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From The Field - Brian Ward

Brian WardBrian Ward, co-founder and chief editor/associate publisher, has brought an enthusiasm for machinery to E&S publishing for nearly 20 years. That "gearhead" interest in how things work shows in FER's informal, candid style that "talks" to readers the way they talk with each other. He serves on the NAFEM Technical Liaison Committee as well as the advisory board of the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif.


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Vicious Circles

November 15, 2010

In one of our electronic sister publications, FER Dealer Report, I recently made the point that metrics are good if they measure the right things, bad if they measure the wrong things. The problem with the whole concept of metrics—wonderful as they can be—is that we tend to measure what’s handy and what’s numbers based, and not necessarily what’s significant.

Which brings up another thing about metrics. They give us a picture of correlations, but not really cause and effect. The “why” doesn’t lend itself to data techniques. Which is a serious shortcoming, because if we knew the why, a lot of other things would fall right in line.

Anyway, long story short, I urged equipment and supplies dealers to spend more time measuring their customers and not just measuring the spreadsheet aftermath of various transactions.

That would mean finding out what attributes operators like and dislike, which ones they value enough to pay for, and so on.

“The customer needs a fryer, sure,” the column said. “But what he wants is a relationship, a frame of mind. Trust. Honesty. Relief. Security.” One less thing to worry about.

A little Pollyanna-ish? On the surface, maybe a little. But not really.  Nobody’s out trolling for a new buddy and paying for the privilege. But essentially we’re all looking for people and things we can count on. Life’s complicated enough. We like to deal with people who make it simpler, people who make us feel secure by doing what needs to be done. Generally, that should be worth something to most of us.

One dealer in particular wrote back right away, and I got the feeling he thought I was smoking something. “Sorry Brian, it's a nice thought,” he wrote. “But experience at this end tells me that fewer and fewer people value relationships with their suppliers. The vast majority of people look at cost. Not value, but cost.”

No doubt he’s right, too. A lot of people, in a lot of specific circumstances, feel they don’t need a lot of support and don’t want to pay for it. Fair enough. But that brings us back to the original point.

Are dealers selling what operators want? Do operators understand what they’re buying with their purchase price? Do dealers and operators understand each others’ goals?

Sometimes the whole business appears to be a vicious circle of miscommunications building on each other. The dealer thinks you want a fryer, some information, delivery, installation, start-up, and maybe down the road, some other support services. An all-around ally. The pricing on the equipment subsidizes the whole kit and caboodle.

Which is fine, or used to be, until you just want the fryer and not the other stuff, or maybe you think you don’t want the other stuff. Either way, that’s when the trouble starts. You walk away suspicious of the pricing, and the dealer walks away wondering why you walked away.

So think about all that. What do you really value? Do you know? Have you told your suppliers? Get clear on it, and a lot of things will get easier. For you—and for your suppliers, too.

Brian Ward

 

 Chief Editor

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