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Customer Service Secrets for Everyone: Fuzion Fasteners Sets the Standard for Avid Pallet
Customer Service Secrets: Read how Fuzion Fasteners has achieved extraordinary service for Avid Pallet. And learn what lessons you can take from this success story to improve your business.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2016
Customer Service Secrets
Read how Fuzion Fasteners has achieved extraordinary service for Avid Pallet. And learn what lessons you can take from this success story to improve your business.
Everyone talks a good game when it comes to customer service, but very few deliver. One company that is distinguishing itself with stellar customer service is Hahn Systems and its own brand of nails, Fuzion Fasteners, according to Chuck Hoppe, president of Avid Pallet Services, headquartered in Beloit, Wisconsin.
Hoppe declared, “Fuzion Fasteners, a division of Hahn Systems, is the best service provider I have ever worked with, and I have been in this industry since 1979. Mike Saulnier is on top of everything and follows through on what he says.”
So what makes this company stand out? And what service lessons can you learn to apply to your business? Let’s see how these customer service tips can transform any company.
Know Thy Customer
Wrong assumptions are a great way to kill your customer service reputation. You must develop customer knowledge, and the best way is to ask. Don’t just talk to the top guy either. Find line workers or people who deal with your products and services every day to see how things could be improved or why people like what you currently offer.
Hoppe explained, “Our Hahn representative knows my business. He walks the floor and talks with production workers. Discussions he had with pallet repairers led to the development of a lighter, easier to use nail gun.”
Be aware of cultural differences, changes in the markets and technology advancements. For example, when it comes to pallet nails, using different species of lumber can be a factor.
Mike Sheehan, sales manager for Fuzion, stated that when many pallet makers started using softwood when hardwood was tough to get, that meant that they needed a fastener with more holding power. This typically meant changing from a screw shank nail to a ring shank nail. Being aware of changing trends in your customer processes allows you to change the product mix to reflect the new realities on the ground.
You must have a willingness to learn and see things from you customer’s perspective. You may not be able to give them everything they want. But do find out what are the key issues a customer has and work to solve those within reason.
Your Reputation Is Built on Consistency
It isn’t enough to be good on just one day. Your product and services needs to be consistently good or else you open yourself up to competition and risk losing your reputation.
A key to Fuzion’s quality is its control of its manufacturing process since its products are manufactured in the United States. Forty different SKUs of nails are produced at the Fuzion plant located in Greensburg, Indiana, just southeast of Indianapolis. Locally sourced wire as well as production in the Midwest allow for Fuzion to reduce lead times compared to imported nails. Plus, you are buying an American made product.
Hoppe commented, “If you give me a good quality nail, I will even pay more if it is made in the United States because it helps our economy.”
Hoppe added, “I find the quality of the U.S. produced nail is better than the foreign ones because the U.S. producers tend to set a standard and live by it. I don’t see the same level of controls from some foreign suppliers to make sure that the wire is the proper gauge.”
A typical way that inferior quality nails cause problems is nail gun jams. What happens a lot of time is the wire gets twisted in the coil, and it breaks. Then you have to open up the gun and straighten it out. Jams take away time from pallet repair, plus there are 6-7 nails that have to be broken off and thrown away. Jams cost money, impact worker productivity and employee morale.
Hoppe explained that it takes 20-30 seconds to clear a jam, which results in one lost pallet of production, and employees can get frustrated if jams occur too often.
Another way that Hahn and Fuzion have distinguished themselves is supplying remote locations for Avid. Hoppe said that he buys fasteners from Fuzion to supply remote locations outside the primary service area of Hahn in the Midwest. Hahn has seven retail locations spread across Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana. These retail facilities offer nails, tools, safety supplies, almost anything you can imagine for construction and industrial supply applications.
But Fuzion is not limited to just the Midwest. Hoppe said that what Fuzion does is supply nails and hand tools via a tote program. Tools can be shipped both ways so if a customer needs a replacement, they simply call Fuzion and put the tool in a provided UPS box. A new tool is immediately shipped out to them at the same time and the two packages will pass in transit.
For Avid, Fuzion supplies excess tools per worker in remote locations. This means there is never any lost production waiting for a nailing tool to arrive. Hoppe said that some other suppliers may offer a remote service, but they always charge for the shipping and don’t allow you to have as many nail tools out at any one time.
