In many cases, as a distributor, you are offering the same products as your competition. In order to differentiate yourself, what can you do to stand out? The number one thing that will differentiate you from your competition is the level of customer service you offer.
Besides financial metrics, customer satisfaction should be the top metric that your company bases success on. Customer service is a leading indicator, not a lagging indicator. This means that what your customers think of you tells you what your market share will be and how successful you will be down the road.
With today’s ever-changing market, and the increase of avenues for contractors to purchase product, it is even more important for you to differentiate yourself through the service you provide. It is necessary to have a way to measure this service in order to be flexible and update your services to flow with the needs of your customers.
The best mechanism for measuring customer satisfaction is a comprehensive company-wide survey of your customers. This is the most reliable way to gather data and feedback from your customers. If you would like to learn how to go about that successfully, follow these three key steps for conducting a customer satisfaction survey:
When formulating your survey, consider what aspects of the business are necessary to measure.
First, you should be looking for feedback on people who answer the phone, counter and inside salespeople, technical support, outside salespeople, delivery and warehouse personnel, the credit department, and the branch manager. Have your customers rate your personnel in three areas, friendliness, responsiveness, and knowledge.
The next section should have customers rate your services. Gain feedback on competitive pricing, timeliness & accuracy of quotes, order fill rate, breadth of product inventory, order accuracy, timeliness of deliveries, emergency service, timeliness of will call service, invoicing accuracy, processing of credits and returns, and your website and ecommerce. Customers should rate these services in two different manners: a stand-alone rating and comparison to competition rating.
You should also look to gain additional insights from your customers. Additional questions include:
This is also a great time to gain insights into how customers’ sentiments have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Include questions like:
Once you have collected your data, break out the survey results in three ways – by branch location, by customer type, and by market type.
A general rule of thumb is to send your survey to every customer who has purchased at least $1,000 from you in the last twelve months. You can strategically add in some love-volume customers to your survey list to achieve a minimum of 100 customer contacts per branch location.
You should send the survey to “buying influencers”, not accounts payable personnel. Send to people who make purchasing decisions to get the best results. This includes owners/executives, project managers, sales managers, and purchasing agents. The more customers you survey, the better, so send the survey to multiple people at your larger customer companies.
To effectively utilize the data from your survey, respond to the feedback by doing the following:
These three steps will give you the best mechanism for measuring your customer satisfaction.
This information was provided by TJ O’Connor in our What’s Happening Wednesday Coffee Break Series for Marketers.
TJ O’Connor is the President of Farmington Consulting Group,a company that specializes in conducting market research for HVACR, Plumbing, and Electrical Distributors. Farmington is a HARDI Proven Partner and several HARDI members are clients of Farmington’s. Farmington just recently launched a Voice of Contractor survey nationally, on behalf of HARDI, and the results of that survey will be shared with HARDI members as part of our end-of-the year State of the Channel update.
If you would like to work with Farmington Consulting Group for your own Customer Survey, visit https://hardinet.org/proven-partners/farmington-consulting-group/.