Locksmiths know the importance of good customer service. Your customers demand it, and the success of your business depends upon it. Those repeat customers and referrals are gold.
Customer service also is crucial when you’re the customer. Partnering with the right distributors means you get the products you want, on time and at a fair price, along with the always-valuable tech support. Our Know Your Distributors chart in our April issue will help you to choose the suppliers who are the best fit for your demands.
We recommend opening accounts and doing business with at least three distributors — the local guy, at least one of the big distributor chains that has nationwide coverage and a distributor that specializes in your top business sector. It’s never wise to “put all your eggs in one basket.” Instead, spread the risk in case the lockset or tool you want is unavailable from one of your sources.
Some additional factors to consider:
Price: Pricing is important, but it isn’t always the most important consideration. In addition to competitive pricing, you want a distributor who will stand behind the products. Check prices from multiple distributors and see whether your favorite offers volume discounts, particularly for large orders. For smaller orders, factor in shipping costs.
Location: If a distributor or distributor branch is nearby, it can be a huge help to be able to stop by and pick up a part on short notice. Even overnight shipping can take too long if you have to have one more lock cylinder to finish up a job today.
Technical Support: Knowledgeable, helpful distributor personnel can make your job so much easier. This can include expert advice on new products and recommendations when the product you want is unavailable. Training opportunities and online references also fall into this category. Check out distributor websites for links to installation and programming instructions for most major brands and even how-to videos.
Technical support also can mean a personal relationship. For example, Locksmith Ledger contributor Steve Kaufman is also a sales manager for a large distributor chain. He calls on the lockshops in his territory and knows the owners and employees, as well as the business challenges they face. They benefit from his hands-on advice and know whom to contact when issues come up.
Online vs. In-Person Ordering: This comes down to personal preference. Do you work well into the night and place orders outside regular business hours? If so, 24-hour online ordering is essential. Would you rather speak with a distributor sales rep? Then, the ability to reach your sales rep via telephone, email or text might be more important.
Problem Resolution: This might be the most important consideration when you decide whether to stick with your current distributor or try a different source. Clear communication when there’s a problem is vital! Unfortunately, in this time of supply-chain interruptions and transit delays, there will be the occasional bump in the road. The differentiator here is service. What steps is your distributor partner taking to correct the problem?
Choose carefully and review your choices periodically. It’s only fair to expect the same level of service that you provide to your regular customers.
— Emily Pike