Dealers & Builders: Which software do you prefer?

The Art & Science of marketing Manufactured Homes. Retailers, sales people community operators and managers share experiences.
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Dealers & Builders: Which software do you prefer?

Post by Lori » Sun Mar 07, 2004 1:26 pm

Hi everyone. I have been reading these posts for a while now and have learned that there are some people who respond regularly that really do want to offer assistance to builders, dealers, consumers, managers, etc., so I thought I'd ask for some opinions as well. I hope I get a lot of ideas ...

What software do you use to generate forms, customer tracking, service work orders, etc.? Someone on here recommended HomeTrack thru, but I read an advertisement in the "Manufactured Home Merchandiser" magazine about Rainmaker Software thru; does anyone have any experience with either of these -- what you like best and worst about them? Or is there something out there even better than that?

We currently use Quickbooks Pro for the bookeeping part, which I really like; but use Excel or Works for generating estimates and sales contracts. Our customer tracking system is even more ancient ... handwritten index file -- not the best! We are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency with which we do business and we don't want to lose sales because of an ineffective tracking system.

Any ideas or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


David Oxhandler

Re: Dealers & Builders: Which software do you prefer?

Post by David Oxhandler » Wed Mar 24, 2004 9:40 am

Seven Key Questions
to Ask When Purchasing MH Dealer Software

By J.P. Lepez

Chances are if you go down to your local Comp-USA or to an online software store you won’t find software specific to the manufactured housing industry. There are, however, a few software applications that are designed specifically towards this audience in order to make the average retailer more productive and more profitable. Yet, many manufactured home retailers continue to get along either by using anything from Post-It Notes and typewriters to simple spreadsheets. For those who have been dying to have their salesmen use their CD-ROM drives for more than just automatic cup holders I have compiled a list of key questions to ask when choosing a software system.

How many years has the vendor been in business?
The dot com bust a few years ago taught us one important lesson: just because a company can afford a lot of glitzy promotion when they first get into business does not mean they will be here for the long haul. In fact, most new software companies will entice you with rock bottom prices and inflated promises only to be out of business within a year or two. Don’t think this could happen to you? During Super Bowl XXXIV nearly 20 dot com companies were able to spend $2 million for a 30 second commercial. Only 2 dot com companies advertised the following year. Longevity counts! Find out how long the company has been in business and how many other retailers are using their software.

Who owns your data?

This may seem like a silly question at first glance. If you bought the software then you should own your data right? Not necessarily. In order to increase revenue a lot of software companies are shying away from the old model of a boxed product and turning instead to perpetual leasing. Essentially, instead of owning the software outright the customer is obligated to “unlock” their software by paying a licensing or leasing fee on a monthly, yearly or quarterly basis. Some giant software companies have made this infamous within the last couple of years and has made a lot of customers furious in the process. If you decide not to pay the fee the vendor could in effect lock you out of your own data.

Is the software based on newer technology?

When you deal with a vertical market such as manufactured housing there may not be as many choices when it comes to industry specific software. It is wise to investigate if the software vendor has consistently updated their programs to work optimally with new technology instead of just rehashing old ones. For this reason, I recommend that you stay away from DOS products. Yes, believe it or not there are still vendors out there still trying to peddle software based on this archaic technology since having to move to a Windows based product would require a complete rewrite.

Is the software easy to use?

When being shown a demo of the software don’t let the salesperson just breeze through screen after screen showing you the “bells and whistles.” Instead, think of a scenario where you would likely use the software most and then ask the salesperson to go through it step by step. Then try doing the same steps with yourself at the controls to see if you have an easy time going through the same motions. If it takes 10 minutes just to add a prospect’s name into the system then imagine how much time you will be wasting if you multiply that by 2,000 prospects.

How much is support?

Software and technology companies alike have turned tech support from what used to be a headache into a welcomed cash cow. If there was ever a time to read the fine print it is when you are purchasing support agreements. Some companies charge hundreds of dollars a month just for support and then only give you a certain number of hours per month with anything exceeding being billed at a handsome hourly rate. Others don’t include updates to the software in their support agreement and will charge you for bug fixes!

Is training included?
If you want to get a good laugh out of a software vendor then you should try asking if training is included. Most software companies do not include training and will charge you if someone else in your organization needs to be trained. If this is the case, find out if they offer telephone support or if you have to travel to their location and pay a seminar fee. This could prove costly if you experience turnover within your company and need to have staff retrained. Always insist on unlimited telephone training when discussing support. Please, please stay away from companies that only offer e-mail support! These companies are usually very small operations (sometimes even “one man shows”) and are usually the cheapest. What you don’t pay upfront you will pay later on when your system is down and you have to wait for a response to your e-mails.

Does the software vendor have any affiliations with manufacturers?
This is important because it shows a commitment to the manufactured housing industry and exemplifies a stable company. If the vendor can be trusted to provide and maintain software for large manufacturers who do millions in sales then that speaks volumes for the know-how and support that vendor can provide.

Be wary of companies that don’t answer these questions directly or are not upfront with their prices. When in doubt, ask the vendor for a cost of ownership report for one to five years. A competitive price might turn out to be very expensive after you factor in all the licensing, support and training fees. Conversely, just because another vendor offers “too good to be true” prices doesn’t mean that it’s a better value. If they only offer e-mail support and have been in business for only a couple of years you might be paying much more after the sale.

J.P. Lepez is the marketing manager at Alpha Data Systems, makers of the HOME/TRACK
Professional Suite of products for the manufactured home industry. He is also a certified computer and network
technician and encourages you with your questions about technology in general or how it relates
to the MH industry. You can call him at 800-476-3857 ext. 212 or e-mail him at [email protected]

The potential for success will be apparent to you once you see for yourself how easy the HOME/TRACK
suite of products are to use. Of course, all demos are free and with no obligation and there is always someone available
to answer any questions you may have. &#160

Helping your salespeople sell more homes.
Helping your service department increase their bill backs and eliminate waste.
Organizing your business into one efficient system.
Giving you 36 reports to oversee the entire process.


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