Bayard Presse hosted the third European Advantage Client Meeting in Paris on September 22 and 23. The participation and support of the 24 attendees who represented 9 companies from France, the UK, Finland and Denmark combined to make it a complete success.
One of the purposes of the meeting was to lay a foundation for a possible official European User Group. To this end, attendees from each company gave a quick presentation on their business, on how they use Advantage and their planned initiatives for the next year. This gave all participants plenty of opportunities for discussion during the breaks, and helped to focus on strategic projects on which clients are planning to collaborate. Since the meeting, a User Group has been formed on Linkedin and its members have started discussions on a wide range of topics from translations to celebrating new go-lives.
Presentations from ACS included recent news and strategic direction by Dan Heffernan. The participants were especially interested in hearing more about the planned migration to .NET and new features available in 2012. Tom Burbeck presented on ACS as a company, its history and its values, and Philippe van Mastrigt outlined the new features available in the most recent releases of Advantage.
Philippe also took on the role of simultaneous interpreter during the two-day meeting, translating the presentations, questions and conversations in real time. This facilitated thought-provoking conversations between French and English speakers and allowed everyone to exchange ideas without a language barrier. Thanks to the collaborative atmosphere during the meeting, participants took home new ideas on how to use Advantage and had great learning and networking experiences.
Of course the meeting was not all business – the participants also enjoyed a foray into French cuisine in the beautiful Art Nouveau setting at Bouillon Racine restaurant.
A big "thank you" goes out to the host. The warm welcome and excellent organization from the Bayard team played a big role in the success of the meeting.
Many thanks also to the presenters who shared their insights, ideas and strategies with the group, and sparked many fruitful discussions.
Do you have customers in your database at the same company but with all sorts of different spellings and abbreviations of their company name. For example, you may have customers at General Electric and some are represented as General Electric Inc., while others have GE, The General Electric Company, or Gen Electric. Misspelling a company name or storing it in different formats impacts search results and mailing efficiency and significantly hinders data analysis. How can you know how much you're selling to General Electric when it's represented ten different ways in the database across fifty customers?
Advantage has the answer: the CDS165 - Company Name Standardization process. This process standardizes the company names to the most frequent occurrence in your database. For example, if you have 12 entries for GE, 15 for General Electric, and 7 for General Electric Inc., all entries would be consolidated to General Electric.
How does this process operate? It works by generating a comparison name, which reduces the entries to a single, abbreviated form of the company name. The reduced form is constructed by removing punctuations, converting to upper case, correcting common misspellings, standardizing abbreviations, and removing starting and trailing words, such as The, Inc., and Co. This reduced form is then compared to the other instances having the same abbreviated name. The CDS165 picks the most common name as the resulting company name for all entries.
If you want to add customized behavior to fit your industry or country, you can add additional starting or trailing words or phrases that should be considered at CDSVLU, using the OLD-WORD and END-WORD keywords. For example, if you want GE to be considered as General Electric, but the process doesn’t recognize them as the same company, you can add a rule for the string GE.
The CDS165 process also includes a Detail Mode process option that shows each standardized customer and their variant on the surviving name. This process can be run in report-only mode to see what would happen without updating the database.
By carefully choosing rules for generating comparisons, you can increase the number of selected variants and avoid consolidating unintended company names. And, if you want to further ensure that a particular record is not selected for standardization, you can check the Company Standardization Exempt flag on the customer record.
Another great feature of the CDS165 process is that it can automatically add an alias at CDSCTM/AKA after its run. This option can even be set based on a minimum number of occurrences of a particular variant. For example, you may decide to only add AKA entries when there 2 or more variant occurrences.
Once a variant is added at CDSCTM/AKA, any future customers that are added using this company name variant will be automatically replaced with the standard form. This applies to customers added from data entry, web, or uploads. In our previous example, future company names entered as Gen Electric would automatically be standardized to General Electric.
Isn't this a lot easier than trying to define all the variants manually?
Interested in learning more about the CDS165 - Company Name Standardization process? The online help is a great place to start. You can also talk to your ACS account manager or support staff for further assistance using this feature.
This Tech Tip discusses pro-forma order entry and activation.
The pro-forma business case
A customer calls for a quote of an order and wants you to send it for review. At this point, you don’t know if the order will be acted upon or not, so you can choose to enter it as pro forma.
