Monthly Archives: January 2018

Part 1: VP of Rental Operations On Valuing Customer Service

 

VP OF RENTAL OPERATIONS ON VALUING CUSTOMER SERVICE AND ENHANCING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Hugg & Hall Equipment Company is dedicated to providing excellence in customer service. The company strives to continuously improve and created the “Customer Service Series” as an outlet for sharing customer service ideas and strategies with the purpose to both enhance the experience of the Hugg & Hall customer and to provide a place for collaborative thinking.

 

In diverse, competitive markets distinguishing one’s business among customers and creating a loyal client-base is an essential aspect of remaining relevant. Rick Vollmer, Vice President of Rental Operations at Hugg & Hall Equipment Company (Hugg & Hall), recently shared his thoughts on the relevance of customer service and how it can affect business opportunities and brand reputation.

“We are a regional company,” said Vollmer. “Larger companies have greater buying power and resources, so when you take the same products and offer them to the public at comparable prices, even as our buying power increases, it’s important to deliver excellent customer service. We fight for customers everyday so we’re constantly trying to find ways to set ourselves apart. The obvious, and free, way is customer service. When you think of a high-priced product like a stay at a Ritz-Carlton, you expect to receive excellent customer service for the price. I believe that Chick-Fil-A proved that you can take a median-priced product and pair it with excellent customer service. You can marry any-priced product with high-priced customer service.”

Customer service is an intangible concept with no one definition. As such, discussing ideas on how to provide positive experiences for each customer can be wide-reaching. Vollmer shared his thoughts on how companies can create a culture of prioritizing customers.

“The one thing that never seems to get, in my opinion, the kind of attention that it needs is making the customer feel like they’ve made the right decision by calling here or deciding to do business with us,” said Vollmer. “I think that it’s important that the management team and I continue to stress, number one that it’s as important as getting something delivered on time, or washing it or buying new and selling old. Number one, the management team stressing customer service. I think that if people would just think ‘what would I want? What would I expect?’ because the person on the other end of the line or the customer of Hugg & Hall would expect the same thing.”

The implementation of a comprehensive customer service strategy requires the consideration of many factors in sizable organizations; delivering cohesive client service within a company housing many teams and departments can be a challenge with specific obstacles and frustrations.

“The most frustrating thing to me is that it is just not focused on,” said Vollmer. “It’s just not top of mind. I don’t believe that it’s a purposeful thing, it’s because we are all so focused on the task at hand or what’s staring at us in the face, so when it comes time to focus on customer service, we just forget.”

Vollmer stressed that customer service requires fluidity as opposed to a simple, traditional set of rules and processes. He touched on the importance of authenticity and actually valuing customers.

“I believe that customer service needs to be fluid and I think that if somebody just takes a minute and thinks ‘there’s probably a few areas where I can add some increased elements of customer service in what I do’ and comes up with what they think is the correct way to express a strong customer service concept then it does the job and it’s fluid and it’s genuine and someone can own it,” said Vollmer. “If you are going to commit to making customer service top of mind, also, commit to making it genuine. Be genuine about it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Vollmer spoke on the importance of valuing limited facetime with customers and how he’s been influenced by interactions with professionals at Genie Industries.  

“I was always impressed and influenced by Genie Industries and how they operated, as a company in the industrial equipment business,” said Vollmer. “When we would go out there to take a plant tour, they were the best at thanking us for our business. When we’d pass by a cubicle, they’d always turn and acknowledge us and were always really quick to thank us for our business. At the American Rental Association show, they would always have an event planned and they would never have their employees piled up together, they were always dispersed throughout the crowd and they were always meeting and thanking people, even if you had no idea what they did within the Genie organization or if you had no involvement with those particular people. Those opportunities are the best times to execute excellent customer service because it’s so hard to get in front of your customers.”

In order to understand how to deliver great customer service, it’s important to understand how negative customer service is demonstrated, Vollmer delineated.

“Terrible customer service, in my view, is giving the customer the impression that they’ve reached the wrong person and it’s not your job,” said Vollmer. “The biggest obstacle to great customer service is that people are quick to not get in somebody else’s square when it comes to helping a customer. If I don’t know the answer to a customer’s issue, I can find out.”

In order to avoid uniformity with industry competitors, importance is focused on standing out and offering value-added features to clients, this can be achieved through offering technology at the cusp of innovation, simplifying processes or providing excellence in customer service. Vollmer spoke on the importance of how client engagement can impact Hugg & Hall and combat homogeneity.

