When it comes to his service philosophy, Coleman's all about planned maintenance. "That's an increasingly important part of our business. We are focusing more on that now than we ever have in the past," he says. "I think that is because there's a significant benefit to the customer to keep their equipment maintained, especially as costs continue to go up in this economy."
In Coleman's view, a service agent is not just a call-responder or an order-filler. His team works side-by-side with their operator clients, from pre-call to service-call and post-call follow-ups.
With national restaurant chains and franchisees accounting for about 60 percent of his business, Coleman also services many schools, B&I accounts and universities, including the entire University of Texas system. He has a soft spot for helping mom-and-pop restaurants through his involvement with the Texas Restaurant Association.
As an aspect of growing parts sales, Coleman has beefed up the company's parts sales online via their website. Company technicians even appeared on the popular Kitchen Impossible TV show, helping a local mom-and-pop install a brand new kitchen. After a hacking a few years ago, Commercial Kitchen is re-launching the e-commerce side of CKPS.com as PrimePartsGroup.com. Parts orders on the site are either routed to Commercial Kitchen's parts sales division, or routed through a network of independent service agents and CFESA members located outside of Texas. "The parts orders are actually filled by the closest distributor that has the parts. When a part is sold through our system, the local economy, wherever it is, benefits. The customer supports the small businesses whose employees may very well be patrons supporting the local restaurants. It's like a complete ecosystem."
Coleman feels this is the wave of the future —breaking down national parts distribution into regionally based systems to support the smaller guys and enhance efficiencies in orders, shipping and logistics. "If I'm an end user and buy a part through our site, I'm also tapping three or four warehouses at the same time that are located within an area that allows the product to be shipped via one day ground service, which means freight savings is a given."
The local parts distribution idea started years ago when the first national parts with distribution warehouse came into play. Coleman met with a group of other service agents and small parts houses to figure out a solution to a growing problem. After years of back and forth, Coleman decided to just go for it and bring his peers in to reap the rewards together. "When they win I win; the stronger they are as independents, the stronger we are," he says.
Field automation also plays a role in Coleman's expanded use of technology. "Typically technicians use paper written work orders to document services provided to the restaurants," he says. "They complete the repair, fill out the paper, the customer signs it and the technician moves on to the next job. It could be days before those work orders are returned to the office and invoiced. There might also be mistakes in the paperwork which takes even longer to correct."
Now, all Commercial Kitchen technicians have their own laptops in the field and communicate through GPS on the vans to shorten mileage and driving time as well as send information directly back to headquarters. Invoicing that used to take days or weeks now takes minutes or hours. Coleman's working with a software provider to take this system to the next level that would allow technicians to be able to record and transmit their own payroll information in real time.