Taking Care of the Customer

Security Sales & Integration

The Big Idea with Ron Davis

December, 2007

Taking Care of the Customer

If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month’ great idea is from Tim Whall, president and COO of Lisle, Ill-based HSM Electronic Protection Services, now a division of Stanley Works.Whall has been with the company since its inception and has taken several companies to the top 10 of the industry’s largest.
What Whall’s Great Idea Is: “Take care of the customer all of the time! We measure customer service across five disciplines of the company.They are the sales team, the installation team, the central station team, the billing group and the service team. All of those groups are responsible for some level of customer service satisfaction. I review every complaint or customer question that comes in to make sure it was followed up properly.Today, we are a $360 million company, and we still follow the discipline of reading every E-mail.”

This month’s column addresses the subject of customer service, even though we just talked about it last month with Joel Matlin. I’m sorry, but this topic is enough to fill a book, maybe even two! I was at the ASIS show in Las Vegas in September and couldn’t have been more impressed. There were the regular industry businesses in attendance as well as a lot of other interrelated businesses, all vying for end-user attention at one of the most successful trade shows in this industry. And one of the most visible and well-known exhibitors at the show was HSM.
When I approached the booth, I was almost as overwhelmed by the number of people in there as I was by the display itself. Tim Whall and I spotted each other — I’ve known him since he was a youngster working with his father in Detroit. When I asked him my signature question, his response, like so many other leaders I’ve interviewed, was immediate and certain.
Some might miss the word “all” in the quote from Tim, and if you did, that’s not unexpected. Frankly, the majority of us take care of our companies most of the time. And that’s the norm. However, when a winner in our industry says to take care of customers all of the time, it should send a message to everyone reading this column.
Sure, there are university courses and MBA programs in customer service, and dealing with issues relating to customers, but most of those courses are impractical. There are numerous video, online and audiotape programs that you can get involved in, and some of them are pretty good.
I found that the best experiences are the ones you can apply to your business today. They are the experiences shared by other people in the same business, the same industry and with the same type of customer service issues.
Using Other People’s Experiences
Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to suggest you talk to your competitors and find out what they do, but I’m sure that wouldn’t be as practical as I’d like to make it seem. Who can you talk to? The answer is to “be a mentor, get a mentor!” The best experiences you’re going to find in this industry are from other people’s experiences.

The way to get those experiences is to associate with other people in other companies at approximately the same level of management in which you serve at your company. That may mean joining an association, becoming part of a dealer network, taking a more active role in your local or state association, or even being proactive with some of the national organizations.
You must become an inquisitive manager, always asking questions — the answers to which can help you run a more effective business. I am a frequent speaker at regional, state and national association meetings and you can always tell which participants are taking the greatest advantage of getting others’ experiences during the coffee breaks, meal breaks and the social time after the day’s events are over.

They’re constantly searching for ways to improve the work they do. And if you ask what they are doing to take care of the customer all the time, you might get some answers that will allow you to become as effective as Tim Whall. And believe me, Tim does it about as good as it gets!

Ron DavisRon Davis is Security Sales & Integration‘s “What’s the Big Idea?” columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Marketing Group (DMG), a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates Int’l in the 1980s.