fbpx

Getting more mileage from company services

By / September 19, 2018

In seminar programs I present I am almost always asked questions about service. From the feedback I receive, it seems virtually every company in our industry claims to have outstanding service, so customers and prospects have learned to expect to hear a lot of superlatives.

I don’t believe I have ever heard a manager or salesperson say something like, “Our prices are competitive, but our service is really crappy.”

For this reason, much of a building supply business’ marketing package that is designed to be a testimony to the company’s service level goes in one of the customer’s ears and out the other because almost all companies make pretty much the same service claim: “Our service is terrific!”

Anyone who makes his or her living selling building materials knows this to be true. For several years I made it a point to ask my seminar audiences to give me a show of hands if their customer service was terrific. It was not a surprise when about 98% of the hands in the room shot up.

Service to a building supply dealer is not unlike low prices are to a grocer. I know in the town where I live, every grocery chain claims to have low prices, if not the lowest prices. Of course, there’s no evidence provided, just a common claim.

Most companies in our industry spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in an attempt to deliver great service. Yet for the most part, contractors often perceive the service their various suppliers offer to be pretty similar.

The word “service” covers a lot of ground in our industry. To one builder great service may mean the supplier loads the material on the delivery vehicle in the order the builder will use it, while to another, service might be the quality estimating service the supplier provides its customers.

Here’s a rule I have taught in my seminar programs: “Never mention the word service unless you are referring to a specific service.” Another rule for achieving a higher degree of credibility for your service claims is this: Keep score! The more numbers you can associate with a service claim, the more believable your service claim will be.

Here are two examples; notice how each makes use of specific data to back up service claims.

“Service is such a strong part of our company’s culture that we go to the time and expense to measure it. For example, year-to-date, we have had 89.3% of material on the job by the time we have committed it would be there. And last month we put some new procedures in place we believe will be constructive enough to enable us to get that number up to 94.5% by year end.”

“Another of our target areas was to practically eliminate backorders. Year to date we have averaged zero backorders on 91.2% of our deliveries and to bump that number up into the mid-90s by year end, we have increased our inventory levels by 14%.”

Most companies in our industry spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in an attempt to deliver great service. Yet for the most part, contractors often perceive the service their various suppliers offer to be pretty similar.

Believe it or not, friendliness is one of the service factors that draws some of the most accolades from customers, especially contractor customers. Some companies instruct their drivers to whenever possible to seek out the key people on the job, introduce themselves and shake their hand, especially new customers, saying something like: “We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to supply materials on this job. If there’s anything I can do make your job easier, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

I believe the bottom line to optimizing the value customers perceive from supplier services is to try to stay away from generic service claims, focus on specific services when you do make a claim, and whenever possible use a number to give your claims more credibility.

Bill Lee

Bill Lee works with owners and managers who are looking for ways to put more money on the bottom line. For more information, you can contact Bill at 864.303.8366 or email him at [email protected]