Last month we provided a short overview of the new Customer Service - the Path to Higher Profits workbook. This month we are providing an excerpt from the first Chapter of the workbook that discusses what's most important to the wholesaler distributor's customer.

Ask the customers what's important to them - Learn their business model

Wholesale distributors in industrial markets like plumbing, heating and industrial PVF applications often serve companies in both industrial and residential markets. These companies recognize the common elements of superb service that cut across most industrial markets. Superb service leaders go a step further to make sure they address the unique needs of the major market segments they serve. They survey their major customer groups, identify the services most valued by their customers and target those areas for flawless execution.

What Contractors Value

Contractors who provide residential and light commercial installations of plumbing, heating, cooling and refrigeration systems need to keep their workforce in the field supplied with the right items. Whether a contractor is working a large installation under a large bid contract or supervising simpler residential installations of product, time is a critical cost item. The cost of any downtime of the contractor's workforce comes right off the bottom line. Wholesale distributors who understand this critical component of the contractors' business model and ensure there is never any downtime caused by lack of product will be providing a key component of superb service. Contractors Tell Us They Value:

1. Inside sales is immediately available when I call

2. Inside sales is eager to help

3. Ship our orders complete

4. Next day delivery service

5. Proactively follow up on orders and requests

6. Have wide range of products (can one-stop shop)

7. Carry specific brands preferred

8. Have the lowest price

9. Pickup service is fast - can get in and out quickly

Make jobsite deliveries before 9 am.

What OEM/MRO Customers Value

Some wholesale distributors sell supplies to factories for assembly into other product. For instance, a valve or fitting might be incorporated into an engine of some type. This is referred to as the original equipment manufacturer or OEM.

Other supplies might be sold to a factory's maintenance department to keep the production lines running. This is called maintenance-repair-operations market or MRO.

Again, any downtime experienced by the customers is wasted expense. The wholesale distributor who can ensure that a production line is never shut down due to lack of needed assembly products, or never breaks down for extended periods due to lack of repair parts, is targeting their service at the customers' business model. OEM/MRO Customers Tell Us They Value:

1. Technical and applications support for the items we buy

2. On time, accurate deliveries - product in good shape

3. Value added services like VMI, bar-coding, special reporting

4. Competitive, stable pricing but not necessarily the lowest price

5. Availability of computer integration systems for purchases and billing

6. One-stop shopping to ease ordering and documentation

“Customer Service - the Path to Higher Profits” is available on the ASA Education Foundation website at Learning objectives, sample pages and a free manager's discussion guide are also available on the site.