Success in the Heavy Building Materials industry is much more than simply the right product with the right admix and slump delivered in the right truck at the right time. It begins when the salesperson bids and wins the job. And immediately getting the data into the project’s file means that the dispatchers won’t have to fumble for the information, make excuses, and or cast blame on the salesperson. Having the customer’s information at the ready presents a professional front. Additionally, the customer feels well-served, important, and confident that you are familiar with him and his project.
The Importance of High-Quality Phone Service
The phone system is crucial in the customer service formula. It must be quick and effortless for the customer placing an order. A single direct phone number to the dispatch office is best. Non-central dispatch offices need a direct number for each plant. This is one of the many reasons why central dispatch with a single phone number is best. If a phone system is installed, it should have the dispatch office as the caller’s first choice. Answer with a phrase like, “Thanks for calling (your company). To place or change an order please press 1. For sales press 2, etc..” This helps eliminate non-dispatch related calls and speeds up the process.
Try to answer 80 percent of the calls within three rings. If this cannot be done, you are understaffed. Do a study of when most of your calls come in, and staff accordingly. It may be a part-time position by a salesclerk, salesman, or other office workers. But keep in mind that steady call volumes require a full-time position. For the other 20 percent, try some educational messages rather than elevator music. Consider walking the caller through topics like will calls, advanced notice, ordered vs. maximum quantity, hot weather and cold weather concreting, site preparation, and others they may benefit from hearing.
Staff the phones with knowledgeable people who can speak to the company, its products and services, and the industry. Customers do not like talking to some who has to ask someone else for answers. This is why it is so important to have an accurate and current schedule for everyone to view. Most producers do not have training classes for dispatchers, which is a pity. Sure, they can learn on-the-job, but they will learn what the other dispatchers know and value, which can sometimes include mistakes or inefficient methods. For example, I once visited a producer who had answers to their customers’ questions on a posted card, similar to desert or drink menus in restaurants. The customer service representative (CSR) could flip to the correct answer quickly and provide an accurate and correct response. This is an effective method, but it’s vital that the CSR’s answers don’t come across as scripted. This is a major turnoff to callers seeking solutions and information.
Explain any special conditions at this time. Mention rules about leaving the street and going off-road. Get a consensus as to when the customer will call to release his will call and what will happen if they don’t. Get an order quantity and a maximum quantity, and then schedule for the maximum. Ask about future business to avoid short notice on potential orders.
Quickly Enter a Customer’s Information
Enter the order while the customer is on the phone so all of the information is captured accurately. This avoids surprises like if the customer is on a credit hold, job, lot, or if block numbers are required as is a purchase order number. Read the order back to the customer when finished, and provide the computer-assigned number as a confirmation number. This also makes searching for his order when he wants to change it or reference it later much quicker.
If you find that you are running late during the day, call the customer immediately. Waiting and hoping only makes things worse.
Lastly, invoice him quickly (for your benefit) and accurately (for his). Once in awhile, do a survey to see how you are doing, and take to heart what the customer has to say.
About Just Ask Jim:
Jim Wagner, known to some as the Grandfather of Dispatch, delivers best practices and helpful hints for the industry in the topics of dispatch and customer service. To see Jim in action, he will be conducting classes at ELEVATE, Construction's Heavy Work Conference & Expo, in Chicago Nov 3-6. Find out more about ELEVATE here.