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Over the New Year’s holidays, I was reflecting upon 2018 and the progress that EPG made in growing its voice business in North America. As the #2 global voice solution provider, we continue to grow our market share and are aggressively challenging the leader. Beating an entrenched competitor is not an easy chore. Being #2 forces you be more creative, and you must work harder to earn new business.
The interesting thing about the voice business is that it’s account engagement process is mostly controlled by the WMS software providers and not the voice providers themselves. More than 80% of voice deals are actually sold by the WMS or automation provider. Yes, it does seem strange, but the reasoning can be traced back to circa 2004-07 when voice had its first major growth spurt mostly in grocery retail and grocery wholesale distribution.
It was during this era that most WMS players such as Manhattan Associates, Red Prairie (now part of JDA), INFOR, HighJump and a few others worked with the leading voice supplier to develop real-time interfaces. The result of these development efforts were interface products owned by the WMS businesses and not the voice company. This was a stroke of genius for the WMS businesses since they could set the market price for their voice integration solution and would create somewhat of an “account moat”. It’s also important to understand that in the circa 2004-2007 period, the voice market was still somewhat small, so having a single voice solution was sufficient for the WMS business to provide a checkmark on the competitive RFP. They had little interest in providing customers with voice technology options and more importantly, were not about to invest their precious development resources after undertaking such a long integration effort that was more expensive than originally planned.
What this accomplished was to keep prices artificially high and to create fear in customers if they work with anyone else’s voice solution. They created fear and uncertainty with customers that only the one voice solution integrated ten years ago with older versions of their WMS was a viable option. Unless you do your homework and challenge your WMS company, you will be stuck with a sole source voice option and one that is most likely 35% to 40% higher than real market costs. Not a wise business choice. The data integration moat is the top issue that as #2 in the distribution center voice market we need to attack and challenge daily. After all, the “data integration mirage” is exactly that. A mirage and not based on today’s facts.
EPG and our Lydia Voice solution has ascended to the #2 global market position by disproving the data integration moat fallacy and adding a touch of creativity to our communications and our commitments. This creativity has enabled EPG and their Lydia Voice solution help empower customers to select and determine their preferred voice solution of their own choosing (hopefully Lydia Voice), without fear and in fact goes further than ANY voice supplier that I am aware of. It all starts with the EPG North America Voice Constitution. Yes, a Constitution for voice customers. A first for the voice industry.
"We The People
of Lydia Voice development, in Order to form a more perfect voice solution, establish better business value, insure Integration Tranquility, and provide for the support of Android supported devices, and the promotion of the use of VoiceWear vests for workers, and to secure the lowest possible operating business costs and the rapid onboarding of new workers without voice template training, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Lydia Voice Customer."
The Voice Constitution uses core concepts in constitutions found across North America and uses core concepts found in the United States specifically. Our voice constitution also has an accompanying Bill of Rights which clearly communicates that EPG executive management fully supports the Voice Constitution and sets forth the Bill of Rights as a key element to advance our corporate commitment to support such a communication and approach. This signifies our commitment and establishes this as much more than a “marketing effort”. Our goal is to ensure each and every Lydia Voice customer have the confidence to know that we mean what we say and stand behind our commitments. Let’s take a look at the Voice Bill of Rights.
"Bill of Rights
The Conventions of Ehrhardt Partner Group executives having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in using Lydia Voice will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution; Resolved, by the North American Board of Directors, that the following articles be proposed to the decision makers for Lydia Voice businesses, as amendments to the Constitution of Lydia Voice; all or any of which articles, when ratified by three‐fourths of the said Board of Directors, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said Constitution, namely."
In keeping with thought process and theme, we also have added Ten amendments to our Voice Bill of Rights. We think the First Amendment is the most important one and helps set the stage for providing comfort and full confidence for customers selecting Lydia Voice, no matter what their WMS provider may indicate. Let’s take a look at Amendment One.
Ehrhardt Partner Group North America shall make lifetime integration guarantee for customers with active support agreements that respects the establishment and ongoing maintenance of the integration between Lydia Voice and customers WMS system being of: SAP, Manhattan, JDA, Infor, Oracle, NCR Retalix, HighJump, NetSuire, SAGE and Microsoft, thus prohibiting these ERP/WMS providers from providing credible fear and uncertainty; or abridging the freedom of voice software choice of customers, and the right of the customer to confidently select Lydia Voice, and to petition Ehrhardt Partner Group North America for a redress of future voice enhancements to support newly added WMS functionality.
Amendment One makes an undeniably strong statement. EPG offers a Lifetime Integration Guarantee to customers on active software support agreements to provide ongoing maintenance of the initial integration with their WMS/ERP solution. Yes, you read that correctly. Over the lifetime of your utilization of Lydia Voice, EPG commits to ensure that when your ERP/WMS provider upgrades their software that Lydia Voice was initially integrated with, that EPG will not charge the customer a professional services fee to ensure the integration continues to work with that new software release.
How’s that for putting your money where your mouth is? How’s that for providing comfort and security to any actively supported Lydia Voice customer? There is no reason anymore to be concerned about selecting Lydia Voice as your new voice solution, no matter who your WMS provider is.
Being #2 makes you work harder and act more aggressively. In the end the customer wins.