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DSR of the Month, Oct. 2010: Charlie CuylerHotel & Restaurant Supply, Memphis, Tenn.

As an accomplished dealer sales rep who assists his customers with building their businesses from the ground up, Hotel & Restaurant Supply's Charlie Cuyler is known for his excellent customer communication and for his ability to work collaboratively with the various members of a project team.

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Charlie Cuyler, Sales Engineer
Before joining Hotel & Restaurant Supply (H&R) 11 years ago, Cuyler worked for a construction company and then handled casino foodservice for a broadline distributor. His client base is 90 percent healthcare operators, with the remainder being a mix of hotels and restaurants. Cuyler primarily handles equipment jobs, including replacement sales, renovations and new construction.

FE&S: Describe your approach to client communication.

CC: It's important to let people know who you are, who you represent and what you can do for them. It's human nature to cease communication if something isn't going right. If an order is incorrect or a shipment is missed, it's important to take care of it the best you can and let customers know you did what it took to fix the situation.

FE&S: When something does not go as planned, what's the best way to address the situation with the customer?

CC: You have to address the situation straight on. If you see a problem, it's vital to immediately meet with the customer and inform them about the issue. Anytime you present a problem, you should already have a solution or answer. For example, if there is a scheduling mishap, make sure you're able to provide another date that will work. This all pertains to communication.

FE&S: You're known for being very detail-oriented. Is that part of your nature, or was it something you learned?

CC: I learned how to be more detail-oriented when I worked in construction. I developed a lot of bar charts and had to schedule 500 to 1,000 men for projects that worked around the clock. With foodservice equipment, especially items like ranges and ovens, operators can choose from countless accessories and options. It's important to pay attention to every detail. There are many differences in equipment, so it's important to cover all the bases to determine customer needs.

FE&S: How are you leveraging technology to better serve customers?

CC: It is imperative to provide information in a timely fashion. I can turn out a blueline drawing and detailed quote quickly and e-mail it to the customer. Many times, it's this type of service that makes us stand out. Smartphones are important communication tools, as well. Much of my communication is done on my BlackBerry rather than by computer. The more immediate the response, the better. It gives you an edge.

FE&S: How does healthcare foodservice differ from other segments?

CC: With restaurants, a good deal of specifications are laid out, but there are always changes made during the process. If it's a mom-and-pop restaurant, we are typically involved in more changes than we would be with a healthcare installation, which is more well-defined in terms of scope.

FE&S: What excites you most about the industry?

CC: I enjoy providing customers with a functioning kitchen that they're happy with. There is a lot of gratification when everything looks good and operates as it should. With the economy and competition, it's important to keep an eye on costs. Still, if you take care of the customer, profitability typically follows. The business will always be there, and that's what I like most about this industry. It always comes full circle, even when times are tough.

FE&S: Have you had to adjust your approach due to the current economic conditions?

CC: We've had to analyze the way we install jobs, trying to determine what margins we could live with. We've also had to look for ways to make our business more cost-effective so we have a chance to do projects and still make a profit. From fabricators to dealers, everyone analyzes how they completed jobs and how they're doing them now.
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