Jason, Rocky and Bullwinkle
“I am a wholesaler trying to promote my company, myself, and my products in a new territory. I am thinking about designing a brochure to hand out to contractors to show them what I have to offer. What would catch your eye, and make you consider using a different supplier. Job pictures, product pictures, pricing?”
Good stuff, right? And as you can imagine, the contractors weren’t shy about answering this guy. They focused on customer service and having the products that you sell in stock for them. It’s also important to them that the counter people understand the products, and that a real person answer the phone so the contractor doesn’t have to ride the voicemail merry-go-round. Then one of the guys told this story about above-and-beyond customer service.
“It was a large radiant order that had run late (from the manufacturer, not the supply house). As the old saw goes, it was a dark and stormy night. Literally! There was a driving rain and the temperature was in the 40s. It was a night not fit for man or beast, and we had beasts to spare on that mountaintop jobsite. No lions, or tigers, but regular visits by bears, raccoons, porcupines and wild turkeys.
“The materials arrived at the supply house late in the week, and my wholesaler knew we needed them ASAP. Imagine our surprise when the owner of the supply house and his wife arrived, in the dark and in the pouring rain, to deliver the goods. The Mrs. got out of that comfortable box-truck cab and got just as wet and muddy as the rest of us did. This was way above and beyond the call of duty, and that was just one example of their dedication to exceptional service. Their attitude filters down to all of their employees.”
Would you do that? Would your wife or husband go along for the ride, and then get out of the truck to help? I think this wholesaler has a customer for life. If you were a contractor, reading a new guy’s brochure, would a story such as this one sway you? Hey, who doesn’t want this sort of service? But how many are willing to offer it. I think there’s much to learn in other people’s stories.
Which brings me to Jason, Rocky, and Bullwinkle. Rocky is a regular contributor to the Wall bulletin board at HeatingHelp.com. He works out of Fairbanks, Alaska, and each winter, while people from the Lower-48 are bitching and moaning about their working conditions, Rocky sets us straight. Someone will ask how cold it is up there and Rocky will mention that it’s, oh, about 50-below zero, and has been for days and days. Which really doesn’t register on the human mind, does it? I mean, unless you’ve worked in these conditions. To help us understand, Rocky tells us that if you toss a cup of steaming hot coffee into air that cold, not a drop of coffee will hit the ground. “The whole thing just vaporizes,” he says. Rocky’s stories always make me want to run and turn up the thermostat, so I wasn’t that surprised when he shared this one with us. It’s about Jason, his wholesaler’s salesman. You might want to put on a sweater before you read any further. Here’s Rocky:
“I, too, have a story of a wholesaler going above and beyond. We had to install two Buderus boilers in a remote Alaskan village at the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers. My wholesaler who sold me the supplies for this job told me he wanted to help me install this system so he could get a better understanding of how all these components worked as a system – to better understand why I needed the things I needed. He drove with me in my pickup for four hours out of Fairbanks, the last two hours over a horrendous, non-maintained gravel road, towing my river boat behind us all the way, to a remote village at the end of the road system. We launched my boat with all my tools, food, spare gas, etc. at this village and drove the boat 85 miles downstream in a raging snowstorm to the confluence of the Yukon. We started in on the Buderuses (Buderi?) at the Tanana Village elder's home. This is an old-folk’s home for the native elders of all the Yukon's many villages. My salesman worked right along with us for two-and-a-half straight days, ripping out old monster boilers and piping and installing the Buderi, Caleffi hydros-separators, pumps, piping, and everything else.
“The first night we were there, I noticed a skinned moose skull sitting on the table in the small kitchen they use to make food for the residents. It still had the eyes, brains, tongue; you name it – just no hide. It was still there on the second night, just sitting on the table in this 75-degree room. Apparently, they were going to have a potlatch for one of the elders the next day, and they wanted to let the moose skull ‘ripen’ a little to make a good moose-head soup. Yummie!
“After the job was finished, I sent the rest of my crew home on a single-engine Cessna, while Jason and I saddled up the river boat and headed back upstream, 85 miles to my truck. Then four hours back to Fairbanks. Jason did all of this without pay, just so he could ‘understand my business’ a little better. Do you reckon he gets about 95% of all my business?
When I started in the business in 1970, working for a manufacturer’s rep, I was 20 years old and had zero experience in the field. They sent me out on the road a few years later to call on fuel-oil dealers in and around New York City. My head was filled with books, but there was no dirt under my fingernails. So when I’d call on an oil dealer, I’d ask if I could work with their best technician for a day or two. I’d carry the tools and do whatever they told me to do. The oil dealers took me up on my offer and the technicians beat the snot out of me, and this is how I began my real education in this business. I did this over and over again until I understood what their lives are like, what they need and want, and what it’s like to do this every day. I did this until I learned, and until I appreciated it all.
Oh, we did ask Rocky about the Bullwinkle soup. Here’s what he told us:
“I conveniently found some other place to be when they served up the soup. ‘Oh, darn, you already served the soup? I was so wanting a big, heaping, steaming bowl of those fermented moose brains.’
“Some of the things the traditional elders eat in these villages are just a wee bit different from what you and I eat, but the folks were just as nice as they could be, and very appreciative of our work. All fuel has to be barged in during the summer, while the Yukon is open. Needless to say, we have no reason to complain about our fuel-oil prices. They are paying about eight dollars a gallon. The two Buderi, a 100-gallon indirect, and an outdoor-reset staging control, along with proper piping and pumps, made a difference. We cut their fuel bill in half, and gave them better comfort and more hot water at the same time. It’s good to be the hero sometimes!
It is good to be the hero. And I think that’s what these two wholesalers have become to their contractor customers. Heroes.