TYLER, TX — A strong supply chain requires strong links. To help ensure premiere service at every level, manufacturers like American Standard are promoting premier programs for highly motivated dealers.

The American Standard Customer Care™ dealer program is designed to ensure customers of 100% satisfaction from quality, trained dealers. Developed around “the customer is always right” philosophy, a key element of the program is a brief customer survey after every new installation or service job. The feedback received is relayed to the dealer, with the intention that a problem needing attention will receive an immediate response.

Those contractors who sign up for the Customer Care program and agree to its guidelines receive comprehensive training from the company, both from the marketing and technical standpoint. The News sat in on a recent weeklong training session here to see what was presented to the dealers. This article focuses on the marketing coverage; the accompanying story covers the technical aspects.

Paul Trotter, American Standard brand team leader, kicked off the session. With several new dealers in attendance, he provided a quick introduction to the company and followed with a brief introduction to the program.

Although the company may be best known for its plumbing products, Trotter noted that it gets 60% of its revenues from air conditioning products. For a number of years now it has applied vertical integration, making its own compressors and other components.

In 1968, the company divested itself of its hvac business. But in 1984, it acquired Trane and got back into the business.

In 1988, the company relaunch-ed the American Standard brand. The brand was put on replacement products that year and the firm started developing dealer programs.

The company saw a slow, steady growth in distribution and, by 1995, it had enough distribution nationwide to begin a national advertising campaign. It now has approximately 75 distributors and 5,000 dealers.

Taking Care of Customers, Dealers

The heart of this program, said Trotter, is a customer satisfaction survey. The customer is surveyed by phone or over the Internet. The company then relays the survey results to the dealer. A number of 80 or below generates a fax alert to the dealer who must then take quick action to address the issue or issues brought up by the customer.

“We need to keep the customer satisfied,” Trotter said. “Resolving complaints promptly can bring glowing recommendations.”

As this suggests, working to satisfy the customer also “works to help make the dealer more profitable,” said Trotter.

With the goal of “a customer for life,” the program will naturally help profitability over the long haul. More immediately, the company offers such benefits as a dealer website, customer referrals, ad kits, exclusive training, truck leasing, and insurance programs.

Joyce Warrington, brand marketing manager, then acquainted dealers with the 2001 spring consumer marketing campaign and discussed more of the program benefits.

A national television advertising campaign was initiated on April 16. The ad offers no payments until 2002 and a free “At Home With Comfort” video. A consumer who inquires gets the names of the four closest dealers. If the consumer indicates he/she has an immediate need, the local distributor is contacted who will then contact a dealer.

A second element is Internet lead generation through the company’s americanstandardair.com website. The site includes a dealer locator which provides the contractor’s name, address, phone, and link to the dealer’s website. For those who don’t have a website, the company will help them build one. A 2001 initiative is 100% participation in its Customer Care dealer websites.

“About half have linked websites at present,” stated Warrington. There is no charge to set up a website.

She pointed out that a significant percentage of customers do search for information on the Web. These careful shoppers who do research before they buy are called “maximizers.” These people represent about 20% to 30% of the population, she said, and their numbers are growing.

Other benefits of the program, Warrington added, are a special Yellow Pages listing, truck leasing through Ford, business insurance, dealer identification, and out-of-warranty parts concession. With the concession program, if a dealer thinks a part beyond warranty should be replaced at no cost to the consumer, American Standard pays for the part and the dealer takes care of labor, to keep the customer satisfied.

Additional marketing-related presentations provided during the week covered brand awareness and customer relations.

Also, dealers were walked through a variety of technical discussions to give them the lowdown on the company’s range of heating and cooling products. (See related article, below.) This combination of customer service and technical expertise is designed to give dealers the edge in achieving the highest standards of customer satisfaction.

Publication date: 05/14/2001