Volume 9, Issue 1 - January/February 2007

Customer Service

What time is it? 
by Carl Tompkins

We continue to hear about the need for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition. Through differentiation, suppliers provide customers the means to make value-based judgments as to who should attain their business. Those providing the most significant list, both in number and overall benefit, win the business. 

Most people I hear from aren’t feeling much like winners and, from my analysis, lying at the root of this frustration is that little is being done that can, and should be done to change this situation. Consider the following quote, by English author and journalist Arnold Bennett, which provides insight as to why this circumstance occurs: “The reason most major goals aren’t achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” Understanding that most everyone shares that common goal of increasing business and profit in order to feel like a winner, I submit that the reason we are not growing profitably is that we are not allocating our time to doing the best thing toward attaining this goal. 

Additional revenue and profit are available to everyone and will be realized only by those who spend their time wisely, completing the activities of priority that are automatic in delivering positive results. Such activities should be considered, “adders” and not “subtracters.” Examples of adders are: management reallocating its time to better support employees’ ability to deliver dazzling experiences for customers, implementing a new telephone sales course or a customer service strategy, making outside sales calls, adding new product lines, and moving to a new location. Note how each is adding something new and positive to the business outlook for success. 

Examples of subtracters are price cuts, steering, lawsuits, whining about how bad business is, waiting for a third party to fix your business, downsizing, reducing product quality, and eliminating services. Note how each focuses on the elimination of something or not taking control of the situation. 

The conditions of the AGRR industry are a given. While everyone anxiously waits for business condition improvement, the value, volume and rate in which those improvements arrive depends strictly on how each individual person and business utilizes their time. 

A great example of a recent retail AGRR business success, based on the re-allocation of time and effort, was recently shared at the AGRSS Conference when one of the owners claimed to have increased their business 23 percent in 90 days by implementation of a telephone selling skills course. In this case, the company’s top managers adjusted their attitudes and beliefs toward how they managed customer service representatives, provided training and, most importantly, changed how they spent their time in supporting the CSRs.

Success Stories
Another business success happened when a glass shop owner implemented a new selling concept within his technician team. They simply were taught, supported and rewarded for seeking new windshield installation opportunities when out in the field completing mobile work. Business went up 19 percent in 60 days.

Both examples are recent, within the same industry and occurred where the same business conditions exist. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t welcome such results. The key is how each of these businesses spent its time; they provided adders and not subtracters.

If you may be searching for a valuable adder for your business, allow me to close with one last success story: 

An independently owned and operated retail glass shop recently celebrated its 60th year of business. I would refer to this retail glass company as a cornerstone business of its community and a role model for other glass companies to follow. Its reputation continues to be one of quality and service, where only the best of products, training and ways of conducting business are considered and utilized. Ownership is devoted to making sure all employees believe themselves to be equal when it comes to their personal importance and value to the company, while, too, being equally accountable for their business success.

Yes, there have been frustrations over the years through the many changes occurring within the AGRR industry. Nevertheless, they have never quit in doing their part in promoting their business in every way possible within the markets they serve. They have flexed where possible in order to maximize productivity and control expense. New products and services have been added to complement their auto glass replacement services. This company held steadfast to the theme that, “Right is not always easy, but right is always right.”

They were rewarded with some new and powerful ammunition in 2003, not long after the introduction of the AGRSS Standard in 2000, in the form of a national registration program that provided the means to promote safety. The company immediately became registered and have benefited even more starting in 2005 since their registration now includes an assessment process to validate their compliance to the AGRSS Standard. 

Their personal pledge starts with thanks to an industry that finally stood together to develop a comprehensive rule defining right from wrong. While they appreciate the volunteer work of so many industry members promoting AGRSS to the insurance industry, they don’t rely on others to make a difference with AGRSS; they realize the power of AGRSS branding and that it is their own association and promotion of AGRSS that will yield the greatest financial return. They truly hope that all glass shops become registered in that it legitimizes those who care about safety while creating a proper and level playing field of competition. Their long-term support of AGRSS is steadfast in that AGRSS in not a fancy marketing program but, instead, an industry culture that is a permanent part of how they have and will continue to conduct business. Everyone deserves an AGRSS-compliant auto glass installation and only those businesses that provide such deserve the business. 

Carl Tompkins is the Western states area manager for Sika Corp., Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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