- One distribution center and five branches, based in Livonia, MI.
- Number of employees: 58
- Key products: Bearings and power transmission
We strive to be problem-solvers in the marketplace by providing end-user training. It's a service the customer values and one that our competition can't easily duplicate. It adds real value to what we offer and helps us build stronger relationships with our end users.
More than eight years ago we began receiving requests from customers for maintenance-related training. We viewed these requests as opportunities for us to grow our business.
We sat down with those customers to determine the specific areas where they needed more training. From those meetings, we developed a series of four-hour courses on bearing installation and maintenance, power transmission basics, and precision bearing and spindle maintenance. Just recently we added a linear motion class.
When we train our customers to solve some of their own problems, we're bringing a higher level of service to the marketplace. We're not just people who sell parts.
We're also a better representative for our manufacturer partners. Most manufacturers are trying to differentiate their products. The more information we arm the end user with to solve his own problems, the better the opportunity for both the manufacturer and for us to continue doing business with that customer. And by selling value rather than price, the manufacturer is less likely to feel pressure from us.
We used to just react to end users' issues. After the problem occurred we'd have the manufacturer come in and do a dog-and-pony show for the end user's maintenance people on a specific product.
Since we've started offering end-user training, we've been working proactively with our customers to help them solve their unique problems. We've been able to identify target end users that have specific needs. We can explain how training can help them and then we spend time in class going through their real life issues.
Sometimes a customer has a problem but doesn't know it. I visited an end user that printed instant lottery tickets. Before launching into a discussion about training, I took a plant tour to see how things worked. I walked by one line and saw the press operators replacing printing rolls.
I stopped to talk with one operator and determined the reason they were having so many problems was because they were installing the bearings incorrectly.
I successfully proposed an operator training session to the maintenance supervisor. During the training session, I discovered they had been incorrectly installing these bearings for 15 years. The customer never realized there was a training problem, one that was causing tremendous downtime, resulting in lost productivity and wasted dollars. Training the operators how to do the job correctly did mean we lost bearing sales, but we now have a customer for life.
We're also building stronger relationships with our customers. A salesperson and I were servicing an end user and decided to make an impromptu call to a company across the street.
The maintenance man recognized me from a class he attended while working for a different company. This paved the way for us to start doing business with his new employer.
Over five or six years, that same maintenance person worked for a couple different companies and he brought us in to every one of them. That relationship opened the door and helped us secure the business.
Bottom Line: To hold on to and continue to build your customer base today, you need to do more than just sell a product or offer a standard service. Helping customers solve their own problems results in lifelong partnerships.
LeRoy Burcroff is vice president, sales, Bearing Service Inc., a member of the Power Transmission Distributors Association. PTDA is an association of industrial distributors and manufacturers dedicated to providing solutions to customer needs. For more information, visit http://www.ptda.org/.