Saturday, March 26, 2011

Column # 59 - Service Expectations Take a Beating

Ok, so let’s go back to our tale of woe. Mid-year 2000… someone finally decided to do the unthinkable and simply listen to our customers. Our customers were telling them, loud and clear and no uncertain terms, that closing Delta’s 800 line was a huge mistake. Just to recap, in 1983 Delta had created an 800 line (800-223-7278, aka; 800-BAD-PART) to service their customers. By calling that one number, the customer could get anything done, be it order parts, get Technical Service, ask an obscure question about a 50yr old machine, complain about anything, or…well, you get the idea. That little number was THE connection between Delta and the customer… and one of the first things those in charge of the “merger” had done was cut it off. The phone system was re-targeted so that, depending on where the caller was calling from, their call would then be routed to the nearest Porter-Cable/Delta service branch, who would handle their service needs. All well and good…on the surface. But then the differences in the two businesses began to show its face. As I related above, “service” was only one aspect of Delta’s 800 line, and while we are on ‘service’, there were some startling differences in the definition of that word between Porter-Cable and Delta. For instance, the PC service branches kept a pretty good stock of replacement parts at each branch. Not too hard to do with small portable tool parts. It’s a far different story when dealing with large stationary machine parts- there simply wasn’t enough room inside the branches to store it all. So the deal was that the branches had their parts stock and each week they would receive one of those huge export boxes shipped to them to replenish their supply. That worked great for them and their customers…on the other hand Delta had no service branches just a 200,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Memphis. So when a customer called and needed a part, it was shipped out to them directly, no waiting. If it was a warranty item, the customer usually had it in 2-3 days, depending on the urgency of the situation. Now, with the closing of the Memphis 800 line, customers immediately discovered a few things: their call no longer went to Delta Memphis; their parts had to be shipped to the service branch first, then to them; and (bless their little hearts) the people who answered the re-routed 800 lines were practically clueless about most things Delta. Many of these callers were long-time Delta customers and the perception (which actually WAS reality in this case) was that the “merger” had just dumped Delta customers out in the cold, without a lifeline.

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