Or It Is Time to Find a New One
My friend knew a facility manager who was using a power washer to clean up the outside of his facility in preparation for a tour his boss was giving for potential investors the next day. Suddenly, the washer started leaking. Knowing a bit about equipment, the facility manager realized the O ring had broken. He hopped in his car and drove the 5 or 6 miles to the Big Box store where he’d bought the washer, figuring he could pick up the ring there. Unfortunately, the store didn’t carry replacement parts. The clerk said he might be able to order it online. However, the part would have to be ordered and shipped from the retail giant’s distributor to the store, then shipped to the manager, so it would be a few days at best.
My friend called me knowing my company was likely to have the ring; we did, and we delivered it that day. The manager was ecstatic, and we gained a new customer. But I admit I was bewildered. How can it be that so many people—often including our own customers—don’t realize all that we, as distributors, provide—most often for FREE—to help our customers save time and money, grow their businesses, improve their processes and make their work lives easier?
Service & Support
Before we get into the top 12 benefits afforded by distributors, let’s take a minute to discuss service and support because they are vital and feed into all the perks below. When you buy equipment or product from a distributor, you aren’t just buying at what should be a good price, but you also are purchasing service and support. A good distributor is like having a AAA membership; it should be there to help you plan a successful trip, there to guide you along the way and help you stay on course, and there if you hit a bump in the road to get you back up and running quickly and smoothly. And like AAA, this service and support should be accessible. Your distributor should be there for you when and how you need it. This mean available 24/7 (at least online) for ordering but also able to be reached by phone, email, web messaging, even text in an emergency.
If you aren’t getting this level of service and support from your distributor, it’s time to shop around.
The Top 12
With excellent service and support established, below are the top dozen benefits you should expect from your distributor partner for free or at the most for a small fee or minimum order.
1. Facility management software. Save time and money by streamlining your processes while having the information you need to maintain your facility at your fingertips. This includes everything from asset management, equipment maintenance and inventory control to order fulfillment, billing and payment. This software is complementary from top distributors.
2. Dispensers and installation. Top distributors don’t just sell you soap and toweling, but in many cases will provide—and install—the dispensers and/or portion-control devices that go with them for free. Talk about a time, money and hassle savings!
3. Reports and data analytics. Your distributor can provide you with free e-commerce reports that allow you to track everything from what you are selling to who and in what geographic location—and lots of other data to help you know your current and grow your future business.
4. Next-day delivery. This is a biggie. Think of all the time and inconvenience you save having product delivered to your door within 24 hours—for free. In certain cases, there may be a reasonable minimum order size, which can actually help assure you have the product on hand next time.
5. Repairs. While some equipment repairs incur a minimal charge, your distributor should prove far more reasonable, faster and reliable than cold calling a repair facility or worse, having to get the equipment to the repair shop yourself.
6. Training. Most distributors will provide free training on the products it sells—or free demos of those it wants to sell. However, the free training you receive from your distributor should go beyond product to things you need to know or that will help you grow your business, everything from sales to green cleaning to hands-on cleaning processes. The training should be presented by trainers who are third-party certified to assure the information is accurate, and the training should be available in the method that best suits your needs, in-person sessions onsite (yours or the distributor’s) and/or online.
7. Event passes. Is there a tradeshow you are looking to attend? Before shelling out the entrance fee, ask your distributor as many offer complimentary guest passes to their customers for top industry events.
8. Regulatory compliance. All distributors legally must provide you with Safety Data Sheets for the chemicals they sell, but again, their help should go beyond what is mandated. Distributors can keep you current on laws and regulations that affect your business and industry, helping you avoid potentially substantial fines and legal headaches.
9. Product and backorder guarantees. Your distributor can provide you an in-stock guarantee for those you order most often. Added to that should be a low-to-no backorder guarantee so if any product is on backorder, one of equal or greater value is substituted.
10. Health and safety assistance. Many people do not think of distributors and the role they can play to keep facility employees and visitors safe and healthy. Your distributor can make recommendations on such things as the most ergonomic equipment, no-touch systems that reduce the spread of disease, the best disinfectant for the job—and the right way to use it—how to implement a green cleaning program, the proper use of entrance mats to prevent slips and falls and a host of other programs, products, and advice to help you keep your facility and its occupants healthier and safer.
11. Sustainability. Any company wanting to grow their business better be looking into the business of sustainability. Today’s buyers care about—and buy from—companies concerned about the environment. In addition to helping you select effective and environmentally preferable cleaning products, your distributor can help you with everything from implementing green cleaning, recycling, and zero waste programs to reducing packaging, shipping, and energy usage, All of which show employees and customers you care.
12. Volume Discounts. This should be a no brainer, but sadly some distributors don’t offer volume discounts unless specifically asked. So ask!
These are just some of the free benefits distributors should bring to your table. If your distributor isn’t providing them, as I suggested earlier, it is time to shop around.