As industry topics go, service and support is a bit like energy efficient equipment. Every supplier offers it and nearly everyone will tell you they do it better than their competitors.
When it comes to building a brand and harnessing customer perception, the importance of service and support still gets overlooked by some suppliers.
Making the sale and getting the order is the fun part; developing the mechanisms to provide back-up when something goes wrong or assistance is needed tends not to engender quite the same enthusiasm.
A case in point was made to me by a distributor just recently after it completed a large project where the centrepiece of the kitchen was a cooking suite bespoke-designed and sourced from overseas. The distributor had not previously worked with the brand in question, but the suite had been intentionally specified by the consultant, so an order was promptly placed.
When the kit arrived it was clear why it had been chosen for the job. Its design, functionality and performance all ticked the right boxes, much to the delight of the distributor and its customer.
With that in mind, you’d think the distributor would be considering the brand as an option for future jobs now that it knows its pedigree, right?
Well, here’s the distributor’s answer: “We probably wouldn’t specify it ourselves because we found the service an absolute pain to deal with. The contacts kept changing, so we didn’t know where we were getting it from and what was going on. On top of that, we have tried to get their service company to the site on a couple of occasions to do some snagging and it has just proved to be a nightmare to manage.”
It has to be pointed out that the manufacturer involved doesn’t boast the most comprehensive presence in the UK market, but this scenario still goes to prove that a lackadaisical approach to channel communication and support can completely undermine the quality of the product.
I’m sure that this incident is the exception rather than the rule. For a start, take any of the leading catering equipment manufacturers over the past five years and I’m sure you’d find the vast majority have made significant investments in the way that dealer partners are supported before, during and after projects.
Technical literature and resources have been made more accessible, spare parts availability has been improved and the ability for a dealer to get help no longer depends on the call being placed between 9am and 5pm on a Monday to Friday.
It is usually only when a problem occurs or an urgent response is required that the strengths or weaknesses of supplier support are exposed. But it’s an area that nobody can afford to take lightly if they truly value the way their brand is perceived.