As the article in The MHEDA Journal makes clear, exemplary customer service can put money in a distributor’s pocket, thanks to a happy customer who will hopefully come back for repeat business and recommend the distributor’s services to other end-users. That would qualify as a memorably good customer experience.
On the other hand, not every customer interaction goes according to plan, and a bad experience can sour a customer to the point of no return. That would qualify as a memorably bad customer experience, and material handling distributors will tell you that it’s easier to get a new customer than it is to lose a customer and get them back.
The good news is that negative experiences often have a silver lining. As David Cannon of Towlift says, “The ultimate disappointment is when customers leave you without bothering to inform you why. We’re thankful for customers who do tell us their disappointment so we can take some action on the problem.” In addition, negative experiences can also be chalked up as “teaching moments” to learn from and improve.
Below, a few distributors share their most memorable customer experiences, both good and bad.
“We had a customer call us to fix a truck that we didn’t sell them. It was an electric truck, and they were constantly taking it outdoors, rain or shine. Of course, the truck died. The person they had bought it from didn’t explain that they couldn’t take an electric truck outside. We recommended they switch to a different model and use the electric truck in a different application. We were able to take a customer’s bad situation and make it good.” — David Rizzo, President, A.J. Jersey Inc. (South Plainfield, NJ)
“A tobacco processing facility moved into our area and required a lot of different equipment. They wanted to set up everything in order to start processing raw tobacco immediately upon moving. We sold them forklifts, trailers, racking and more. On some of the items, we were not the lowest-cost provider. We offered added value like design services and layout solutions that put us over the top. It was a very positive experience for both the customer and ourselves.” — Jay Williford, President, Atlantic Coast Toyotalift (Winston-Salem, NC)
“A local company who we had worked with came to us with some storage density issues, and we converted them from bulk storage to a deep-reach application. By doing so, we kept them in the same building, increased their storage capacity by 68 percent, made them more efficient as a company and helped their customers. We talked them into changing the way we did business, and it was a complete collaborative approach from our entire company, from sales to the systems group to the allied department to customer service representatives.” — Scott Bennett, Vice President of Sales, Arbor Material Handling (Willow Grove, PA)
“A lot of end-users want manufacturers to make them national accounts, but we got a call from a customer’s corporate headquarters, which was not a current customer, asking us to service all of their plants. The local facility, for which we did provide service, had convinced headquarters to switch to us for all their locations. That one was really satisfying because the customer must have really gone to bat for us, probably during more than one meeting.” — Tim Heesacker, Director of Sales, NMC Material Handling (Omaha, NE)
“We had a mechanic who opened up a customer’s unit right on the dock. He said he needed to go get a part but then didn’t go back for three days. He also forgot to contact the customer. After that, we set up a system whereby the customer is contacted two hours after the mechanic leaves.” — Robert Young, President, Adobe Equipment Houston (Houston, TX)
“A customer of ours consolidated three separate buildings into one facility. They had a champagne taste on a beer budget—we just can’t get through to them that what they want can’t be done at the price they want to pay. They thought they could solve their problems on eBay. We did the best we could to offer a good solution at a fair price, but we finally told them to go out and try to find a better deal. Hopefully, they will come back to us.” — Mark Smith, Managing Partner, Outsource Equipment Company (Winter Springs, FL)
“We didn’t make the proper follow-up for a PM that was supposed to be done quarterly. When we contacted the customer to say the technician was on his way, the customer informed us that he had gone ahead and hired someone else when he didn’t hear from us in a timely fashion. We learned from it and have tried to be better ever since.” — David Cannon, President & Owner, Towlift Inc. (Cleveland, OH)
“One of our technicians misdiagnosed a truck because he was too quick to tell a customer what was wrong. He didn’t stick around long enough to ascertain the root cause of the problem. He blamed the customer for what turned out to be a warranty problem. One of our competitors went in and proved that it was in fact a warranty problem. We lost that customer.” — John Wrobbel, CEO, Power Sources, Inc. (Lee’s Summit, MO)
How About You?
What is your best or worst customer experience? What did you learn from it? Get the discussion started in the comments section below.