“I want to wave the flag because at this particular time and place, customer service is the one thing that can put us over the top,” said Vollmer. “If we and our competitors all basically have the same product, we’re all coming to the table with the same opportunity and we have to come to the table with something that’s better and different and can set ourselves apart. We have to have something different to talk about, and customer service is the thing that can set us apart. I’ve heard comments made from our customer base, from time-to-time, express that the customer service aspect and the people, sets us apart. We need to continue that and not take it for granted.”

Vollmer elaborated on the Hugg & Hall customer service mission statement, “make your customers’ needs your own,” and what that means for employees and how they should operate. He expanded on the mentality that just as companies strive to create loyal customers, companies should return loyalty.

“If a customer were to walk through the door with a complaint about something, I don’t have any qualms about making a decision to solve that problem and make them happy without having to ask anybody,” said Vollmer. “Making your customers’ needs your own is exactly what that means.”

“As we want loyalty from customers, customer service reciprocates loyalty on behalf of us back to the customer.”

When asked what advice he would give those striving to improve their customer service skills and to provide genuine, effective service to their customers, Vollmer stressed the importance of not shying away from taking action and making assertive decisions as it relates to customer service.

“Customer service is an easy word to fly around but it just seems so difficult sometimes to perform it,” said Vollmer. “As much time as we spend here, if it wasn’t here it’d be somewhere else. We all have to work. Why not put out that little extra effort and see what kind of return it brings, because it doesn’t cost anything.”

“Commit to making customer service a top of mind concept,” said Vollmer. “Remember you’ve been knighted to make decisions, fix problems and are allowed to outwardly express ideas. You can step out on a limb and not worry about it. You are allowed to make decisions and take action as it relates to customer service. A true, genuine act of customer service has the most value, it stays with people. It makes their decision-making process easier in the future.”

Teams should pivot toward instilling confidence in members, according to Vollmer, so that they will have the self-assurance and ability to make consequential decisions for the sake of excellent customer service.

The notion of a more open managerial style, to promote creativity and success, is a growing concept among entrepreneurs and business leaders. The idea is that using the more stringent, chain-of-command style stifles creativity and ones ability to improvise and solve problems, quickly. The open managerial style is designed to promote open communication among team members, regardless of title or position, in order to create a more effective service style and to eliminate any slow-paced, closed-door environment. In the context of customer service, this style gives employees the ability to be more decisive and to serve clients effectively without the perpetual consent of superiors. 

“In my mind it resonates ultimately the type of thing John and Robert allow in their business,” said Vollmer, referring to John Hugg, President/owner, and Robert Hall, Vice President/owner. “There probably was a time that I thought there were things that I couldn’t do and decisions that I couldn’t make, but a long time ago I shifted to believe that taking action is what was needed in order for things to get done and, it turns out, that is in line with what John and Robert think. I think if people just stop and think about that for a minute, then customer service at this organization would be a whole lot easier.”

 

 

ANSI UPDATE: Ready Or Not, The New Standards Are Here

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is on the cusp of implementing new standards for boom and scissor-type lifts which have significant implications for the construction, equipment rental and equipment sales industries.

The new standards dictating design, calculations, safety requirements and test methods (A92.20- 201X) for aerial work platforms, now referred to as Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs), are nearing implementation, according to the Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA), which has been developing safety guides for the aerial platform industry for more than 35 years and is an accredited standards developer for ANSI. The updated safety and training standards (A92.22- 201X and A92.24- 201X) have been approved by the standards committee and are on hold for implementation until the design standards reach approval, according to the SAIA. The design standards haven’t reached approval due to six appeals during the appeal period, three of which requested hearings. Two of the three hearings have been conducted and the third, and final, hearing is scheduled for January 12. The appeal panel has 30 days to render a decision. Based on the decision, the proposed standard could either be sent to ANSI for final approval/implementation, or sent back out to the committee for further review. At this time, it appears as though the standards may be officially for publication in the spring of 2018.

Manufacturers will be required to supply compliant machines within one year of publication of the new standards. That is, machinery manufactured in the year after publication can be built to comply with either the old or the new standards. Any machinery built after this time will be required to comply with the new standards. Existing machines will not be required to comply with the new standards and will remain approved for use.

The new regulations are replacing prior ANSI standards A92.3, A92.5, A92.6 and A92.8 which covered manually propelled aerial, booms, scissors and under-bridge inspection machines. The standards dictate stability, testing and safety requirements to manufacturers so that consumers are provided certified and safe machines for use. The updates are focused on moving North American equipment toward current global standards to reduce variances.

The updates to regulation will include:

  • Terminology changes
  • Platform load sensing technology requirements
  • New wind force requirements
  • New stability testing
  • New railing height requirements
  • New platform entry requirements

Read more in depth about what the new standards will entail and some of the causes and effects in our prior articles here and here.

