Manufacturers: Why Customer Service Is So Important In Serving the Tradesman

By Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, Sonnhalter We’ve talked much over the years about customer service and how important it is to resolve issues. And, we’ve also addressed the issue that customer service is everyone’s responsibility, from sales through tech support. Customer service is really all about your customers’ total experience. This is true in our relationships with distributors as well as contractors. Manufacturers need to be careful, especially when business is on the uptick and attention to detail may come in second to short-term sales increases. Don’t take your distributor and tradesman for granted. There’s always someone out there that can identify contractor’s needs and deliver—and it won’t necessarily be based on price or delivery—but on the total customer experience. This article in HVACR Business by Jim Baston stressed, once again, how important customer service is in the big picture. Jim’s article is focused on the HVACR service business, but his points can be transferred to the manufacturing sector as well. Jim breaks it down into five dimensions of service: Reliability: Your ability to dependably and accurately deliver as promised. Assurance: Your ability to convey trust and confidence. Tangibles: Your personal presentation and the condition of the physical facilities and equipment. Empathy: Your ability to demonstrate a high degree of caring and individual attention. Responsiveness: Your willingness to promptly and courteously respond to customers’ needs. As manufacturers, you need to understand your customers’ (distributors and contractors) needs. Remember that everyone in your company is in customer service. If you haven’t asked your customers what their needs are recently, maybe you should. Things change and their priorities might have too. Focus on what matters to them. If you like this post you may want read: Manufacturers: Are you keeping up with your customers expectations? Customer Service: What Are You Doing to Retain Customers?read more >

Is Selling to Professional Tradesmen Getting Easier?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman   I don’t know if it’s getting easier, but it sure is different from years ago. Twenty to 30 years ago, salesmen needed to make cold calls, and the only way to communicate was through land lines, faxes, letters and direct mail. The selling cycle certainly took longer back then! Now, with the internet, cell phones, email and social media, much of the upfront work is already done for sales. YouTube videos, application data sheets and competitive comparisons are just a few of the resources available. The key is not to try to sell something; instead, your main objective is to help solve a problem or issue. Here are a few key takeaways when selling to professional tradesmen: - If possible, actually show you have a solution by demoing your product on an actual job site. - Sell your value proposition on why using your product will be the reason to choose you over the competition. - Give them names of other contractors who have similar problems/issues that you helped solve. - Respect their time; show them your solution and ask when you should follow up. Here are some tips: Deliver outstanding quality – from a great quality product to courteous customer service and user-friendly info – and then let them have the option on how they want to receive it. Understand what your customers want – don’t assume to know what they want – ask them. Connect with them – direct relationships are the most important and the most challenging. Always think WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Be sincere and upfront with them. When communicating with them, don’t always be selling. Try to help solve a problem even though it might not, in the short term, result in a sale. Under promise and over deliver – exceed your customers’…read more >

8 Tips for Making Customer Service a Priority in your Marketing

Think customer service isn’t an integral part of your marketing? Ask yourself the following questions: What part of your company do existing customers deal with the most? Have you ever avoided a business because of a negative remark a friend made? If the answer to both is yes, you’ve just seen how an effective customer service program is also your best marketing strategy.     Need more proof? In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out eight tips for making customer service a priority in your marketing efforts, and as always, it’s geared toward manufacturers, distributors and others in the B2T marketplace. You can sign up to download it for free here. Let us know what challenges you’ve had with customer service and check out our other tip sheets here.read more >

