The chief aim of my (working!) life is this: to provide outstanding solutions for my customers. It’s such a simple little thing, it sounds so innocuous, but mighty oaks from little acorns grow and in the building services industry, it’s something that we all need to be thinking about.
We need to understand how we can add value to our customers’ businesses, put that understanding into action and then pass the value on. How else do we differentiate ourselves anymore? Price – the golden word spelt out in ingots – is incredibly important, but it seems to be less of an influencing factor than ever before and in these times, the all-encompassing “value” is the thing that counts.
In my case, as a distributor, the last thing we want to be perceived as is a “box shifter”. We want our customers to come to us for support; we want them to share their professional problems, which we can then meet with options and solutions.
In its simplest form, it’s when a customer comes into branch asking for a product, and challenging if it’s really the right product for the application. A more complex example is when we can use our infrastructure to drive customer value. Just take click and collect – the customer benefits from the peace of mind that the product he requires is in stock and reserved just for him. This value-add is an enormous success – look at Screwfix.
At Pipe Center and Climate Center we continually monitor how we add value by using the “stop, continue, start” system, which gives manufacturers an opportunity to challenge us and tell us if our solutions are working for them. If they aren’t adding value, we stop doing it.
Take industrial gases for example. We’ve started selling them so our customers can experience “one stop shopping”, rather than have to go to various sites. Or take our ABS solvent welded piping system. We can now deliver a complete ABS metric package to the customer within 24 hours, which is unique in our industry. Time is money – and whenever you can save some for a customer (or yourself!), you should.
Of course, these types of supply solutions benefit the manufacturer too, as they are looking for partners with aligned goals, who will help sell product, which is ultimately to everyone’s mutual advantage.
The lesson here is that savings can exist in all forms – we’ve moved on from only looking at cost savings. Value savings offer a more holistic approach and encompass more than just price, and I for one am determined to deliver best in class solutions.
David Beattie is product sourcing director of Pipe Center and Climate Center.