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Distributor's Link Magazine Summer 2018 / Vol 41 No3


178 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK LAURENCE CLAUS THREE THINGS THAT DISTRIBUTORS MUST DO WELL - PART 1 from page 164 Honesty In the context of customer service, this is not so much about outwardly lying to your customer (although that is never advisable) but rather being true to your word. One of the biggest frustrations of any customer is to be promised something, prepare for it, and then not have it happen. Again, from personal experience you likely can attest to how frustrating being stood up is. Take for example the repairman that tells you he is going to show up at an appointed time, but ends up coming three hours late. How frustrating when you took work off specifically to accommodate their schedule. In the same way, every time we tell the customer something that isn’t exactly correct or give them the expedient but incorrect answer, we open ourselves and our organization up to criticism and shame. I recall a Quality Engineer I once had working for me. She consistently promised customers things she could not fulfill. Often this would go along with a promise to follow-up. Unfortunately, when she could not fulfill the promised action, she was ashamed to follow-up. This heaped new problems on an already bad situation because now the actions the customer was expecting to happen weren’t happening and because we were not filling them in on what was happening, they assumed we also didn’t care. I also recall the story of one of our salesmen. We sold a line of proprietary thread forming screws for plastics. One advantage of the design of this screw was that it exerted less radial stress on the plastic, so that the plastic bosses could be designed smaller. This hapless salesman went around claiming that this revolutionary screw would allow you to reduce the boss size by 100%. Although I’m sure an honest error, engineers don’t take too well to such blatantly errant claims and his reputation (and the company’s) suffered greatly as a result. Don’t Settle on Good When You Can Offer the Best Everyone has a story or two of receiving exceptional customer service. In fact, when you receive over the top service, you intrinsically know it and seem to go about on a “high” for a while. No one desires poor customer service. Therefore, we are all programmed to expect good, if not excellent customer service. This is why, when we receive service that goes beyond our actual expectations, we are truly delighted. Going back to the example of the car dealer, all of the little extras and comforts that get provided have become sort of expected. Therefore, offering them and doing them well get you in the “good” club but not necessarily the exceptional club. I recall hearing a number of years ago a talk by Patricia Fripp, a customer service expert and business consultant, in which she told the following story. She related that an elderly woman needed to make a withdrawal from one of her bank accounts. She called up the bank and inquired when they were closing. They told her that they would be closing in about 15 minutes, but asked how far away she was. She lived about twenty minutes away. What would the “good” customer service action have been in this case? If you were like me you probably would have said, to stay open another five minutes to allow her time to get to the bank. But that not what they did, they told her to stay put and one of their staff would bring the withdrawal to her. That elevated “good” service into exceptional service. As it turned out, apparently this woman was quite wealthy and this was not her primary bank. After seeing how much they cared about serving her, she moved a much larger stake of her wealth into this bank. As Patricia Fripp concluded, “Exceptional customer service is very good for business.” Do everything within your power to not settle for “good” but to be even better. Conclusion Having poor customer service is a short path for disaster. It reflects poorly on your reputation and on your bottom line. To express the sentiment as simply as possible, poor customer service is not affordable or sustainable. Just as organizations should be investing in activities that bring better quality results, so they should also be working to improve customer service. Several important ways they can do this is to train team members to think entrepreneurially, always be honest and not make promises that can’t be kept, empower the team, add value, and always strive for something better than “good”. Fastener distributors that combine these actions with their own specific actions will find themselves ahead of the competition. LAURENCE CLAUS



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