Customer Service for Customer Retention & Value

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder of Ultimate Lead Systems. I recently lunched with some long-time friends and sales and marketing professionals. The topic turned to the importance of Customer Service in the face of the plethora of CRM and Marketing Automation software available today. The conversation raised more questions than it answered. We agreed on the following definitions for the purpose of the discussion: Customer Service – The interaction with a customer or prospect that traditionally revolves around resolving a problem and producing a positive outcome. This could be in person or via phone or email. CRM – It’s not software but a strategic process designed to cultivate and enhance the relationship with customers. The goal is to maximize retention rates and capitalize on the life-time value of the customer. Something else we agreed upon was that companies seem to be racing to dramatically reduce their costs of engaging customers. Those costs are typically associated with people on payroll, and management too often views automated systems as a means of delivering customer engagement AND customer service at reduced cost. We also agreed that Customer Service is all about NOW and all other engagements are about future opportunities. We’ve all experienced agonizingly long waits in Customer Service phone queues that assure us our “call is important” only to get transferred to a voicemail box that is full and not taking messages. Programs like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and Exact Target can help deliver content that may be of value to customers they already know. What about new customer and prospects? Websites without phone numbers that force the customer to do all of the work to find solutions to their own needs do not make it easy for customers to buy or remain customers. How many take their business elsewhere because Customer Service is self-serve or…read more >

Why customer service is so important to manufacturers serving the tradesman

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter I've talked a lot about customer service and how important it is to resolve issues. But we've also addressed the issue that customer service is everyone's responsibility, from sales through tech support. Customer service is really all about your customers' total experience. This is true in our relationships with distributors as well as contractors. Manufacturers need to be careful, especially when business is on the uptick and attention to detail may come in second to short-term sales increase. Don't take your distributor and tradesman for granted. There's always someone out there that can identify the contractor's needs and deliver and it won't necessarily be based on price or delivery but the total customer experience. 11991read more >

Run Social Media the Way Your Grandfather Ran His Business

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect How should you run your social media?  To answer that question, perhaps you should ask instead, "How would my grandfather have run his business?" Or at least that's the question Mark Schaefer asked. Mark is a globally-recognized speaker, educator, business consultant, and author, and he blogs at one of the top marketing blogs of the world. One of his recent videos, "Social media marketing lessons from my grandfather, the plumber," dug into the attributes that made his grandfather successful in the plumbing business and how they can be applied to social media. For those of us marketing to the trades, his example is even more important. How did Mark's grandfather, a plumber from Pittsburgh, grow a successful business? 10439read more >

Don’t Get Lazy

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sonnhalter has used several services for a very long time… as in decades. I’m not sure how we started working with these services, but  I had to assume there was a reason. However when I took over the contracts with these services, no one seemed eager to provide the most important service of all… customer service. Coming into my new role, I wanted to understand our various contracts so I reached out to the most recent person assigned to us. No answer. I reached out to the company referencing our account number. No answer. I attended a conference and visited the service provider’s table, and immediately got attention because they thought I was a new customer. The sales person apologized up and down and said our rep would be in contact with me. He was able to look up answers to some of my questions. More than a week after the conference, I had no contact. When it comes to your customers, it’s crucial not to become lazy. Don’t expect your relationship to maintain itself just because you’ve been with them for years. Don’t focus all of your time and attention trying to win new business that you forget your current business. As I learned in Marketing 101 in college, it’s cheaper to maintain an existing customer relationship than to build a new one. When you ignore, forget or don’t serve your current customers the way that you should, you are in danger of losing them. At the conference I met with several competing service providers who would be happy to have me as a customer, what makes our current providers think we’ll stick with them if there’s someone else who isn’t lazy? In your personal life, if you were to call your mechanic…read more >

LinkedIn Webinar: Best Practices to Get the Most out of this Networking Tool

The LinkedIn Webinar shows the ins and outs of LinkedIn for businesses. The Webinar shows manufacturers and marketers how to harness the power of this social media tool by teaching how to grow contacts, join groups and use it to promote your thought leadership and ultimately generate leads. If you are in sales, customer service or general management, LinkedIn knowledge is a must in the toolbox of business tools.read more >

Use Twitter in Customer Service to Take Care of Problems in the Field for Professional Tradesmen

I'm sure we all have stories of customer service experiences, both good and bad. I'd bet you've had more bad than good experiences though. For manufacturers who sell to the professional tradesmen, these are even more challenging. You need to think outside the box. Twitter is an ideal tool to service your customers. Customer service departments are supposed to solve problems, reinforce a positive brand experience and not cost you an arm and leg to support.read more >