The one thing Electrical Wholesaling's editors learned from their recent survey of electrical distributors' customers is that the basic rules of customer service haven't really changed that much. Electrical contractors and other end users are very vocal about what they expect from electrical distributors, and they got us thinking about what it would take to build the perfect electrical distributor, one that would be absolutely first class in the aspects of customer service that contractors and other end users value most. This company would have the traits listed below.

A counter where knowledgeable, friendly salespeople help customers pick up their orders as fast as possible can't be beat. Time is money and customers don't want to waste time at the counter.

A website that offers online shopping, purchasing and order tracking. The distributors with these capabilities will have a solid advantage over those companies that insist on doing business as usual.

The knowledge that pricing is an important consideration, but that it's more important to build a service model around product availability. You have heard this for years, but it's an evergreen truth that remains critically important. Your customers don't care about the wonders of central distribution centers and hub-and-spoke delivery systems. They want the product when and where they need it, no excuses.

Stellar interpersonal skills. Returning phone calls promptly, greeting customers as soon as they enter the counter area and following up on customer questions can cement your reputation as a can-do electrical distributor.

The smartest salespeople in town. In addition to these common courtesies, your customers still expect the best salespeople to be dependable sources of information on new products and good listeners who can find the right products for unusual applications. As you will learn in the article, “Death of an Outside Salesperson” (page 34), written by Brett Patterson, a long-time salesperson for Ohio's Becker Electric Co., customers really value salespeople who can provide these services.

The ability to learn from competitors. Whether you like it or not, your customers still measure your company's service, pricing and product availability against what they get at Home Depot and Lowe's. Sure, home centers don't offer the same variety or depth of inventory as electrical distributors. But EW's editors found home centers help set customers' service expectations. This includes self-service merchandising and online purchasing on your website.

It's so easy to say, but so hard to do in the real world.

FERRAZ SHAWMUT BRAND ALIVE AND WELL AT MERSEN

Jim Kosciolek, vice president of sales for the Electrical Protection Business of Mersen USA, Newburyport, Mass., pointed out an inaccuracy regarding the Ferraz Shawmut brand in the EW article, “Top News Stories of 2010,” which was published in the December issue. The name is not being erased in the U.S. market and will still be used for all existing fuses that have previously been marketed under the Ferraz Shawmut brand and new fuse products. New non-fuse products, such as Mersen's new line of UL and NEC compliant surge protection devices, will use the Mersen name. EW regrets the error.

The company changed its name to Mersen last year to reflect the name change at its parent company Carbone Lorraine, Paris, France. Carbone Lorraine and all its subsidiaries are now known as Mersen. In announcing the name change last June, Daniel Beaudron, vice president and general manager for Mersen's North American Electrical Protection Business, said in a press release, “The name change reflects a corporate-wide strategic initiative to unify our vision, product solutions and markets. Over time, we found that our various subsidiaries were catering to the same markets with complementary product solutions. In a global marketplace, it just makes sense to operate under one name. It focuses us all on a common goal.”