Excelling to satisfy customers serves all of us well.

The customer has needs and wants and likes.

All of those are fine and good. And we can ask and they will tell us what their needs and wants and likes are—and they will do it willingly and honestly. But that won’t go very far if we don’t act on them.

The first step in the “balanced scorecard” we mentioned last month is to know what our customers need and what they like. The second step is internal excellence. It’s what we have to excel in so that we can satisfy all the needs and wants and likes of our customers.

It’s interesting, but in all the years I’ve been involved in business, customer needs and wants are reasonably common and constant over time.

In the area of parts, it comes down to: How much is it? Have you got it? How long do I have to wait before I get it? Those are the usual questions a customer needs answered before buying a part.

In the area of service: How much will it cost me? How long will it take to be completed? What is your warranty coverage? Those are the usual questions a customer asks before authorizing work to be done.

Where we sometimes get in trouble is when we assume we know what the customer wants without asking them. That is neither necessary nor wise.

After all, the customer will help you by telling you.

Providing Employee Tools

If you review the two lists of customer needs and customer likes from last month, you will have a good idea what customers want, need, and like. Now let’s deliver on those items. It will start with trained, talented, and caring employees—once again the people who I call “your heroes.”

These are the employees who serve your customers. They have to be able to answer all their questions, withstand at times all the hostility, field and resolve complaints—all while they process orders or requests. Employees are special people and they will either make you or break you.

You need to be able to provide your employees with everything they need to be able to do their jobs—the systems, tools, and training. But first we have to deliver excellence to the customer on their needs, wants, and likes.

Look at your parts and service order processes. How effective are they? How customer-friendly are those processes? Are they employee friendly? Can the customer process their own orders online? Can they get prices online? Can they see schematics and catalogs online? Can they register complaints or comments online?

One of the difficulties we have with many of the dealer management systems is they are legacy systems, old and outdated, and not necessarily designed with current technologies. A lot of the time, the dealer influences the design and implementation in order to continue to do what they have always done. In other words, they’re not using current technology or thinking.

I have commented on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in previous articles. This is a remarkably effective customer service and sales tool. It runs in a simple manner. Your computer system runs your phone system. What that means is customer profile information is delivered to your computer screen while your telephone is ringing at your desk. You know who is on the phone before you answer the phone.

Sound familiar? It should. Almost all of our cellphones deliver this information to us. But this is much more data rich. Your customer information can show on the screen according to your requirements. Do you want to know birthday or anniversary information? It can be there. Do you want to know sales history? It can be there. How about outstanding back orders or systems undergoing repairs or maintenance? It can be there. How about the last time you spoke to the customer? It can be there.

It is truly a remarkable tool for your employees in serving customers. One of the things that appeals to me is the customer’s last order date. You see probabilities that can be used to determine the next order date, based on the time between the last two orders. It is pure statistics. The closer together the last two events, the closer the next event will be.

This is what is called “data mining” and has become quite common among marketing professionals in the retail world. Check it out. It is becoming critically important to the successful maintenance and development of customer relationships.

Knowing the Customer

Another subject I have written about and want to stress again is the customer relationship marketing system. The CRM system has not penetrated our industry to the degree it should have.

It is understandable to some degree that it requires a fair amount of work to keep it going. Each and every time an employee talks to or communicates with a customer, an entry should be made to the CRM system. If that is the case and you use VoIP, this can also be something delivered to the screen while the telephone is being answered.

Imagine, if you will, being privy to all customer contact that has taken place and how valuable that might be in your dealings with the customer. This is again a critical element in the customer service arsenal of tools.

I don’t think any of us want to be uninformed when we’re talking with our customers. Review their wants and needs and likes, and here’s what you’ll find front and center. The customer wants us to know who they are and how important they are to us. They want us to know their business too.

So if we know these things, why don’t we do it with current tools to allow our employees to be better armed to serve their customers?

Life can be and should be simple. Many times it is we the people who make it difficult. I like simplicity; it helps in service. I also believe every one of your employees— “your heroes”—deserves the best we can afford to give them.

The time is now.

by Ron Slee
July, 2013
Water Well Journal

About Water Well Journal

The Water Well Journal is the leading resource for those working in the groundwater industry. The flagship publication of the National Ground Water Association is delivered to more than 24,000 people every month and covers technical issues related to drilling and pump installation, rig maintenance, business management, well rehabilitation, water treatment, and more.

Since many of the companies in the groundwater industry are small family-run businesses it is critical that Water Well Journal provide much more than technical content. That is why Ron Slee’s monthly columns addressing management, supply, and inventory issues are valuable. It is that type of information that helps the publication achieve NGWA’s mission of advancing groundwater knowledge.