Service: To market it, it’s best to measure it

I have never met a salesperson who didn’t claim that his company had terrific service. And by the same token I have never met a salesperson in their right mind who would admit that her company’s service was less than desirable.

It’s for this reason that the hundreds of thousands of dollars pro-oriented building supply businesses invest in providing their customers covered storage, a fleet of delivery equipment to place material in just the right order and location to optimize ease of access, and a team of CDL drivers who are conscientious about making their customers’ jobs go faster and more efficiently, doesn’t buy them much more than a big “so what!” from their customer base.

Ask any building supply industry salesperson you meet to describe the service his or her company provides, and the odds are extremely high that they will answer with something like: “Service is what we are known for.” Or, “Our service sets us apart.” Or, “We provide the best service in town.”

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The most effective salespeople in any industry are generally quite persuasive. They should know how to explain to their contractor customers’ satisfaction why their costs of construction will be lower when they do business with them and the companies they represent.

If you agree with what I have written thus far, have you ever wondered why service falls so far short of the mark? I believe a big part of the reason is because too few businesses in our industry measure the service they spend so much money to provide.

In sales seminars I present, I make it a point to ask the audience two service-related questions: 1. If I were to give you an order today, what are the odds the materials would be delivered to my jobsite by the time they are promised? 2. If I were to give you an order for one of my jobs, what are the odds the material would be delivered 100% complete with no backorders?

About 9.9 times out of ten, the salesperson answers with something along the lines of, “Pretty good!” Why are their answers so tentative? I believe it’s because such a statistic is not provided to them by their company’s set of metrics. I don’t believe for a moment these salespeople are lying, I believe they just don’t know the answer because the great majority of building supply businesses do not measure service. Most companies I work with just do the best job they can to provide excellent service, but because they don’t measure, they really don’t know how good or bad their service is.

On the other hand, price and gross margin are always measured. Because virtually all salespeople claim to have “terrific” service, the contractor’s next question is, “Well, what is your price?” And to that question salespeople offer a numerical price and a specific range of time when the material will be delivered.

“Most companies I work with just do the best job they can to provide excellent service, but because they don’t measure, they really don’t know how good or bad their service is.”

Rule #1: Never mention your company’s service unless you mention a specific service.

Rule #2: Begin measuring the service you spend so much money, time and effort providing for your customers. When you can quantify the service you provide your customers, you can accurately determine whether you are moving in a positive direction; that is, whether your service is improving or deteriorating.

Based on my experience, there’s no doubt that the consistency and quality of your company’s service levels are far more significant factors in determining the value your company offers than price will ever be.

When suppliers are able to place a numerical measurement on their service offerings, they are immediately in a position to take their service level from subjective to concrete, giving them opportunities to set themselves tangibly apart from the competition using service as opposed to price.

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