RIPON, Wis. — Choosing the right distributor to partner with is an important factor in the success of your laundry business.
A good distributor will provide extensive industry knowledge, durable equipment and reliable service; a great distributor, however, is a trusted partner who goes above and beyond to build and maintain a lasting personal and professional relationship.
Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate a distributor and ensure they meet your requirements will save you from the disappointments that can come with working with a less-than-exceptional distributor.
You shouldn’t—and don’t have to—settle for less. Great distributors are out there—here’s how to identify them and ensure they are willing and able to foster a mutually beneficial partnership for years to come.
Accessibility and responsiveness are crucial in separating a good distributor from a great one.
A less-than-great distributor will set a customer up with equipment, but may disappear after the sale closes. A great distributor continues to support the customer well after the purchase, making themselves available to their customers 24/7.
Arthur Wechsler, coin and OPL specialist at Ed Brown Distributors, Dallas, takes the time to regularly check up on his customers to ensure they’re satisfied. He even visits operators who have purchased from a competitor to find out why.
According to Karl Hinrichs, president of HK Laundry Equipment, Armonk, N.Y., customers should feel comfortable calling their distributor for advice or help, even if it’s outside of normal business hours.
The great distributor will communicate with customers however they’re most comfortable—whether by phone call, e-mail or text message—and always responds in a timely manner.
“If a customer has a problem, a good distributor will tell them where to go to fix it, but a great distributor will hold their hand and show them how to fix it, together,” says Hinrichs.
Marc Katzman, president of Metropolitan Laundry Machinery, South Richmond Hill, N.Y., agrees that the customer comes first.
“If at any point a customer starts to rethink something or needs an expert opinion, we take the time to talk them through the process and make sure they understand every aspect,” he says. “Anything they need from us, we’re there for them.”
INTEGRITY AND LOYALTY ARE PRICELESS
A great distributor always has the customer’s best interest in mind and shares their vision for success.
“It’s not just about selling equipment and making money; it’s about doing the right thing for the customer to achieve success and profitability,” says Katzman.
A great distributor is honest and feels a responsibility to answer their customers’ questions truthfully, giving genuine advice and recommendations about equipment and store locations.
Additionally, loyalty to both customer and brand are important. According to Katzman, great distributors focus on select brands—instead of having many products that compete against each other—and are loyal to these brands.
They align themselves to the best products available, which strengthens the distributor’s relationship with the manufacturer, allowing the distributor to take advantage of all the services and expertise the manufacturer can offer.
A MEANINGFUL, LASTING RELATIONSHIP
Finding the right distributor to partner with will lend itself to building and maintaining a strong, mutually beneficial relationship.
According to Hinrichs, a great distributor builds and maintains loyal relationships by keeping promises, over-delivering, being respectful of customers and honoring commitments.
“All good relationships—professional or otherwise—are built on a foundation of trust,” Wechsler says. “I answer all my customers’ questions truthfully, even if it doesn’t end up benefiting me. If you lie to a customer for any reason, you lose all credibility.”
Similarly, Katzman’s philosophy in building successful relationships with customers focuses on the golden rule—treating people how you’d want to be treated.
According to Wechsler, it’s not up to the customer to support the relationship. A great distributor will offer a strong foundation on which to build a relationship, nurture the relationship with trust and integrity, and make it last by continuing to be accessible to the customer whenever necessary.
But there are several things a customer can do to make the relationship stronger, says Hinrichs, including asking comprehensive questions.
“The most educated store owner is the best customer,” he says.
At the end of the day, it’s in the hands of the store owner to evaluate distributors to find the right one that meets their requirements, and it’s the distributor that is responsible for following through on its promises.