You often hear companies talk about how focused they are on satisfying their customers’ needs — how that determination is what drives their planning and decision making. But gaining insight into what customers want and need isn’t all that easy, particularly when, like IEA, you serve different customers in different markets with different kinds of products.
But we’re fortunate to have an excellent source of customer insight that is not reluctant to provide their thoughts on what we should be doing and how we should be doing it: our independent representative organization. This group has an outstanding depth of product knowledge and daily, front-line, real world experience with those who use our products. All of that provides critical guidance, helping us enhance functional features and develop more meaningful types of customer support — essential elements of our high priority continuous improvement success.
Particularly valuable insights are gained whenever our reps gather, as they did recently at our annual rep conference, held at the Kenosha headquarters. For the better part of three days, principals from seven organizations from across the country shared their experiences, ideas and constructive criticism with IEA’s general management and functional heads of engineering, manufacturing, service, logistics and marketing. (We did give them one night off to tour and have dinner at the Harley Davidson Museum just north of us in Milwaukee.)
Teaching as well as learning
An IEA rep has to be nothing if not a good learner, since we market such a broad range of products, and offer to customize any of those to individual customer specifications. This year’s rep conference provided a forum for training on our expanded line of aluminum products (branded under our Cold Auminum trademark) and the desirable benefits they provide. Seminars were conducted by the actual designers and builders, with engineering department and factory tours adding the all-important “hands-on” factor that technical salespeople look to for that extra measure of expertise.
Armed with detailed knowledge on these latest new products and with all their questions answered, our reps are now able to help their customers make well-informed purchase decisions regarding aluminum heat exchangers.
Welcome, if unexpected, acclaim
Our reps are a “tough bunch”. They know the business, the market and their competition, and they’re demanding of their principals, particularly those towards the top of the line card. Needing those principals to meet high standards so they can achieve their own company’s objectives, our reps are more likely to criticize than compliment. Which is why we were all heartened to hear the group, as a whole, laud IEA for being the company that’s setting the bar for great service support. We always welcome their constructive criticism. But their unprompted and genuine identification and endorsement of IEA’s many market-leading attributes went a very long way to rallying our world-class employee team to a prideful celebration.
This respected tribute has become a challenge to every other function within IEA to achieve the same level of accomplishment. We have until the next rep conference to get that done.