You enter one or more pro-forma orders into the database and send to the customer.
When the customer calls back to purchase, most likely the Advantage representative will begin to enter a new order. At this time, any pro-forma order(s) for this customer will display in a dialog for the representative to Activate, Void or Iignore.
Selecting Activate copies the pro-forma order information into the new order automatically. You don’t have to reenter the order details!
Entering pro-forma orders
For a pro-forma (order type O), you enter order details the usual way (MSTDAT/FST), however, the product, subscription or online service isn’t fulfilled. Rather, the orders post with the other daily activity but do not fulfill. You then run a pro-forma printing process the CIR248 Pro-forma Reminders process, for example, to print and send to the customer.
Managing pro-forma orders
When responding to a customer’s call by starting a new order, any pro-forma orders for that customer in the database pop-up in a dialog to be activated, voided or ignored.
The Activate button copies the pro-forma order details into the new order automatically.
The Void button removes the highlighted pro-form order from displaying in the future. You ignore the displayed orders by clicking the Cancel button. This means you decided not to use any pro-forma order and may activate one or more at a later date.
The Inquire… button allows you to drill down into the pro-forma order to confirm the details before activating or voiding.
You may schedule and run the pro-forma purge process (MST820) to void pro-forma orders that you determine to be out-dated.
For more information refer to your Master Order manual or contact your Advantage account manager.
As of 2011R1, a new method of handling CIR subscriptions---the Monthly Invoiced Subscriptions feature---is available. Monthly Invoiced Subscriptions are charged for the issues served---instead of the customer paying in advance for a specific number of issues. A process (usually run at the end of the month) creates a charge for the customer for the issues received that month.
Monthly Invoiced subscriptions are identified by a special Subscription Class, M – Monthly Invoiced Subscriptions. This is a type of perpetual subscription. The subscription continues this way until changed. This is similar to a perpetual, but the subscription does not have to have a zero rate.
Monthly Invoiced Subscriptions require the use of auto-renewal chains, as set up at the CIRPUB/ARC view. The Chain Type field is used to differentiate between R-Automatic Renewal and M-Monthly Invoiced subscriptions.
The CIR222 process is used to create an invoice and payment for M-type subscriptions. This process uses the information in the issue fulfillment history table. The process tags the issues as billed. All charges are rolled up to the bill-to customer. CIR222 creates one invoice per bill-to customer for all their subs across all publications. The CIR222 process creates a payment for the invoice amount using the auto-charge information linked to the subscriptions involved. This would be the case if the subscription was entered with a renewal flag of ‘C-Autocharge.’ If credit card or direct debit information linked to the subscription through the ‘C-Autocharge" renewal flag is invalid, then CIR222 logs the information on the processing summary report, but creates an invoice without a payment. Any other renewal flag value means that the customer is going to be billed for the issues received and send in payment. No payment is generated by CIR222 in these cases.
- Monthly invoiced subs are not included in expire base counts, but may count as a response.
- The CIR411 report includes a category that separates out active monthly invoiced subs from the rest of the active subs (since the other active subs are split out by expire date).
- The CIR412 and CIR432 reports include a category for active monthly invoiced subs.
- Monthly invoiced subs cannot be selected for renewal by CIR340 nor can they be renewed (while active) via Advantage screens or uploads.
What action do you want Advantage to take in the case of a credit card decline? Do you want the action to be different, based on the number of attempts, the type of card, or the amount of the transaction?
You can control all of these scenarios through the use of a powerful Advantage feature, credit card response rules. The feature works similarly to direct debit responses. You filter the response code returned by your credit card vendor through a set of parameters that you determine, and then direct Advantage to take an action or set of actions---such as suspending a CIR subscription, retrying the card, or sending a customer service response.
Set up your response rules at ARPTBL/CCR. You can vary such elements as the amount of the charge, the billing organization, whether the card is recurring use (i.e., auto-renewal or installment billing), and so on.
You then use the ‘Actions’ tab to define what the system should do when these parameters are satisfied. You can assign any number of actions to the same response rule---for example, you can bill-suspend a subscription, and simultaneously generate an email or letter to send to the customer.
