My friend Heiner Wolters, responsible for sales of industrial heating system plants, recently told me an incredible story from his field.
He had been working for a world market leader for many years at that time and told me about a sales situation in the Portugal market, for which he was then responsible. Service was becoming more and more important, because the harsh competitive pressure meant that more profits were now generated from service revenues than from sales.
Heiner Wolters was extraordinarily successful and had managed to win a number of new customers. This brought him a great deal of appreciation both from his colleagues in the store and from headquarters.
Nevertheless, he realized that customer satisfaction had been falling steadily for 6 months. He heard this from some of his customers’ feedback, as well as much more clearly from his colleagues in the field. He himself noticed that while new customers could be won every now and then, orders from some long-standing customers failed to materialize.
He could not explain the situation and called on all the resources at his disposal, such as sales figures, customer analyses, salesperson evaluations. However, the documents did not allow any significant conclusions to be drawn and the problem could not be narrowed down.
So, Heiner Wolters travelled to Lisbon again to analyze and discuss the situation on site. He urgently appointed a management and vendor meeting and addressed the documents and key figures he had analysed up to that point. Some new information came in, but again it was not possible to get to the root of the problem.
He met with some of his existing customers as well as some new customers and asked for honest and straightforward feedback. A few new points came up, but without any precise result.
Well, he thought to himself, maybe it’s a result of many different factors and then it can’t be worked on in more detail. Finally, he met with a long-time colleague and discussed the situation in the market, also without a precise result.
However, this colleague gave him a tip: he had worked in a similar situation with a specialized institute, TEMA-Q, who had helped him a lot with their clarity, oversight and expertise.
He travelled to a town called Meinersen and found TEMA-Q. There he put his cards on the table.
Heiner Wolters was surprised by the very structured approach of these experts. Together they worked out the numerous touchpoints and feedback channels of the Portuguese customers.
From the initial contact of the salesperson, the needs analysis, quote generation, information on the delivery date, the delivery process, material quality, the process of installation and commissioning, the competencies of the installers and service personnel, occupational health and safety, environmental protection, project management, communication, and accessibility to documentation.
The institute presented an event-related survey of the customers, which covered the CHP plant, the sales process as well as the service. In addition, however, field service logs, customer relationship management data, key operational figures and personal experiences were also included. Heiner Wolters had not yet looked at his business so systematically, and he placed the order.
After a few weeks, the first results were available. In the case of the customers, it was not only the management that was surveyed. What was also important was the information provided by the employees and people at the individual touchpoints, who could actually assess the respective survey point. For this purpose, there were special interviews that provided a specific view of the respective situations. The anonymized interviews were recorded, written down and processed using a coding system.
Only now did Heiner Wolters understand that professionals were needed for questioning techniques and coding systems. He now felt that his activity in Portugal had only been a random sample.
Thus, after 6 months, a structured customer feedback system could be established. Heiner Wolters invited his management and asked the experts of TEMA-Q to present the developed results. The result amazed everyone present.
You will find the solution of the riddle in the next article of TQ magazine.
Jürgen Mohr & Martin Plötz