In July, Carrier announced that it would be launching a company-owned and operated sales and distribution network in Southern California for its residential and commercial HVACR products.
The new network will take the place of independent Carrier distributors in Southern California, whose agreement expires in September. Each of the approximately 20 company-operated locations will bear the Totaline name and offer a complete line of Carrier, Bryant, Payne, and Totaline brands, as well as a full complement of third-party ancillary products and accessories.
Carrier’s goal is to have its Southern California sales and distribution network fully operational by September, and company personnel have been working feverishly this summer to secure leases for buildings, staff the new locations, and most of all, reassure its dealers that the changeover will not interrupt their supply of products.
LEADING THE WAYThe person in charge of this massive undertaking is Elizabeth “Liz” Haggerty, who has been appointed vice president and general manager of Carrier’s new Southern California sales and distribution operation. She has been with Carrier for 17 years, most recently serving as general manager of Carrier’s Texas sales and distribution operation.
“This is a key market for us in terms of continuing to grow our share and market presence,” said Haggerty. “We have a proven track record of running successful distribution within Carrier, and we took this as an opportunity to establish our distribution business here to ensure the strength of our brands, and support the success of our customers for the longer term.”
That’s no small task, given that the company basically had to start from scratch, procuring facilities, hiring employees, and continuing to support the dealers. Obviously, local dealers have had a lot of questions about the transition, so Carrier has been conducting numerous town hall-style meetings to discuss the new distribution network.
“Dealers want to know where the facilities are going to be, who will be calling on them, etc.,” said Haggerty. “We’ve been sharing details to answer those questions with customers, both on a one-on-one basis and also at these town hall meetings, and the response to our planned network and services has been extremely positive. We’ll continue to hold these meetings through September to keep our customers informed, as well as help alleviate any concerns they might have during the transition.”
While customers are cautious about the transition, noted Haggerty, they have also been very interactive in expressing their expectations, not only as it relates to product availability but also the importance of service levels and the relationships with their salespeople. It is on this latter point that dealers have been particularly vocal, and they have helped Carrier’s recruitment efforts by recommending salespeople with whom they have enjoyed working with previously.
Dealers have also been helpful in identifying optimum locations for the new Totaline stores. Based on their input, as well as a careful analysis of where most of the business takes place in the area, a 200,000-square-foot distribution facility is planned for City of Industry. In addition, three 50,000- to 70,000-square-foot mini-hubs will be geographically dispersed to serve the different zones around Los Angeles, and a separate hub will be located in San Diego.
“We’ve thought a lot about how to strategically locate our distribution network in the outlying areas to be more agile and flexible to meet customer requirements. L.A. is a very congested area, and delivery is a huge issue here,” said Haggerty. “For us to be more flexible, we will have different truck fleets in each of our mini-hubs and in our hubs, which will make it a lot easier to service our customers. We are confident after validating this model with customers over the last couple of months that we can offer an enhanced delivery system to this market.”
FACTORY BENEFITSOnce the company-operated network is fully up and running, dealers will see a number of benefits, particularly in the areas of pricing, service, support, advertising, and training, said Haggerty. “We look at things from a more comprehensive, long-horizon perspective, which gives us some leeway to get a little more creative and manage through the competitive dynamics that go on in the market.”
In terms of service, Carrier has been actively recruiting from the existing distribution community in order to provide continuity of relationships as much as possible. The goal is to hire the best local people in the industry, and to do that, “We’ve asked for a lot of input from the local folks, regarding what’s most important to them and have geared our hiring efforts to exceed their expectations,” said Haggerty.
A new training manager will oversee a wide array of training opportunities at the local Totaline stores, including those for employees as well as customers. “We will have a huge focus on employee development and training in our organization to ensure that we deliver a high level of service,” said Haggerty. “In addition, training for our customers is very key and has been our traditional strength. We will provide both product and technical training, as well as business training designed to help our customers grow their top line and enhance their profitability.”
While Haggerty stated that these are just a few of the benefits dealers will realize when working with a factory-operated distributor, she is quick to point out that dealers will not see a difference otherwise.
“We operate locally, and we make decisions locally. We won’t just be an extension of the factory. For customers, it will be like they’re working with any small business. We fully recognize we must earn our customers’ business every day by exceeding their expectations with our local service and helping them grow their business. Our team is totally dedicated to delivering on that promise. We look forward to building our relationships with our customers in Southern California and will continue to reach out to help them make a smooth transition.”