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Part two of this three-part article focuses on working with supply partners to educate customers.
A lot of customers may not even be aware of their options. That’s where communication and education become very important tools in a BSC’s customer relations arsenal.
“Education is key,” says Murch. “Customers can’t value or appreciate what they don’t know. When we make recommendations, we justify them and show them the value and benefits of making those changes.”
Helping BSCs’ customer education efforts are their partner suppliers. Tricia McCune, national accounts manager for GP Pro in Atlanta, serves as 4M’s supply partner. A lot of contractors may not even be aware that the supplier-BSC partnership exists.
“Knowing that relationship exists is a help not only to the manufacturer, but to the contractor as well as the client on site,” says McCune.
Supply partners can join BSCs for new client site surveys and serve as both a supply-side expert and an advocate for the BSC’s best interests.
“We know what’s going on in terms of the towel and tissue dispensing markets — what’s the latest and greatest in terms of sustainability and LEED, cost reduction and usage reduction,” says McCune. “It’s a good marriage of partnership to have Tim’s team be the experts on what the client needs are, and us being able to present a solution to meet those needs.”
In fact, McCune says, the partnership is so strong that Murch could call upon her to consult directly with customers and even present on his behalf.
Murch acknowledges the leverage this supplier partnership provides.
“We rely upon our partners, and they are a big part of our success,” says Murch. “We meet semi-annually with our supply partners. The expectation is that they will present the latest in technology and product offerings so we’re aware and can introduce these things to our clients.”
Change Doesn’t Always Come Easy
Although addressing restroom towel and dispenser needs may seem cut and dried, it’s not always that easy. Customer relationships depend so much upon effective two-way communication, it’s integral to understand customers’ perceptions of their own needs and expectations of service.
Ultimately, it’s about finding practical solutions. And oftentimes, a win for the customer is also a win for a BSC.
“Good restroom solutions allow us to help each other out, because a good dispenser with the right kind of paper for the situation means we won’t need to provide — and they won’t need to pay for — additional labor for restocking or portering,” says Murch. “Most of our cost is labor so anything we can do to be more productive and more cost-effective will provide more value for our customers. That’s where dispensers come into play; they really address that.”
When customers aren’t ready for immediate change, it’s best to revisit the topic periodically — particularly if the restroom setups are creating hardships or complaints for cleaning crews.
“Once you present justification for new solutions based on ongoing restroom issues, customers usually come around,” says Murch.
One common scenario Murch encounters when taking on a new customer is a restroom equipped with proprietary dispensers requiring a certain type of paper product that were put in prior to 4M taking over the account.
In other cases, customers have been dealing with dispensers that are not functioning well or are broken. That can mean, for example, that full toilet paper rolls aren’t dropping or transitioning like they’re supposed to, the soap dispenser pump is broken, or paper towel is getting caught in the dispenser.
“Changing mindsets to allow a more practical, more cost-effective dispenser and product can be a challenge,” says Murch. “That’s when we bring in our supply partner and work out an arrangement to replace those dispensers.”
It may take additional time and effort in changing out those old dispensers, but many customers understand that change needs to happen.
“If we’ve done our job and they’re receptive to our suggestions for change and we’ve got the right products and dispensers in there, it’s really kind of out of sight, out of mind,” says Murch.