With the majority of employees working remote the past two months, Eric Chernik, CEO of Building Controls & Solutions, is keeping team members engaged with regular customer outreach that is both expanding employee skills and strengthening the company.
Working in the building automation, control, energy management and gas detection space, Building Controls’ main customers are HVAC mechanical contractors with a focus on commercial buildings. The Dallas-based business has branches across Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Louisiana, with a gas detection business in San Diego. As Chernik explained during last week’s MDM Live, the company positions itself through its value-add services of technical support, design and programming services, helping end users with a local-market focus.
Working virtually has been a challenge for employees who love coming into the collaborative workspace of the office, Chernik said. “The fiber of our businesses is our culture,” he explained. “We are very customer-service oriented; our people lean on each other all the time to team up.” Building Controls is filling that gap somewhat with Zoom meetings where team members are encouraged to share best practices and stories that then extend to long reply-all email chains to keep the water-cooler conversation going.
From the customer-facing perspective, team members are busy finding new ways to communicate; particularly people who work in technical solutions, counter and outside sellers who are used to face-to-face interactions. Building Controls is providing employee training and tools, such as customer call lists with outbound call scripts. The idea is to let technical solutions or counter sales team members who are used to customers coming to them be proactive by reaching out to customers directly. “Now we're asking them, ‘Go expand that relationship from nine months ago or six months ago,’” Chernik says. “We’re trying to find the tools to put it in their hands, make their job easier. It's new and different world right now.”
For employees who are traditionally customer-service oriented, making cold calls requires a different skill set that they may not be readily comfortable with, Chernik acknowledged. “The counter folks were hired to be counter customer service people and all day long they love to put a smile on the face of that customer, deliver their product, have a little conversation,” he says. “But probing skills or looking for new categories that customers haven't bought before, that it takes a little extra. You can do some of it through training, some of it through focus and value proposition of the company, some of it through incentives. All of the above. We're trying to figure out how to change behavior.”
Equipping both inside counter and outside sellers with enough information that they can have intelligent conversations with customers also frees up the more expensive technical support team to join the conversation once it reaches a certain level of sophistication. “We're not going to teach everyone to be a full-blown engineer but we need to make sure that everyone can talk at a fifth grade, seventh grade, 11th grade level,” Chernik said. “So that they can have intelligent conversations with customers and be able to do more than just prospect the lead.”
To assist in the effort, team members are asked to log how many calls they’re making a day and what was discussed during the calls. It is helping to change old habits and routines built up over 10 to 20 years, Chernik said. It also brings the counter and customer service teams closer to the sales team and reinforces the message that all employees contribute to the company’s success.
“A lot of my job right now is about communication, communication, communication,” Chernik added. “It's transparency. People want to know how the business is doing. The more you can share it, the more they get excited, the more they get engaged.”
Join us this Friday, May 15, at 2 p.m. EDT for this week’s MDM Live, featuring discussions with executives from Vallen, Palmer-Donavin and more.