Listen to Customers – Descartes Systems Group


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published June 23, 2004

Founded in 1981, this public company achieved $62 million in revenue in 2003 and has over 2500 customers in 60 countries. Recently, their growth has stalled in parallel with the tech downturn. However, as the RFID market and supporting solutions grows, their potential should change.

The Descartes solution tracks the status of inventory in transit. By capturing state data on physical goods, retailers can match the information flow to the physical flow throughout the supply chain. They also provide a route optimization algorithm for logistics.

Companies managing Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) seek their solution to reduce costs. For instance, a typical client of Descartes was able to reduce 1 day out of inventory representing huge savings in distribution. Best Buy uses the Descartes solution to manage the shipment of inventory between their distribution center and retail stores, as well as the flow of goods between retail stores and home delivery.

To drive success, Descartes is looking to their customers according to Theresa Rivas, Analyst Relations Manager. A steering committee that includes customer users meets every other week for an hour and a half. Semiannually, they host another customer forum that includes polls and surveys. This information is then fed back to the product manager charged with guiding the future solution development.

While customer meetings and surveys provide a formal mechanism to understand customer needs, Descartes relies on its salespeople as an informal information source. Salespeople at the company’s front line uncover the message that resonates with, the features desired by, and the pain points of their prospects. This and other information is used to create an internal synthesis of market demands.

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.