Foodservice Equipment Reports

Two Good Dealer Lessons From The Archives

Happy New Year! I know Robin’s FER Dealer Report editorial for Jan. 4 was the official Happy New Year from all of us, but this one’s my chance to add my own personal best wishes for the year ahead. It should be a decent one if not downright cushy.

What can you do to make the most of it? How can you keep existing customers happy and attract some more customers? I’ve heard some good suggestions over the years.

First is managing customer perceptions. We talk about it, but we often don’t do it. Some years ago, I was up in Milwaukee doing a story on The Boelter Companies, and I spent a full day or so with Bill Boelter. We toured the facilities from one end to the other, and Bill talked about his philosophy of business as well as the numbers-crunching part. On the loading dock, we watched a delivery truck being loaded. I noticed a stamp on bags and boxes.

“Another on-time delivery by Boelter,” I think it said. Something like that. And it struck me as being such a simple and smart thing to do, a little bit of blowing one’s own horn in the best possible way.

Doing the job right and making sure the customer knows you did it right are two separate steps, Bill pointed out, and you have to do both. You can do the best job in the world, but if the customer doesn’t realize it, you busted your hump for nothing. You have to communicate. You have to communicate what a reasonable expectation will be, and when you deliver, you have to communicate that, too. No overpromising, and no underdelivering.

That simple stamp was a persistent, positive reinforcement.

And the second lesson that pops into my head pretty frequently is a comment from a consultant’s presentation at a FEDA meeting many years ago. I wish I could remember the consultant’s name, because he said a very smart and witty thing.

He was describing the 80/20 rules—80% of your profit comes from 20% of your customers, you’ll have 80% of your problems with 20% of your customers, etc. And he noted that some customers, no matter what you do for them, will never be satisfied, and you’ll never make any money with them. They’ll give you heartburn, headaches and negative profits, and you need to get rid of them so you can focus on more profitable ones.

“You need to fire those bad customers,” he said. “Next time one of them comes up to you complaining, reach into your pocket and pull out a $20 bill.

“And then put that $20 bill in his hand and say, ‘Here, you’re fired. Take this $20 and go paralyze my competition.’”

I always thought that was a GREAT line.

Chief Editor

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