Valid actions you can take with your credit card responses including the following:
- Add the customer to a Telesales list
- Suspend a subscription/BCL participation/AMB agreement/conference participation
- Cancel a subscription/BCL participation/AMB agreement/conference participation (after ‘n’ days, or on the ‘nth’ day of the month)
- Reset a subscription/AMB agreement/conference participation
- Delay the next retry of the card ‘n’ number of days
- Reset the subscription flag to ‘Y’ (i.e., remove from auto-renew)
- Send the customer an email or letter response
- Increment (or blank out) the expire date
- Try a different credit card for the customer
You use a separate process, ARP372, to process credit card "events." The process handles the main (parent) event for the transaction---accepting the transaction, creating a reversal, etc.--as well as the actions associated with the parent event.
Credit card event rules may be used regardless of how you are authorizing the purchase---online or batch. In either case, the rules are applied when the vendor returns the response code for the transaction involved (combined authorization/settlement, or settlement only).
Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) went live recently on a ten-month project to convert a vast majority of their subscription business to Advantage’s Access Management and Billing (AMB) module. The project also involved hooking their web pages directly into Advantage via the WEB module. This project was fundamental to SRDS’ plan to grow their business as it transitions from print to digital product offerings.
SRDS was especially excited about being able to market their digital offerings to all customers within their Advantage database, and in turn to see those marketing efforts convert into customer activity on their websites. Specifically, they’re excited about allowing their customers to purchase access to the content they publish online, and then controlling and tracking that access within Advantage.
With AMB and the Web module enabled, they can track and analyze all of their marketing data, manage print AND digital fulfillment, and track sales activity within Advantage.
Many people at both companies were responsible for making the project happen. At SRDS, Mike Morrow and Andy Spantiko were the project managers, Peter Loftus was the Advantage system administrator, Amra Sivcevic did the conversion programming, Andie Wright programmed the Crystal forms, Sergio Garcia and Jim Flynn provided IT assistance, Eric Berg programmed the new website and Trish DeLaurier was the executive sponsor.
The ACS team involved in the project included—on the project management side: Daryl Vautour, Eric Burbeck, Phil Montgomery, John Sheehy, Kathie Porter, Doug Moore and Bob Thornton. Engineers who worked on the project in one form or another were Matt Varblow, Dan Sneed, Rob Elliot, Paul Sauter, Ray Zick, Howard Brooks, Mark Sauter, Barbara Smith, Martha Krieg, Derek Johnson and Larry Kleber.
Congratulations to SRDS!
We are pleased to welcome Eva Weissman to the ACS family. A member of the Client Services division, Eva joined ACS in July. Most recently, she was an engagement manager (similar to an implementation manager) for the Ann Arbor branch of a software company called MyBuys, which develops product recommendation functionality for online retailers.
A native of Stuttgart, Germany, Eva earned a degree in trade and commerce from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Nuremberg. She was originally interested in the retail industry, and started her career in that field. But when she moved to the e-commerce side of the business, coordinating 11 different websites for an apparel retailer in Germany, she found she enjoyed that more.
However, Eva had always wanted to live and work abroad and when she visited a friend in the Ann Arbor area in 2009, she investigated job opportunities here. She was offered the position at MyBuys, and so moved to the US a short time later. And in addition to finding a job on that trip, Eva also met the man who would become her husband.
Fluent in German, English and French, and familiar with Spanish and Dutch, Eva enjoys traveling and meeting new people. One place Eva is anxious to visit is the southwest US—Arizona, for example—to see the desert. She looks forward to visiting Advantage client sites and seeing new places.
Eva and her husband, Daniel, live in Ann Arbor and enjoy camping and travel. Eva also likes to sew and do other crafts and design projects. In addition, she’s a runner and is currently training for a half-marathon. Eva is pleased that her family from Germany has been able to visit her quite often. She also has a brother in North Carolina and a sister that is currently working in Washington, DC.
Matt Varblow has been working at ACS almost before he was of legal age. He started working here during the summers when he was 14 and 15, helping out with configuration control. Even at that time, Matt was an old hand at computer programming, having taught himself to program in BASIC around age 10. His favorite thing then was creating text-based adventure games and he’s still proud that he was able to sell a game that he created while in high school.
