More than 400 electrical contractors & end users responded to a recent survey sponsored by Electrical Wholesaling magazine on the state of distributor-customer relations. They weren’t shy about sharing their opinions in the article published in the January 2011 issue of EW. Here’s a few that stood out to us:
“If my order is wrong or incomplete it costs me far more in lost labor than the actual cost of the parts.” Respondents said they value product availability more than pricing and that the ease of doing business is also really important. It would seem that these folks want suppliers & distributors to focus on some pretty basic aspects of customer service.
“Would you please get up to date on current technology? Online pricing and account info is only offered by one of my suppliers. Even Home Depot offers online purchasing information whether you have an account or not.” Although a majority of the respondents to the survey said they purchase less than 10% of all products online it is clear they are buying from the competitors of full-line distributors – Grainger, Home Depot and Lowe’s.
“Quit behaving like corporate minions and attend to the customers needs.” As these respondents are all customers they are asking for the person on the other end of the phone – or other side of the desk – to honestly feel responsible and accountable for their customers’ orders. They also want their suppliers to learn how to accept responsibility for problems and what to do to solve them.
Sounds like there’s some work needed in the electrical industry. Do you agree with these comments? What do you want to see from suppliers in our industry?
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Product availability will always be important but nowadays price matters more than ever before – needs to be competitive. The key is distributor salespeople being able to sell the value vs. negotiating on behalf of the customer. Afterall, if a contractor can’t get material, he can’t bill labor hours and complete the job but if distributors are willing to match a price, the contractor will take it.
E-commerce is growing, albeit in our 2011 Contractor Insights Research report, which is available at http://www.electricaltrends.com in the Research section, contractors reported that this was only 2% of sales. Our upcoming report on Industrial End-User / Installer Research reveals a higher percentage.
While many comment that the environment between distributors and their customers is more “challenging” due to the recent economy, history shows that when contractors get used to a new way of doing business, this practice continues long-term. Technological tools will become more and more important to reduce operational costs for distributors and inter-relationships with their contractors. The key is salesperson adoption and promotion of technology and recognizing that “relationships”, while important, are but a component of today’s sale. People do business with people, but the days of that being over 50% of the reason for a business relationship are waning. Performance counts.