John Impson, Product Support Sales Manager, on Taking Ownership of Customers’ Needs
Hugg & Hall Equipment Company is dedicated to providing excellence in customer service. The company strives to continuously improve and created the “Customer Service Spotlight” 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.
Hugg & Hall’s business structure, with independent business units for each sector of the organization (parts, service, rental and sales), spawn’s unique challenges for the professionals in each sector. With unique challenges comes unique strategies and different approaches to delivering excellent customer service. John Impson, Product Support Sales Manager for the Southern Region, recently spoke on the challenges that product support team members face and the importance of conveying a message of consideration and caring to the customer.
“A big part of what we do is taking care of people whose equipment is not operating properly or as designed and they are needing our support,” said Impson. “In those cases, when someone has a piece of equipment that is critical to their business operations, we have to communicate the message that we genuinely care about their issue and that we are going to do everything we possibly can to get them back up and going. Whether we are face-to-face with them or talking to them via phone or email and regardless of the words we use.”
Product support professionals are an integral component of the overall Hugg & Hall business model. As is common among many industries and sales professions, the Hugg & Hall whole goods salesman is credited for the first sale, but the Hugg & Hall product support sales and operation teams are often held responsible for the second and following equipment sales. Customer service is critical to the long-term success of company. Impson believes that another key to great customer service is proactivity and having timely and effective communication with the customer.
Impson emphasized the importance of a sense of urgency, proactive problem solving and effective communication.
“A keen sense of urgency and integrity is especially important in the product support role,” said Impson. “Good news needs to travel fast, but bad news has to travel faster. Customer service will always be better when it’s proactive rather than reactive. The ability to figure out what options are available coupled with a sense of urgency with the goal of resolving the issue as quickly as possible will always be a big deal in the world of product support.”
In product support, when a customer has a problem and time is limited, it’s especially important to work with persistence and to operate with complete transparency.
“The way we teach our people, which is the way that John and Robert taught me a long time ago, is that if you stop at the first no, you will never succeed,” said Impson, referring to John Hugg, President/Owner, and Robert Hall, Vice President/Owner. “It’s all about problem solving. It’s the element of figuring how to solve a specific or unique problem as quickly as we can. I tell our people and our customers that we will reach into as many hats as it takes to pull out the proverbial rabbit. And in most cases, we succeed but in those rare instances where we don’t, that’s when it’s critical that the customer know and believe that we did everything in our power to get them back to happy, healthy and whole.”
Impson stressed the importance of implementing the Hugg & Hall policy to “make the customer’s needs your own.”
“It’s the Golden Rule,” said Impson. “You’re always going to take great care of yourself. For instance, if you are traveling on your way to a dream vacation and you get to the airport only to find out your flight has been cancelled, you don’t cancel the trip. You dig in and make other arrangements and make it happen. It’s amazing how much more effective we are when we engage our jobs with this simple but profound rule: treat others as you want to be treated.”
Treating customers’ needs with a sense of urgency and as one’s own helps to develop a healthy and professional relationship with the customer. One of the priorities of the Hugg & Hall product support professional is to establish mutual trust and respect so that the business relationship will withstand difficult situations.
“When you’ve earned the customer’s trust and confidence to the point that they know that you’ve pulled out every stop and made use of every available resource to resolve a particular issue, then in those cases where we don’t fix the issue as thoroughly or as quickly as everyone had hoped, the customer may not be happy, healthy and whole, but they usually aren’t looking for a new vendor either,” said Impson.
Impson spoke about the importance of spending time with customers and learning the details of their business as it relates to building professional relationships based on trust and confidence.
“I think one of the biggest ways we can continue to improve our customer service is to focus on spending time in our territories, seeing customers and learning to anticipate frustrations,” said Impson. “Seeing the frustration before it’s ever articulated to us can only happen by being out in the territory. It has to be intentional.”
The operational policy of Hugg & Hall allows professionals to be creative and confident in how they provide great customer service, according to Impson.
“One of the admirable things about how our company operates is how John and Robert have created this environment and culture where we are able to go about doing our jobs of taking care of our customers as entrepreneurs,” said Impson. “Our culture puts each of us in the position of being an entrepreneur. It’s as close as you’ll get to owning your own business with the added bonus of not having all those additional stresses and responsibilities.”
Impson provided an anecdote of truly understanding how Hugg & Hall approaches customer service.
“Robert Hall has the best one liners,” said Impson. “One of my favorites that speaks to the core issue of customer service is ‘If you are going to eat crow, don’t nibble!’ The point of that expression is for us to challenge ourselves every day. To not do the least we can to resolve an issue, but rather, do the absolute most and best we can to make things right.”
When asked what advice he’d give to those trying to improve customer service, Impson kept it simple.
“I think genuine and sincere concern for others is the best way to improve customer service,” said Impson. “Do the right thing. Care about the person. Care about their business. It goes back to the Golden Rule.”