The Water Technology editorial team heard its readers loud and clear with the results of the 2015 Benchmark Survey. The top concern among respondents was getting support and value from suppliers. When a problem with a product arises, is your supplier available with easy-to-reach support? Do you have a relationship with a person or with a recorded voicemail message? To ensure that dealers receive the assistance they need to do manage their businesses and provide excellent service to their customers, they must, by asking the right questions, determine upfront what they can expect from their suppliers.

Hankscraft H2O Products’ Division Manager Bob Kappel asks his dealers and distributors to help him help them by doing their part to put together solid communication and a resilient relationship. “We are here to help and the last thing we want is an unhappy customer,” Kappel says. “We may be considered ‘old school’ by some but we absolutely believe that the telephone is the very best way to get and give support.”

Challenges

With any good relationship, both parties must be committed to success. According to Kappel, a deep and resilient relationship is necessary. “Like a good marriage, we both have to be in it for the long haul, and our desire for the other’s success must be equal to or exceed the desire for our own success,” Kappel states. “The other challenge is for us to overcome and heal the inflicted wounds [that] dealers and distributors have received from previous…manufacturer/supplier relationships. Healing those wounds [is] essential for earning trust, and trust is the cornerstone of a deep business relationship.”

He continues that “Unfortunately, not all suppliers have the customer’s needs foremost in their minds.” Dealers and distributors can help establish good relationships by asking questions before entering a partnership with suppliers.

Questions to ask

Kappel suggests that dealers and distributors ask the following of their suppliers:

  • Will I be able to talk to someone immediately or will I have to navigate a directory tree or leave a voicemail?
  • What is the name and phone number of the person I can call when I have a question or concern?
  • Do you have references I can contact?
    What happens if I also carry other manufacturers’ products?
  • How nimble are you? If I have an out-of-the-ordinary need, will you be able to help?

Conclusion

Sometimes, following your gut is the best solution. Kappel says that some warning signs that your supplier may not provide adequate support are if the supplier does the following:

  • Answers specific questions indirectly
  • Fails to give the dealer/distributor a specific person to call to receive support
  • Does not provide proper marketing collateral, manuals or spec sheets

Kappel states that dealers and distributors should look for a supplier or manufacturer who follows the “‘Golden Rule.’ Treat others the way you want to be treated.” He also suggests that if dealers and distributors feel a supplier is not following that rule, they should look elsewhere for a supplier who can provide optimum service and support and build a complete relationship.