Listen Towards
Increased Sales

Don't you just love 'bean counters'. They, of course, have been to university, have relevant degrees in working with your money, and have probably been trained by some or other guru in how to deal with people. But when sales start falling, all they seem to come up with is a story that ensures the blame stays well out of their court i.e. that they stay in a job - even if other heads roll.

There is one thing that must be realized about many bean counters and that is they are relatively greedy. There is a saying in business along the lines of "what the market will bear". Maybe on a new product one can try to make the market part with as much of its cash as possible, but this trend is soon broken when some enterprising concern beats your price. The true rule is to ensure the product is so well priced that it proves worthless for any other to try and beat what has been established. But they never learn!

The product crashes and burns, and sales are way down. No matter whether the product is of good quality or not, pricing is a very important buyer's choice factor. Throughout my 20+ years in the electronics arena, I have seen many good products go to the scrapheap through sheer pricing ignorance. However, there is another serious choice factor that must be addressed if one is to keep even the best quality product from extinction.

Listen to the Technical Support / Customer Services team!

Now I can see a number of MMWCs (main man what counts) starting to squirm. According to them, it is they who should be listened to, not that they should listen especially to what is typically regarded as the lowest rung of the ladder! Ok, if this is the case, then please explain the following success story.

Elpro Technologies, an Australian manufacturer of high quality radio telemetry modules, was seeing flagging sales in the UK. No matter how the distributor's sales guys applied themselves, nothing improved. Then, the distributor employed a rather tenacious individual as technical support. There was one thorny characteristic this individual had, and that was he never took 'No' as an answer. Elpro had no choice in the matter, they just had to listen.

And this they did. Not only did they listen, they also provided this individual every ounce of support they could muster. Emails were fervently answered. Technical suggestions were tried and tested. Improvements to the existing products were given priority over designing new ones. If one didn't know better, it could easily have been thought this individual was actually part of the R&D team of Elpro! The result....

Their sales into the UK has increased by 7 times in 3 years!

Furthermore, they have invested their profit back into, you guessed it, Tech Support - to the level of employing staff to now provide a 24 hour helpdesk! This is a significant commitment to their customers and have probably set a trend of what companies need to do if they are working in global markets. They have realised that customers do put a value on support, and through this will continue to prosper. Companies who don't, do so at their peril.

I have also had dealings with the tech support team of Black Box, a supplier of pretty much anything interconnecting computers to each other. Ok, they might have been asked the questions for which they knew the answers, but they impressed me with the quality of information they delivered. They have a superb attitude to tech support. They call them their "best product".

But you cannot listen to all tech support folk because most of them are not tech support people in the first place. Although the following forms the basis of another article it must be understood there is a chasm between a technician and a repairman, and companies are very quick to employ repairman because they cost a lot less. This trend needs to be 'bucked' with this department being invested in by employing quality diagnosticians.

Having direct contact with the customer gives them unparalleled access to faults and customer perceptions. It is costly to 're-invent the wheel', so it makes economic sense to focus on making improvements to existing products - and who better to advise on what to do than those who got it working properly in the first place!

Investing in tech support, as Elpro has, creates an invaluable, sure-fire, high speed link between customer and R&D resulting in a significantly broken 5-95-5 rule (5% time to create 95% product, and 95% time to perfect the last 5% product). Panasonic may have coined the "quest for zero defect" slogan, but customers have been demanding that since long before Panasonic laid claim to the concept.

Achieving success in the slippery world of business is like trying to climb a ladder resting on a marble floor. The only reason the ladder does not slip is the little rubber feet at the bottom. The better the quality of feet, the less likely you'll slip. Those rubber feet are called.... tech support. Listening to them has proven over and over again the path to increased sales.

Marc Dekenah

© 07.11.02