs; and analyze current and historical data to identify trends in sales and demand to inform forecasts and estimations. Below are seven key benefits of a modern BI system and how it should support your business.

1. Reveal patterns in customers' spending habits

Understanding what your customers are buying and not buying is critical to delivering the right products at the right time for the right price. Your BI tool should give you instant visibility into your customers’ buying habits, which allows you to see patterns so that you can be more responsive to their needs. This means your customers will not have to worry about you running out of stock of specific faucets, pipe fittings, valves, compressors, or gas furnaces because you are aligning sourcing and distribution activities based on their buying data.

2. Identify sales opportunities

Seeing what a customer is buying also provides an opportunity to offer complementary products. BI helps identify gaps in the product mix within your customer’s spending habits so you can increase the basket share of your customers’ sales and reduce competitor activity.

3. Improve customer service

With BI, you will do a better job of informing your sales teams about the needs of your customers. They can use data to analyze recent orders, review supply chain issues, ask about the quality of the products and review upcoming sales. When you understand your customers’ buying needs, you can raise your customer service to a new level. Your BI software should enable you to dig into the numbers so you can clearly answer questions, assess the data and then implement strategies to address customer concerns before they begin looking elsewhere for new suppliers.

4. Improve quality and focus of promotions that address specific customer needs

You can create better promotions when you know what your customers want, which contributes to customer retention. Sales managers can use BI insights to work closely with the marketing team to develop the next big promotion. When data supports campaigns or promotions, your leadership team is much more likely to approve them. A good BI system presents real-time data in visual dashboards that allow salespeople to quickly recognize which promotions are working and which are failing. This allows the team to revisit the campaign or make changes to the offer. In short, it allows your sales team to become nimbler. Sales managers can also review the data to monitor the performance of the promotion as well as individual members of the sales teams.

5. Discover product sales patterns to drive product-based decision-making

Is your company carrying the right brand of products? Do you offer the right types and variety of products? Are your prices competitive? These are a few of the questions that your BI system should be able to answer regarding your product catalog. Your BI system should allow you to drill deep into your sales data from high-level dashboards into the underlying transactions so that you can have a clear picture of who is buying what, when, and where. You can measure product KPIs and discover the product sales patterns driven by your customers. The ability to drill deep into product data will enable you to improve commodity product sales, and get your high margin products ready for just-in-time delivery. This will allow you to meet demand for products that customers order frequently while optimizing your supply chain for products that generate the most profit for your business.

6. Improve inventory management

BI software will help you to analyze sales data and segment sales by customer and geographic region. By separating these segments, you will have a clear understanding of future sales volumes and where these sales occur. Analysis of current and historical data will help you identify trends in sales and demand to inform inventory forecasts and estimations. With BI, you can track inventory, sales and orders side by side so you can eliminate any doubt about your purchasing and inventory management.

7. Access a complete picture of your business

Product offers and opportunities bombard your customers with pitches to try new suppliers. Your competitors are looking to scrutinize every aspect of your relationship, from your sales approach, product mix and pricing, to customer service and other areas of your business. They are working hard to get their feet in your customers’ doors. You need a complete picture of your business, particularly your customer intelligence so you can maintain and build upon your current relationship and fight off the competition. The right BI tool will provide an enterprise-wide view of your business, while integrating with other systems and databases to provide a single source for actionable insights. This will provide your team with the intelligence they need to make quick, informed business decisions so that you are always prepared to fight for your customers.

What is the right BI system for HVAC suppliers and distributors?

As an HVAC distributor, you are generating mountains of data every business day. The volume grows as you add subsidiaries, branches, warehouses, customers, product and financial data, among other sources. Your enterprise resource planning system was likely put in place so that all of these locations, systems and data silos can work together — aggregating and sharing data across the entire organization. When you have this many data sources and users, you need a BI system that can deliver instant access into trends, risks, and opportunities. Look for a BI provider with years of experience with HVAC companies, offering solutions for all departments, branches and warehouses to provide a complete picture of your business. You should also find a solution that was built for the everyday users across your company because giving them access to intelligence will benefit your entire business. With the right BI tool, details about customers and their buying habits are only a few clicks away, providing you with the ability to identify customer issues in real time so you can address challenges, improve sales, manage margins, refine processes, launch promotions and save time.