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Help the Supply Chain Help Customers Through Better Communication

Members of the supply chain begin working closer together to stave off service-related issues to ensure that the equipment foodservice operators purchase lives up to its brand promise.

No one likes to get blamed for problems they didn’t cause. It’s only natural.

In the foodservice equipment supply chain, though, that natural reaction hasn’t served customers well, said Paul Toukatly, service manager with Duffy’s Equipment Service and current president of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA). Problems like equipment failures or installation issues have too often led to finger pointing among the companies involved instead of a cooperative effort to solve the issue. This only results in aggravating and alienating operators, souring their opinion of the supply chain as a whole.

This problem has become so widespread that Toukatly and the presidents of the four other major industry associations (the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, The Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry, Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association, and the Foodservice Consultants Society International-The Americas) started meeting regularly to find common ground.

According to Toukatly, these meetings show that “we all want the same things. We want to take care of our customers. We want to try and make the foodservice industry better. We want everyone to have a good experience. We have a lot more in common than we do things that drive each other crazy.”

Toukatly and the other industry presidents are now “spreading the gospel” among the members of their groups on the importance of cooperation. Better relationships across the supply chain, and particularly among dealers, reps and service agents, will ultimately result in happier customers and more business, he said.

To build these relationships, Toukatly recommends doing what he did: Meet face to face with leaders of other area companies (maybe over lunch), work through any issues, and resolve to partner together to benefit mutual customers.

Establishing this sort of in-person connection will give supply chain members a person to call when a problem comes up. Instead of putting customers in the middle, issues can get resolved among the companies involved.

This sort of partnership can not only help diffuse conflicts, it can also prevent them from happening in the first place. If a service agent gets a call to repair a new piece of equipment, the agent can keep the dealer and the rep informed. That way they won’t get blindsided if the situation escalates. Even better, channel partners with good relationships can help each other provide good service leading up to a sale. If a dealer is working on the sale of a major piece of equipment, for instance, the service agent can help answer questions about the installation.

“I’m no expert on sales, but I can tell you where to place a piece of equipment and what makes for a good installation or a poor installation and how to avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve seen in the past,” Toukatly said.

Cooperating in this way is not only good for the customer, it’s good for the supply chain members. A service agent that visits an operation to give installation advice gets the chance to make a good impression on the operator, and may end up getting the installation work. And all companies that have good relationships can recommend their new channel partners to operators, trusting that their mutual customers will be taken care of.

“We all reflect on each other. It behooves all of us to talk to each other, to support each other and not point fingers. [We should] try to make sure that the customer gets the best value they can in the equipment they buy, in the service they choose and in the dealer they work through,” said Toukatly. “We should all speak with the same voice.”