Richard Hein, Director of Marketing – Palmer Hamilton
After so much time working in K-12 schools, we have learned a great deal more than English, math and science. Doing business with a school district is unique from most other partnerships, and being able to navigate that successfully requires in-depth knowledge and a well-rounded approach focused on school-specific ease of business.
A Basic Education on Education
Timing is important in any project, regardless of the industry. However, the window for completing a project within a school makes timing even more critical. The budget year in education typically begins on July 1, which tends to be 6-8 weeks before the start of classes. This usually results in planning done throughout the school year for any larger projects to be completed in the following summer before the next fiscal year. With such little time available, businesses working with schools need to be efficient with responsive quotes, easy-to-place orders and a full understanding of the timing required for development and installation to not interfere with school operations.
Each cafeteria project Palmer Hamilton has worked on over the years is unique, but we’ve been able to separate most of them into three major categories to help us budget our time properly.
- The school wants to replace old tables. This tends to be a simple discussion with the school decision makers and does not involve much added design work.
- The school wants to convert a space into a multipurpose community room. These projects are more complicated, with different types of furniture and design elements to complement the multievent space.
- The school wants to completely upgrade the cafeteria. A project like this involves collaboration with several stakeholder groups and a considerable amount of time planning, designing and installing.
Making the Grade
To ensure the best flow of business for these and any other styles of project, Palmer Hamilton has invested significantly into business process improvements across our operation.
A major enhancement comes from reinvesting over $5 million into our manufacturing capabilities. We were able to add high-tech equipment that allows us to insource much of what we were previously outsourcing, simplifying the process and reducing lead times.
In addition, we integrated our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with our customer relations management (CRM) system. Not only does this make digital project components less complicated, it also allows for full transparency with customers who can track their order and easily communicate with us about its status. The CRM system has also been upgraded to include case management for any issues or questions customers may have during the project or after it’s installed. As a result of this new software, the number of cases that are open and the average time it takes to close them has decreased by 50% in only eight months.
Customer interactions have also been made easier with our new Quick Pick form. This tool gives schools access to a selection of our most popular products and colors to build an initial design concept. Our team can then take that concept as a jumping off point, streamlining the process of obtaining customer input for designs and quotes. The next evolution for this resource is to enable images to be moved or rotated and add more color options and interactive features for our customers.
These changes have had a major impact on the ease of doing business with Palmer Hamilton, and we’re just getting started. We refuse to rest on our laurels and remain committed to delivering industry-leading products with industry-leading customer service.