Survey Says...

Nov. 2, 2006

About the author: Carl Davidson and Ric Harry are directors of Sales and Management Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales & management video training, recruiting and live seminars exclusively for the water equipment industry. A free demonstration video and list of products and topics is available at 800.941.0068. Send comments on this article to them at [email protected];


As part of our company’s research into sales and marketing techniques that work in today’s markets, we conducted a survey of water equipment customers about what makes them buy and what they expect from companies. We think the results provide valuable insight. See how your company and products fit the model of what will make today’s customers buy.

Human Interaction

Today’s customers told us that when they call, they want to talk to a real person who can take action. They hate answering machines. They don’t like pressing numbers to get different departments. They don’t like listening to long sales messages while they are on hold. They don’t like talking to people who cannot answer questions. They want knowledgeable people taking their calls, and they need them to be available evenings and weekends.

Swift Service

The survey also showed that customers want a company that is on time, every time. Customers told us time is valuable to them. When you are late or forget an appointment, most customers said they would not deal with your company again.

In addition, the survey showed that customers will not take time off to see you if they can avoid it. They prefer to have sales and service calls in the evenings and on weekends. They hate waiting for call backs and will go elsewhere.

The survey also told us that when the customer is paying, he or she does not want to hear our problems. Don’t make excuses such as: Sorry I am late, but …

a) My son is sick.

b) I am so busy.

c) My truck broke down.

d) I had an emergency.

Customers want you to focus on their problems, not tell them about your problems.

Almost 80% of respondents told us that “fixing it right” the first time is very important. They do not want to take more time for redos.

We were surprised that next to “getting it right” the first time, speed was very important. Almost 70% of respondents said they expect a sales or service call the same day they ask for it, and they expect it to be done quickly. They will not wait for you to pick up messages and call back for sales and service calls.


The survey also showed that today’s customers invest a lot in their homes and want anyone who comes to sell, service or deliver to treat their homes with respect. They want your shoes off, a towel under your test kit, etc. They want a professional, not someone they have to worry about. They also told us they want personnel clean and crisp. Customers judge personnel by appearance, and every detail counts.

Another interesting complaint from customers was that many companies fail to take responsibility for problems. Customers do not want to hear excuses and have the blame put on them (even if they deserve it). They want companies to take the old-fashioned “the customer is always right” approach.

Today’s customers also told us they want recourse. They want a national company with customer service in addition to a friendly local who promises to help.


In addition, the survey said today’s customers do not want rebates, coupons or complex plans. They usually want you to answer a few simple questions: How much is it? Who do we call if we have a problem? What time will you be here? Customers also told us they want a confident solution. They do not want to be told, “It’s going to be tough to fix.”

Someone Who Listens

The survey confirmed that customers want someone who listens and understands their challenges. Almost 85% said sales staff and technicians talk too much and listen too little. It is interesting that we are in an industry in which few companies ask customers what they want. We seem to feel that as manufacturers and certified dealers, we know what is best for customers. The people who took our survey do not agree with this philosophy. They want you to listen to their problems and propose custom solutions.

Lessons Learned

There are a few lessons you can learn from this survey. It is all about speed, ease and lifestyle for today’s consumers. None of the respondents said they want more technology, animations that explain how the equipment works, flipbooks or videos.

They also told us that because they want to avoid hassles, they vote with their wallets. If they are unhappy with you, they probably will not tell you; they will simply take their business elsewhere. A good way to check your results is to keep track of how many customers are repeat customers and how many go elsewhere.

We advise all dealers to work on thinking like their customers. Only those of us who understand what customers want and how they think will make the transition to leading today’s consumers to the correct decisions about their water, their lifestyles and their families. Those who will not change will be left behind by a changing market.

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