Anyone who’s managed a team or a company in the electrical business knows that employee training is essential to success. But have you ever thought about customer training?
One reason you train employees is so they understand the proper way to do the work. This saves you time and money. Don’t assume that your customers know the proper way to do the work, or that they don’t need to know. The training isn’t the same, but it needs to be done in both cases.
Consider this example. Your customer has a shutdown scheduled at its facility and asks you to bid on “a basic package of electrical testing.” You tender one bid, and your competitor tenders a much lower bid. Guess who gets the job?
The revenue you lost here is lost forever. There is only one shutdown this year, which means you either get the work now or you never get it.
But you had discussed this with the plant engineer and thought he knew what a basic testing package would entail. How could someone leave out insulation resistance testing of the service and feeder cables, as your competitor did, and slip past the plant engineer?
The problem in this case is the client company has a three-bid policy. The plant engineer has to turn in three bids. They weren’t for the same work.
Yes, you did “train” the plant engineer on what your testing entailed. But you didn’t train the plant engineer on why each element is essential and why each must be specified in the request for quote.
The plant engineer sent the bids to the plant controller, who simply picked the lowest bid and ignored the other two. He didn’t know a basic testing package from a comprehensive one and assumed the bids were for the same work. He thought “basic testing package” was some electrical industry jargon that, in his 12-hour work day, he didn’t need to spend time learning about. Back at the corporate office, the division vice president made the same assumption.
The good news is that you have time between now and the next shutdown to make the case for the missing work. Of course, you’ll need to use this time to train the plant engineer on what specifically to put in the request for quote and why.
What you really need, however, is a systematic approach to training your customers. In Part 2, we’ll look at some ideas for making that a successful endeavor.