Service Technician Ronny Sharpe shares his methods for surprising customers with service beyond their expectations.
Q: Our promise to customers is, “You’ll have the fasteners you need.” Is that it?
A: We supply nuts and bolts—but our business is service. We don’t just fill bins; we get to know our customer. I have customers call me after hours to talk about all kinds of things—even personal matters. When the conversation is over, I always ask if they need me to provide them anything else. Our service is a living organism—constantly growing. We’re always going above and beyond.
Q: Give an example of VMI service that goes above and beyond.
A: Beyond supplying nuts and bolts, our goal is to save customers money—and headaches. For example, in addition to fasteners, we offer other commodities such as drill bits, sawblades, and electrical terminals (to name a few). We are a full-line industrial supply company, and our goal is to take care of the customer.
Q: What are the hidden costs companies might not be aware of?
A: We can often provide a customer with a product they purchase elsewhere. In most cases we can automatically save them money—because they can issue just 1 purchase order instead of 2 (or more). The average cost for a purchase order is $150. By reducing the number of PO’s the customer has to issue, we can save them an exponential amount of money over time.
“By reducing the number of PO’s the customer has to issue, we can save them an exponential amount of money over time.”
Q: How does VMI service help reduce downtime?
A: VMI reduces downtime by providing the customer what they need, when they need it, and where. For example—one customer had a single bin location in a huge plant and when he needed a part, he was walking 15-20 minutes to get there. Sometimes that walk can turn into a round trip of over an hour because maybe they stop and talk to other people, get something to eat, use the bathroom, etc. We suggested adding another bin closer to where they were working, thus saving time and money.
Q: Besides reducing downtime, how else do you help customers save money?
A: Because our service is a living organism, we constantly look for ways to improve our customers’ processes. For example, a customer was using an inexpensive drill bit and they kept ordering the same bit over and over again. We suggested higher quality and explained we sell holes—not bits—and put samples in their hands. The customer was impressed with our knowledge and switched to the better bit because it outperformed the other bit 3:1. They didn’t mind spending the extra money, because it saved them more money over the span of the year by reducing usage.
Q: What about making things easier for your customers?
A: Continuous improvement is my goal. Because I service multiple plants in different locations, I’m always on the lookout for ways to help my customer improve at all their locations—including those they don’t often visit. For example, one customer was using Product A at Plant A and Product B at Plant B. But the 2 different parts were for the same application. I suggested they try using the same product at both locations. Making this switch saved the customer money by reducing overall spend. Not to mention—it made my customer look good.
Another example is a customer who used their own internal barcoding system with internal part numbers. Their numbers didn’t match the manufacturers’ numbers. I was able to enter all of their numbers in our system and cross-reference them to the manufacturers’ numbers. The result: the customer could scan an order and send it to us without thinking about it. Our system then converted the part numbers instantly and the customer’s order was fulfilled without delay.
Q: It’s clear that great VMI service goes way beyond just filling bins.
A: It’s all about the service. That’s how I get customers and keep them happy.