 

2018 Guide To Mastering Productivity

  1. Work Smarter

    Everyone has probably heard the idiom “work smarter, not harder.” Everyday work processes can be improved upon, even slightly, to better efficiency. A continuous improvement protocol and seeking constructive feedback is a surefire way to expedite tasks and free more time for other responsibilities 

  2. Capitalize On Your Mornings

    Many people have proven to be more productive during morning hours. When working on important tasks and deadlines, it’s important to take advantage of your peak productivity hours for maximum results. Whether you are more productive after a night’s sleep or are an afternoon worker bee, the message is the same: seize upon your peak hours to be your most productive.

  3. Cut Out The Waste 

    Some tasks are unavoidable and some tasks are unnecessary and done out of habit. Make it a priority to take regular looks at your standard procedures. Restructure your work habits, when necessary, to eliminate outdated or unnecessary procedures. Use the extra time to enact a system that helps you reach your professional goals.

  4. Take Breaks 

    Though it may sound counter intuitive, taking regular breaks has actually been shown to improve productivity. Working yourself into the ground without giving your brain a break is good for no one. Eliminating breaks from your routine will accelerate burn out and result in less successful outcomes. Do yourself, and your career, a favor by occasionally stepping away from your desk or project. 

  5. Minimize Multitasking 

    Multitasking is a necessary aspect to many jobs. That being said, studies have shown that better productivity is associated with focusing on one task at a time. Juggling many tasks at a time can decrease efficiency and, more importantly, your results may not be reflective of your potential. Try to minimize multitasking, when possible, in order to focus on your most time-sensitive project and then move on to the next. 

  6. Allot Specific Time Slots For Email Traffic 

    Spending too much time fielding email traffic is time-consuming, burdensome and may negatively impact your professional performance. Instead, try allocating specific time periods to focus on responding to/sending emails so that you can fully focus on other tasks without the distraction. If the message is imperative you, most likely, will be receiving a phone call.

  7. Immediate Action

    It’s easy to put your great idea on the back burner with well intentions of returning to it later. It’s even easier to forget about your great idea and never follow-up. Taking immediate steps toward making your idea a reality is important to guarantee it is realized. Even baby steps are better than no action. Shake off the procrastination and take immediate action to improve productivity and results.

  8. Declutter

    A messy work space is distracting and can create stress. Keeping your space neat and organized will reduce distractions and allow for a methodical area for your productivity to thrive. Take the extra few moments to keep your space organized and stress-free: your productivity may benefit. 

  9. Have A Passion Project

    The daily grind of an uninspiring job can catapult you into an uninventive rut and keep you there. Having a passion project, or working on ideas that motivate and stimulate you, will combat falling into this trap. Correspondingly, incorporating and pitching new ideas can result in better efficacy and better production output. When you start to feel uninspired try to conceptualize an idea of which you’re passionate or try brainwashing some new ideas.

  10. Have Systems And Procedures

    This tip might be the most obvious. Having a list of standard desk procedures and step-by-step processes for your team to incorporate will better efficiency and will also promote a collaborative environment for bettering these processes, when necessary. 

  11. Cut Out Unnecessary Meetings

    Much like spending too much time fielding emails will lower productivity, having unnecessary and time-consuming meetings will do the same. Some meetings are very necessary. It’s important to communicate directives and goals with your team but if you find yourself spending too much time meeting about projects as opposed to working on them, it’s probably time to cut out some of the meetings.

  12. Exercise And Stay Hydrated

    Your health isn’t independent of your work performance. Irregular sleep and exercise has been directly linked to under performance, professionally. Making a habit of getting sufficient sleep and ample exercise will affect your productivity for the better. Similarly, staying hydrated is an important facet of remaining energized and productive.

  13. Make A To Don’t List

    No One can do everything and remain productive. Know your goals and don’t accept every opportunity if it doesn’t get you closer to reaching those goals. Make a list of common requests that you know will be time-wasters. This can be your “to-don’t list.” Having a list will make it easier to gracefully decline these requests when necessary for the sake of productivity.

  14. Optimize Your Commute Time

    A sign of very productive people is the characteristic of taking advantage of available time. Seize upon your commute time to listen to an audio book or subscribe to some professional Alexa Daily Flash Briefings, which provide short, educational anecdotes from industry leaders and popular podcasts. Not only will you have spent your time constructively but it will help ease the sometimes-stressful task of commuting.

  15. Get Lost

    Hand-in-hand with limiting multitasking, is making yourself unavailable for the purpose of focus. A winning recipe for maximum productivity, for many, involves full immersion into the crucial project at hand. Turning your phone off, finding a quiet space or other strategies for “getting lost” or away from daily processes and constant phone calls/emails may be the needed adjustment to improve productivity and ensure results.