Truly Fix Customer Problems
The more indispensable you are to the customer, the greater your hold on that account. And this is usually measured by how you respond to problems or adversity. Don’t view customer complaints as a problem or nuisance. See them as an opportunity to respond and distinguish yourself.
Mike Saulnier, the Hahn account representative for Avid, fixed a quality control problem for Avid in the past. Hoppe remembered, “Mike came up the day we called him. And he got a skid of replacement nails that came in right behind him. He replaced the container at the same price, and I know he took a huge loss. His service is unbeatable.”
Another problem solving service that Mike Saulnier and his repair team does is maintain and replace tools without charging for broken or lost items as long as it is not a constant thing. Hoppe added, “Hahn replaces guns for us at least once per year, and I don’t know of anybody else who does that.”
You must keep the customer experience at the top of your mind. Are they able to easily order and resolve issues? Do they have access to answers when they need them? Clear communication is crucial so that customers are not surprised and know what to expect. This includes everything from delivery dates to return policies and quality control guarantees.
Another important thing to remember when communicating with customers is how you frame the discussion. Stay positive, listen well and work to be patient. The customer may be frustrated. And it is your job to hear them out and then frame the outcome in as positive a light as possible. For example, if a customer wants a product that is back ordered, small changes in what you say can impact how they perceive your service. Don’t say, “The product is back ordered, and you can’t get that product until next month.” Instead say, “I am sorry, the product is currently out of stock. But it will be available next month, and if I place the order now, I can make sure it is sent out first thing when it reaches our warehouse.”
The basic difference between the two conversations is the tone and focus. The first statement seems cold, impersonal and doesn’t really present a solution. The second focuses on how you are solving the problem while driving the customer toward a possible sale.
Fixing problems usually involves empowering your workers to find solutions. The longer it takes to get approval for a remedy, the less beneficial it will be viewed by the customer. Companies with strong service cultures empower the account representatives to take action. You may have limits on this, but you should spell out what they can do to solve typical problems or scenarios that you may encounter.
Expand to Offer Broader Level of Solutions
Many customers aren’t looking for new suppliers. Every new supplier takes time to coordinate and educate. But an existing supplier with a strong track record may be able to expand in to more areas of the business. If you know their business and can bring a broader selection of products, you can expand your impact beyond just your primary product. Hahn does that since it provides a whole catalog of construction and industrial equipment. Not only does Hahn have retail showrooms/stores, it also offers delivery.
Hoppe said, “Hahn’s offerings are huge now. I buy 60 different items from them including everything from safety to other consumable products to of course nails. You can’t touch their price and quality is pretty good.”
One main supplier for consumable products can make it easier to manage purchasing and reduce billing headaches. Hoppe has found that working with Hahn has made his life easier while ensuring a competitive price and good quality. To see a whole list of products that Hahn provides, visit its online catalog at www.hahnsystems.com/products.
Never Leave the Customer Empty Handed
The only thing worse than inferior quality nails is no nails at all. Sheehan said that having U.S. manufacturing capabilities lowers the lead time for Fuzion compared to imported products. Fuzion frequently can solve problems when imported nails do not show up on time. This is one of the ways that Fuzion makes inroads into new pallet customers.
Sheehan said that for example when the West Coast dock worker strike impacted nail delivery last year, he was able to supply pallet companies with nails from its U.S.-based plant. And when you deal with Fuzion, you are working directly with the manufacturer not a middle man or wholesaler.
Fuzion offers a wide variety of nail programs from private labeling for wholesalers to direct sales to bundled programs involving both nails and tools.
Sheehan, stated, “Basically, we can create a program to fit any pallet company’s needs.” Fuzion offers both bulk and collated nails for the pallet industry. As a division of Hahn Systems, which is a master distributor, it can supply any type of hand tool or wholesale fasteners that it does not directly produce.
“For companies that are looking for a consistent high-quality fastener every time, that is what they get,” said Sheehan. “With Fuzion you get quality control and excellent turnaround times, along with the expertise and support of a 78-year old company which is Hahn systems.”
To learn more about the nails that Fuzion Fasteners manufactures for the pallet industry, call Mike Sheehan at 616-581-6190 or visit www.fuzionfasteners.com.