A change of software provider has opened up new opportunities for Egyptian Workspace Partners, revolutionising the way the company interacts with customers and freeing up time to grow sales – by Heike Dieckmann
Founded in 1880, Egyptian Workspace Partners is located in Belleville, Southern Illinois – a region known as ‘Little Egypt’. Under the guidance and leadership of CEO Brett Baltz the dealership now turns over $7-10 million a year. It serves the St Louis, Missouri, region and beyond, doing business with a variety of organisations, including SMBs, schools and federal government institutions. Egyptian sells office products, but its main division, as a Steelcase dealer, revolves around furniture, with dedicated project designers on its staff.
Just before COVID-19 hit, the company bought Talis IT Partners – a technology company specialising in AV equipment, managed services and IT support. This allowed it to branch out in a whole new direction, selling everything from laptops to complete conference room set-ups with integrated touchscreen panels, camera systems and monitors. It’s now the fastest-growing division and Baltz puts this down to being a one-stop shop.
“Small- and medium-sized companies just want a single set of people to deal with. They don’t like communicating with a variety of suppliers, and our offering makes it super easy for them.” he says.
The company’s history from a tech support point of view is quite colourful, starting off with ECI’s DDMS, followed by MBS Dev, runby Essendant (United Stationers at the time). but spun off in 2014 and sold to Enavate.
What ensued was a period of technology challenges, so much so that Egyptian sought a new software provider just over a year ago and settled on Logicblock.
“There was nothing wrong with the back end of the system we had before, but the front end was not fit for purpose anymore – it was an online ordering platform rather than a true e-commerce solution. Logicblock’s 7cart system now gives us unlimited control over our storefront. It also provides an excellent end-user experience, something we felt was previously costing us business.” – Brett Baltz, CEO Egyptian Workspace Partners
The steady switchover process was expedited in March of this year following the cyberattack on first-call wholesaler Essendant which led to a system outage of the legacy MBS Dev program. The time had come to cut old ties and go live with Logicblock’s 7cart e-commerce platform.
Baltz has been delighted with the results so far.
“There was nothing wrong with the back end of the system we had before, but the front end was not fit for purpose anymore – it was an online ordering platform rather than a true e-commerce solution. Logicblock’s 7cart system now gives us unlimited control over our storefront. It also provides an excellent end-user experience, something we felt was previously costing us business.”
He explains: “We weren’t able to do proper marketing and were simply sending out flyers or using online ads to drive people to the website. Then the call to action was to ring us or meet up with a sales rep.
“This approach has completely changed to a self-service model where customers easily order items online. It did involve customizing the Logicblock package so it would operate in the right way for us. We don’t ship every item to all parts of the country, so design tweaks needed to be made. The system now asks for your zip code, for example, and tailors the items it shows based on your address.”
TARGETED SALES CALLS
On the self-service note, Baltz says one of the biggest benefits is that customers can manage their own account details, changing their address and payment details where necessary, for instance. Previously, such tasks had been the remit of the company’s own admin team.
“Additionally, we don’t need so many salespeople to drive customers to the website which cuts costs. We still retain some traditional sales roles to deal with referrals. repeats and long-standing customers who prefer a more personal approach. We have staff who deal with enquiries across our three divisions – OP. furniture and tech – but we also have specialists in each to deal with specific requests.” We can now be more sniper-ish, targeting those we are really after in a focused manner.
Getting the right audience to look at its website is key, notes Baltz: I’m very specific about the type of account we’re trying to target. We can now be more sniper-ish, targeting those we are really after in a focused manner.
“We’ve had some success with this recently- by checking the pages customers had been searching. identifying the types of products they were clearly interested in and then proactively reaching out to them to say ‘let me help you find what you’re looking for’.
“With this information to hand, the follow-up sales call is a lot easier. Both the conversion rates and quantity of items ordered are on a growth trajectory. This kind of approach would not have been possible previously.”
Abandoned carts is another component Baltz and his team are looking at: “What triggers do we need to set up to alert a salesperson that someone logged in, but didnt complete the order? With our current system, we can review a potential customer s search history and initiate a follow-up call, rather than just sending an automated email which we’ve not found particularly successful in the past.”
The new software also makes it easier to onboard other distributors and vendors -Clover, Liberty Laser Solutions and Arlington are examples. Baltz adds: “We’re also thinking about adding ingram Micro and including Steelcase items in our webstore. We get a lot of organic traffic to the site from people looking for Steelcase products.
“We’re pretty prolific with online content now – I’ve published over 100 different blogs about seating. for instance – costs and other factors you need to consider when buying a chair, comparison tools, etc. All of this helps to convert general Steelcase browsing into specific chair sales – with no salesperson involvement required.”
Bulk purchases through direct links with 55 manufacturers are another component Egyptian puts its emphasis on right now.
“Historically, we’ve not been very good at transactional sales like this. but we’re trying to fix it. I’ve got a list of about 30 vendors we’re working with, trying to get their custom catalogues integrated into Logicblock.
“It would mean customers looking for purchases can just go to our webstore and immediately buy what they need – rather than making a request and us sending them a quote which might take several days to turn around.”
SUPPORT & SUCCESS
Behind-the-scenes support from Logicblock is excellent, according to Balt – and infinitely better than what the dealership had experienced before – in terms of speed of response, supplementary how-to tutorials, etc.
I’m impressed with how quickly they react and fix open issues. If it’s vital, it will happen on the same day. I’m not used to this kind of backup and it’s very reassuring.”
Most importantly perhaps, feedback from customers has been very positive. “Growing sales is the next stage.” Baltz concludes. “I’ve now got so many more tools at my disposal. I also have more time to devote to it, because all the tasks I used to have to do manually are automated. I’m loving it.”