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Floyd Steele: No longer just location; it’s service, service, service!

Tuesday, 12 Jan 2016 ( #752 )
Your Focus
Floyd Steele is president of Floyd F. Steele Consulting, LLC, a management consulting firm focused on the areas of service delivery, safety, employee development, and business productivity and profitability. He is both a CPA and a CGMA with over 25 years of management experience, including 16 years in the forklift industry.

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Everyone has heard the old adage about the three keys to success…Location, Location, Location! Businesses invest a lot of time and energy into finding the right location, the right name and the right image. These are a very important part of getting a business off to a good start; however, what will truly grow a business and keep customers coming back is service.

Know your customer
Knowing the customer is critical to providing the right service. Fixing a forklift or other piece of industrial equipment is no longer an isolated event. Repair and maintenance costs impact and are impacted by operational demands, budgetary considerations and corporate oversight. Today’s purchasing managers, equipment managers and plant managers are under a heavy mandate to perform. Knowing and understanding their world can help in providing the service they need.

Common Expectations
Onsite service
Taking equipment back to the shop is not necessarily reassuring to the customer. The very act of hauling to and from the shop can add a day to the total repair time, a day that many facilities cannot spare.

Service when needed
24/7 may not be everywhere, but gone are the standard eight-hour days. Many customers have expanded their hours during the weekdays and have added weekend shifts.

Parts in hand or, worst case, next day
In a world where product can be ordered online today and received tomorrow, the ready availability of parts is expected.

Quick turnaround
"I have a big shipment that needs to go out first thing in the morning!" "I can’t afford to have this production line down!" For the customer, time is of the essence and the clock is ticking.  

Zero rework
The heroic effort of getting the truck back in service today is all lost when it goes back down tomorrow, or even in a week or two.

Some Keys to Providing the Service Needed

Tailored Periodic (PM) or Scheduled (SM) Maintenance
What starts well usually ends well. If equipment gets off to a good maintenance start, then there is a greater likelihood that the frequency and cost of repairs will be minimised. A PM performed to manufacturer’s guidelines is just the beginning. Taking into account the customer’s operation, application and equipment configuration in performing the PM is the next level up.

Field technical support
It is important that a technician’s knowledge and skills are enhanced through annual training, but the support shouldn’t end once they leave the classroom. Providing easily accessible and experienced technical support for technicians in the field goes a long way in ensuring a quick and complete repair.

Service based on the customer’s schedule
Know the customer’s peak and non-peak times, scheduled downtimes, holidays and shift changes. Schedule a PM when it is less likely to interrupt operations and the technician has a better chance of getting to the equipment.
Have a solid After Hours call system with clear lines of communication, a means of tracking and a review the following day to ensure the call was addressed to the customer’s satisfaction.

Parts availability
Reach out to technicians to get their insight on the parts needed in their vans or onsite inventories. Maintain ample supplies of bulk items. Know the RSPL for the customer’s equipment and carry the recommended items. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than hearing that the truck is down waiting for a fairly common component.

Mobile capability
The less frequently technicians have to return to the shop, the more capable they are of serving the customer when needed. Invest in building mobile capability. Laptops, printers, wireless access and tooling are all sound investments.

Don’t Forget to Measure
There are many ways to measure service performance, such as response time, first time completion and rework.
Don’t forget the truest measure of performance - the customer’s feedback. Sitting down with the customer and getting their take on service performance is the best measure of all.

Last Thought

As important as it is to know the customer, it is just as important that the customer knows the value the service provider brings. Customers can come to regard the technician as the only part of the service equation and not recognise the other components of technical support, parts support and logistical support. Connecting with the customer on multiple levels is essential to this understanding.
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