“With Microsoft Office and eMazzanti Technologies, we’ve kept pace with each new demand that’s been placed on us. Which lets us do the main thing we’re in business for, which is optimizing efficiency for our customers.”
By embracing new technology and focusing on customer service, Bergen County Camera is thriving in a fast-changing industry. With support from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner eMazzanti Technologies, the retailer is improving efficiency using Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7 to serve a higher volume of customers, and produce educational presentations and tutorials in less time. Just the ability to manage email conversations with customers more efficiently saves enough time to more than pay for the software upgrade.
Few industries have been more profoundly changed by computers and technology than the retail camera business. New Jersey-based Bergen County Camera has not only survived – but thrived – by embracing the technological transformation.
John Tworsky, General Manager and CTO, describes the conventional wisdom of a decade ago: “Other people in our industry were saying, ‘What do you need a computer for? There’s really no connection between computers and imaging.’
“But we stayed the course and sure enough, computer technology is totally married to photography now. The business is much more hands-on and more technical. Sales take longer, while profit margins have shrunk. There’s pressure to be more efficient in almost everything that you do.”
But while Bergen County Camera embraced the technology, efficiencies still had room for improvement. “We had a hodgepodge of separate installations of Outlook Express, Outlook, Word – whatever came installed on the machine. Ultimately, trying to track and standardize software across users was increasingly difficult.
Tworsky and Bergen County Camera called on eMazzanti Technologies, an IT services and consulting firm. “We’ve been working with eMazzanti since 2003 or 2004,” explains Tworsky. “They’ve worked with us to keep our technology updated and we have been constantly upgrading, pushing the envelope, keeping the latest and greatest stuff in our stores.”
One of eMazzanti’s very first recommendations was to standardize on Microsoft Office. Bergen County Camera had been utilizing Windows XP And Microsoft Office 2003, but when Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 became available, it was an early adopter of both products.
Predictable Budgeting with Volume Licensing and Software Assurance
Bergen County Camera has 20 employees at two store locations. All employees use Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7, either on a local machine or accessed through Terminal Server. Licensing based on the number of computer terminals means that the company saved 25 percent compared to per-user licensing, as employees share terminals.
And as Tworsky explains, “With Software Assurance you get the newest software, and you save money in the long run instead of going out and repurchasing and upgrading each time a new version comes out.”
In addition, replacing large lump-sum outlays for upgrades with the long-term cost predictability of Software Assurance is key for Tworsky: “Cash requirements and cash management have become very tough things to juggle in this business. A big hit at the wrong time of year can really put a glitch in things. When you have it all planned out and it’s a yearly payment, it’s much easier to plan around.”
Efficiency Through Standardization
The standardized installation available through Volume Licensing is a major time saver. Tworsky says, “Setting up Office including Outlook used to take us at least an hour on each machine to install and configure – it was basically from scratch each time. But with eMazzanti’s customized rollout for Office, the whole suite automatically populates with all of our settings as soon as a new user logs in. For upgrades, everyone has the new version in just a few hours, instead of 20. It’s a no brainer, an incredible time saving.”
Bringing Ideas to Life
As part of the extensive customer service commitment, employees are heavily involved in creating instructional content. “We offer classes to our customers and send them step-by-step tutorials, so the screen capture in all the tabs in Word and PowerPoint is a big plus for putting those materials together,” says Tworsky. “We can instantly grab any open window, and drop that right into the document without using a third-party screen capture tool anymore.
“The imaging editing tools have been enhanced in Office 2010, so when we’re building a document and need to do a crop, boost, contrast or apply basic effects, it’s all available now without having to go out to a separate program like Photoshop.
“It’s all about saving five seconds here, 30 seconds there. When you do something 1,000 times in a year, it adds up to substantial savings.”
As for communications, Tworsky says, “Certainly Outlook is an integral part of keeping in touch with the customers. There’s a lot of communication back and forth about classes, tutoring them, and giving them whatever help they need for better efficiency.
“With the conversations feature, it is easier for us to find messages, attachments or other things we were working on. We used to use an external tool called Xobni to do that, now the capability is right there, built into Outlook. That’s an example of the integration in 2010. You need one less tool to do the job.” By cutting out the need for Xobni, the company saves up to $600 a year.
He adds: “Even after not talking with someone for a month or two, you can get on the phone, find everything right away, pick up right where you were. That’s a big thing for us. The conversations feature in Outlook pays for the entire upgrade in efficiency.”
On the management side, “We do a lot with internal metrics, to guide the business, and one of the cool things is Sparklines in Excel. It lets me put a trendline into a cell. If there’s a column of data for the first, second and third quarters, instead of just a row of numbers, we show where things are going, and where we’re headed. When you share the reports with the other managers, they can visualize what’s going on. A picture is worth 1,000 words.”
Windows 7 and Office: Real Efficiency
“Windows 7 and Office have allowed us to do more in the same amount of time,” says Tworsky. “It’s a common feature set, the things like being able to quickly drag a bunch of windows in half-size windows and fill both sides of your screen. Or the ability to go down into the corner and clear off your desktop. All those things are hard to quantify but really make your life easy. All the stuff we do now, maybe you could do it five or 10 years ago to some degree, but it was never easy, things were not connected. It was a real pain using four or five different programs. With Office 2010 and Windows 7, you can do it with one or two.”
Genuine Software A Moral Decision
Bergen County Camera has always been legal, says Tworsky. “We have a stringent policy on that and we don’t allow people to install their own software on the machines. It’s all about intellectual property,” he adds. “As a photographer, your image is everything. We don’t take photographers’ work and copy it, we request for permission from photographers. If you copy without permission, you’re stealing something that’s intangible. For us, it’s a 100 percent moral and ethical decision.”
Considering the Alternatives
Tworsky has looked at alternatives to Office, but he confides, “I’ve never been a real fan of OpenOffice.org. There’s no reason to learn the little subtle differences in the program. Our staff has their hands full with being busy all day long, why do they need to learn something else? Why would you go out and change it when Office is the tool everyone’s using? That’s how I feel about those core programs in Office.”
The company had a conversation about Google Docs, too. “The big concern was consistency, the data lives somewhere else, the apps live somewhere else, and we will be relying on Internet connection for efficiency,” he says. “We were very happy with eMazzanti’s presentation as to the benefits of sticking with the Microsoft products. We talked about the consistency, the look and feel, and the integration with all the other Microsoft products.”
Technology and Efficiency at the Customer’s Service
According to Tworsky, “Ours is a service-driven business. We aim to go above and beyond, making sure we keep our customers happy. We have focused on growing that reputation as one of our primary jobs.”
And the role that Microsoft Office and eMazzanti Technologies have played? “They’ve allowed us to be more efficient with our customers. Over the last 10 years, our volume has doubled. The time savings allow us to do more, for more customers, and deal with the growing complexity of everything we do.
“Small photo stores are not known for technology. It’s been a real blessing to have a partner like eMazzanti around, who can guide you in making good decisions like getting Software Assurance and help us keep things technologically sharp here. When we have other people from our industry in here, they’re kind of surprised to see things humming along, all integrated.
“With Microsoft Office, Windows 7 and eMazzanti, we’ve kept pace with each new demand that’s been placed on us. eMazzanti helped us to integrate our computer systems, and Microsoft Office and Windows 7 has given us a stable base which allows us to manage each demand through technology, work more efficiently, quicker, faster, and save money and time. We can now easily search across all our assets to get instantaneous answers to customer enquiries. Which clearly lets us do the main thing we’re in business for, which is satisfying our customers.”
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