Grading Your Distributor

In-house survey reveals how electrical contractors view electrical distributors

Our sister publication, Electrical Wholesaling magazine, recently surveyed a group of EC&M readers to better understand their relationships with the electrical distribution community. More than 400 of you were kind enough to take part in this survey. Based on the feedback we got, I thought a short recap of the results would be valuable for our full readership.

A large percentage of respondents (almost 94%) currently work for an electrical contracting firm. Most (more than 91%) purchase their supplies directly from electrical distributors. The three most important factors identified by the group on where they purchase their electrical products were availability, price, and ease of doing business. Other factors that ranked as “pretty important” included delivery, location, return policy, and staff expertise.

Most respondents continue to buy their products from local suppliers as they have in the past, with more than 87% citing they purchase no more than 10% of the products they need via online sources. For those who do purchase online, many appear to be buying lighting products (lots of lamps and bulbs). When asked why they make purchases online, most cited price and availability as the key factors. However, some noted the items they purchase online are not available through local distribution.

One of the more interesting questions in the survey was set up in an open-ended format, allowing respondents to tell electrical distributors how they could do a better job of serving them. Respondents were asked to pretend they were sitting in the same room with the key electrical distributors in their market when providing their responses. Some common themes that developed out of these replies included:

  • Improve your stocking options. Don’t offer a product from a single manufacturer if the same type of product is made by multiple manufacturers. Expand your inventory, and offer us some options and variety. This could also help keep prices down to manageable levels.
  • Increase and maintain your inventory levels. Don’t tell me it’s on back order! Many respondents are frustrated with “out of inventory” responses when trying to buy products. It’s especially important to be as open and honest about delivery dates on ordered items too. Don’t tell me when I buy it that it will be here in two to three days and then call me back and tell me it’s really going to be two to three weeks!
  • Improve your customer service level. Enhance your order acknowledgement processes, provide detailed and accurate shipping and tracking information, offer accurate billing information, and improve the accuracy level of the orders you fill. Missing parts kill my productivity and affect my customer service. Don’t arbitrarily make product substitutions without consulting with me first.
  • Offer better trained counter personnel. Train your employees to know the products they’re selling and how they work. Our time is valuable — we don’t need to spend it training your employees.

Let’s hope the 19,000+ general management-type readers who subscribe to Electrical Wholesaling magazine take these survey results to heart and make some changes within their organizations to better serve you, their customer.

Do your thoughts and opinions mirror the survey results discussed here? If not, feel free to share your views with me or Jim Lucy, chief editor of Electrical Wholesaling, at [email protected]. We’ll do our part to get them in the hands of the key decision makers at electrical distribution companies across the country.

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