Throughout high school and college, Matt worked at ACS full-time during the summers and part-time during the school year. He helped in the development of multi-currency capability and worked in the IT department. Matt went on his first client visit while still in high school and the client had to pick him up at the airport because he wasn’t old enough to rent a car. In the early 90s, Matt was assigned to learn about that new-fangled web stuff and that became his major focus from then on.
Ray Zick, Matt’s former manager, has this to say about him: “I have worked with Matt since his days as an Advantage intern. He doesn’t make a lot of noise, but he gets a lot done and he gets it done right. Matt has both application and systems knowledge and is a valued resource on many projects at Advantage.”
You might expect that Matt majored in computer science in college but he wanted to learn a broad range of engineering skills and so chose industrial operations engineering. For that major, he learned about optimizing business operations, which has provided a useful background in his career since graduating from the University of Michigan.
Matt was working full-time at ACS in his senior year of college and soon became immersed in web development and consulting for clients and for ACS. He created the first ACS website and was instrumental in the development of the Advantage Web module. “I rely on Matt for the breadth and depth of his knowledge and his ability to translate his knowledge into practical solutions,” says Dick Hile, ACS vice president of technology. ‘His knowledge encompasses virtually all of our Advantage software as well as a wide swath of industry trends and technologies.”
“I contact Matt whenever I have to write code for the web interface or code that interacts with it,” says developer Alan Cherney. “He will often help me make it more user-friendly or more easily understood. I’m always impressed by his level of care for the convenience of our clients who use the web interface.”
Today, Matt leads the eCommerce and IT Integration group at ACS. Matt explains the group’s function as helping to integrate Advantage with client applications and websites. The team gets involved with activities such as developing web apps, designing custom interfaces, helping to build design plans and other consulting. He and his staff are in demand by clients who want help creating and integrating websites and other applications with Advantage. Matt most enjoys being able to develop web pages from scratch and seeing it all come together.
“Matt has been instrumental in helping Ogden Publications achieve success on the internet,” says Tim Swietek, Ogden’s IT director. “He has been a partner in pushing the features of Advantage to expose the functionality that was needed for Ogden to continue to grow its ecommerce presence on-line. Whenever I need to discuss the internet or ecommerce I know I can always call on Matt. He is always willing to help in any way he can.”
His team appreciates working with Matt as well. “I had several bosses before I came to ACS, and Matt is easily the best boss I’ve ever had,” says Derek Johnson. “He is easy to work with, and always respectful. On top of being a great manager, Matt is a master at the technical stuff. He is exceptionally intelligent, and he makes everyone around him better, which is a rare combination in our field. He has a knack for getting right to the heart of the matter, and quickly transferring knowledge."
In addition to all the web activities, Matt also gets involved with IT projects, such as the migration to .NET and is also responsible for technical aspects of the ACS website. As if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, Matt is also called upon occasionally to participate in sales calls with prospective clients. He is always happy to help out where he can, but is probably the happiest doing development.
“Matt's great to work with,” says Joe Wixted, manager of publishing business systems at Our Sunday Visitor. “He's been very helpful to OSV with the integration between our content and eCommerce sites, as well as with the ongoing development of our ecommerce sites. His knowledge of web technologies and breadth of knowledge of the Advantage application itself are impressive. I've been hard-pressed to stump him!”
In his years at ACS, Matt has traveled all over the United States and to England, France and Denmark. Andy Wright, system manager at Oxford University Press, has worked with Matt on more than one occasion. “Like most clients, our first contact with Matt was when we implemented the WEB module and his knowledge and advice is just as crucial to us now as it was during that project,” says Andy. “I’m always delighted when I get the email response ‘I’ve sent this to Matt’ because it means that Matt, or one of his team, will be sorting out my problem. I can be totally confident that what I get is going to work, that it will be what I need, and most importantly, it will be done straight away.”
Although he finds travel to be enjoyable and interesting, Matt doesn’t like to be away from his family for too long. He and his wife Rachael have five children: Sean, 13; Jimmy, 11; Joey 9; Katie, 4, and baby Elena, 1. The family lives in Dexter and, in addition to fish and hamsters, the kids have 13 chickens to care for. Matt keeps busy in his off hours with the kids’ activities, which include soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics and canoe-camping trips. Matt also enjoys playing soccer himself, in an indoor league during the winter months. And of course, there’s Michigan football in the fall; Matt tries not to miss a home game.
We’re happy that Matt is on the Advantage home team.