This Counter Person is Right on the Mark

October 1, 2007
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Taking the time to answer a question from a customer is counter person Mark Sapaugh (left).

TEXARKANA, Texas - With his Southern drawl somewhat pronounced, Mark Sapaugh admits he can certainly talk. “I could talk the horns off a billy goat,” he confesses.

Spend a little over an hour with the 47-year-old and you will know, unequivocally, that the jovial Sapaugh has a solid “gift of gab.” But, you will also find out that behind that motor mouth is one heckuva counter person, employed at the Carrier/Bryant Mid-South distributorship, located in Texarkana, Texas.

Contractor customers don’t need any prompting to sing his praises, either.

“Mark Sapaugh is a great counter man,” commented Beth Krause, vice president of Krause Service Co., located in nearby Nash. “He makes our job easier and helps us better serve our customers on a daily basis. Mark has a great attitude every day and no matter how busy he is, he always takes the time to help us with our purchases as if we are his most important customer.”

In fact, when contractors found out The NEWS was looking to honor the outstanding counter people in this industry, supporters of Sapaugh surfaced early and often.

“Mark deserves this honor, because any time you walk in the store, you get a greeting from him that makes you know you are welcome and your business is always welcome,” wrote Jeff Reich, service manager for Custom Aire, Texarkana. “Mark is always willing to help do anything, even if it is just to try and find something - even if you don’t buy from him. Plus, he’s just an all-around good guy.”

All this made it easy for The NEWS to select Sapaugh as one of the best people manning a counter - among all distributorships, warehouses, and supply stores - in the HVACR industry.

When informed of the honor, Sapaugh was almost - and, we stress almost - speechless.

“I think it’s a privilege that you even considered me,” said the man of the hour.

Sapaugh (right) discusses a technical issue with a customer (left) at Carrier/Bryant Mid-South in Texarkana, Texas. “I could talk the horns off a billy goat,” confessed Sapaugh.

WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE HELPS

Sapaugh has been in the industry since 1983, starting out initially as an installer for the contracting firm of Laroy Thomas Inc., Texarkana. As he progressed, the active youth took night classes in cooling and heating at nearby Texarkana Community College. Sapaugh eventually moved up to service tech before earning his contracting license for the state of Arkansas. He opted to go on his own for two years, before joining Red River Heating and Cooling. Two years later, Climatic - then an independent distributor for Carrier - called and asked if he would join their counter team.

“It was my first step in distribution,” said Sapaugh. “I grew to like it.”

Sapaugh proved his worth quickly, as he was asked to manage the Fort Smith, Ark., branch in 1998. It sounded like a good opportunity at the time. Due to family concerns, however, Sapaugh found himself returning with his family to Texarkana less than a year later. He rejoined Red River Heating and Air before rejoining Climatic in March of 2001. Less than a few months later, Carrier took over Climatic, making it a member of Carrier Sales and Distribution.

Sapaugh believes the experience he gained in the field has only helped him behind the distributorship counter.

“Guys who have technical questions come to me,” he said, Southern drawl intact. “When they call, they have a problem with a unit. I am on the phone trying to understand as to what is the problem. Most of the time I really do believe my experience in the field is my leverage.”

That’s not to say he fails in selling. Five years ago he was the top parts sales associate in Zone 4 for Carrier, and finished among the top 10, company-wide. In 2005, he was top dog in sales for his area, plus a program finalist.

Carrier, he said, helped him in becoming an even better counter person. “Carrier is one of the best I’ve ever seen about wanting to train and get you all the necessary information,” he said. “They take you to classes. There are online classes, too. There are learning modules. Totaline also has its own university. I’ve been to their refrigeration school in New York.

“There is just a lot of educational stuff they provide. I honestly feel they do good.”

Concerning his employer, he said, “We try to stay a step ahead of the customer.”

Pulling out a stocked item for a customer is Sapaugh, chosen one of the top counter people in the industry by contractor readers of The NEWS.

RIGHT ATTITUDE NEEDED, TOO

Having field experience is not hurting Sapaugh - but neither is his respectful attitude. In the eyes of his boss, 28-year-old manager Chad Cook, one couldn’t ask for a better employee.

“He can just take care of business,” said Cook, referring to the man who showed him the ropes. “You don’t have to babysit him. A lot of the older guys come here to talk to him. The younger ones come to him, too. It’s his attitude. He always has a good attitude. He doesn’t seem to have a bad day.”

It’s not smoke-and-mirrors, either. “We bust - excuse my French - ass,” stressed Sapaugh. “We are all proud of our store. I have an awesome manager. I trained him. The most technical thing he knew prior to joining the distributorship was how to flip a light switch. He was a stocking boy starting out. I helped him with things and now I can’t hold a candle to him.”

If you have the ability to multi-task, the better off you are at the counter, he added.

“It’s really a hard juggle to do everything,” he admitted. “The best way I handle things is, if I am on the phone and a contractor comes in, they understand that they might have to wait. The person on the phone does not see what is going on. If it’s going to be long, then I’ll put the person [on phone] on hold. You have to establish a relationship with the customer who is standing right there in front of you.”

Courtesy is another needed ingredient for the job. For Sapaugh, it almost comes naturally. He can sympathize with the client who comes into the store at wit’s end, tired, and who-knows-what-else.

“You try to give them a ‘Man, I know what you are going through,’” he explained. “Let them feel important. Let them feel you are there for them, personally, even if you are there for all of them [customers]. You have to remember that without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

Sidebar: Keep ‘Em Coming

In the June 25, 2007 issue, The NEWS asked contractors to supply names of the best counter people in the HVACR industry. Getting many nominations and praise was Mark Sapaugh, a counter person employed at the Carrier/Bryant Mid-South distributorship, Texarkana, Texas (see feature story above).

The NEWS does not want to stop here. Rather, it plans to periodically honor deserving counter people, the ones that are capable and do fill out orders with a smile, are always courteous and fun to be around, know the industry backwards and forwards, can locate a needed part in seconds flat, and/or can get a contractor back on the road swiftly with needed material in the truck.

To nominate a counter person that deserves to be so noted in a future issue of The NEWS, the following information is needed:

1. Full name of counter person;

2. Name of counter person’s place of employment;

3. City and state of counter person’s employer;

4. Phone number to counter person’s place of employment;

5. In 100 words (or however long or short you need it to be), tell us why this counter person (or persons) is so noteworthy. How and why does she/he stand out? What does he/she do that impresses you? Give examples of how this counter person supplies good customer service.

6. Nominators must include their full name, correct title, employer’s name, employer’s city and state, and must supply a contact number (phone number or e-mail address) for possible follow-up purposes.

E-mail the above requested information to NEWS news and legislation editor Angela D. Harris at angelaharris@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 10/01/2007  

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Counterperson Awards

John Witz
October 1, 2007
What a great article...More of these kind of stories should take center stage...It is all about taking care of the customer and obviously Mark understands that.....Thanks for the great work, News......

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