The Marketing team met in good spirits. ?Well guys,? commented the Marketing Manager at the start of the meeting, ?It?s actually all come together at long last. All that planning and hard work has paid off. I?m telling you, this feels just as it should. We?re on our way to some major sales results this season.?
?The refurbishment of the retail showrooms is now complete and they are looking great,? stated Anne, one of the team responsible for the new retail designs. ?The lighting, the colour schemes, the signage – the whole scene is warm and inviting. Based on feedback from the retail staff everyone seems to think it?s a real success. The sales staff have welcomed our new floor layouts. They really like our attempts to anticipate customer enquiries by splitting the showrooms into sales areas so that anybody walking through the door will be directed to an enquiry desk with a member of staff who is best able to answer their queries whether these be for account payment, showers, fires, cooking or central heating.?
?Staff training has made sure that enquiry handling and customer courtesy should go without a hitch,? commented Joe from Sales.
The Advertising Manager broke in, ?Talking about central heating, our new advertising will hit the streets next week and we?ll start monitoring enquiries from then. The ads in the local press should really wet a few appetites. The timing is right and the price deal is a real winner.?
?Yes, this offer?? interrupted Jane, ?It may be a great deal, but who?s it really aimed at? Surely it will only be suitable for a small number of our customers??
?Yes, that?s true, Jane, but we?ve got to start somewhere and the main aim of the ads is to generate enquiries?. ?But there?ll be no hard sell,? continued the Marketing Manager, ?We?ve gone all out for customer focus. Our research tells us that customers don?t know what heating will be best for them so we?ve gone to a great deal of trouble to set up a way of giving them the best advice and service?.
?And there?s nobody in a better position than us to help them,? chirped the Marketing Assistant, interrupting his boss in full flow.
?That?s right Alan, there?s a lot of cowboys out there. If we channel customer enquiries to us we can be sure they?re getting the right advice. We?ve been working hard with Engineering over the past year, they?re key to our service. They reckon that there could be some demand for the system we?re featuring in our ads, but that?s not important because they also know that customers don?t really understand the ins and outs of central heating. And that?s where our sales staff come in. We?ve made special arrangements between Sales and Engineering so that when Sales get an enquiry, rather than trying to sell them the system featured in the ads, they will contact Engineering who will make an appointment to visit the customer – at a time convenient to the customer. And do a complete survey at no cost to them. The customer will be assured of getting the right system for them. The total emphasis is on helping the customer, giving advice and no pressure selling. You can?t get more customer focused than that.?
The meeting went on as the coffee arrived. Everybody was in a good mood. The Marketing Manager had set the scene and they all agreed that the latest marketing efforts were sure to pay dividends. A lot of effort had gone into changing the stuffy image of Gas-Co. and their showrooms certainly reflected a change of policy towards a customer focus. The retail staff had been put through customer training and product offers were being changed in the light of competitors? offers and to make them more customer appealing. The stage was set for a new era for Gas-Co. The team had gone to great lengths to implement the customer focused strategy that the Board had emphasised was vital to the continued success of the Company.
I walked into the Gas-Co. showroom, it had a very pleasant decor. Cookers, fires, water heaters, showers, hanging signs and partitions broke the room into cosy, discrete areas each with its own desk and attendant. The showroom offered welcomed warmth from the cold, chill winds of the high street. I had entered for a purpose, but who was I to ask for help? Which desk? Which assistant?
?Excuse me, I saw your advertisement in the local paper, central heating at ?1095.?
?What advertisement is that, sir??
For central heating at a special offer price.?
?Oh, perhaps you had better ask at the desk straight ahead, Mrs. Snow handles heating enquiries. I?m sure she will be back at her desk shortly.?
A cool reception I thought. The cold shoulder.
I stood and waited ?… At last someone arrived, ?Would you like to take a seat, I shan?t keep you a moment? ?? More waiting ?.. ?Now, can I help you??
?Yes, I hope so. I?m enquiring about central heating. Your advertisement says you can install a system for ?1095.?
?Yes, in this week?s local paper.?
?I shall just go and ask the manager.? ?? ?Sorry to keep you waiting. The system we advertised only includes a limited number of radiators and so on.?
?Could you give me some more details??
?Well, we need to get our engineer to come and look at your house and he will explain what system you need.?
?Is the ?1095 system full central heating??
?As I say, our engineer can provide you with full details, I have very little information here and central heating can be somewhat complicated. It is better for someone to look at your property and see exactly what your requirements may be. Can we make arrangements for our engineer to call? He will have all the leaflets for the Glo-Worm System we advertised and he will be able to answer your questions.?
?Yes, all right.?
?Name? Address? Do you have a phone number where we can contact you? The engineer will ring and make an appointment.?
?I shall have to make special arrangements to be home, can?t we arrange a date and time now??
?No, the engineer makes his own appointments. We don?t know his appointments? schedule I?m afraid. He will ring you.?
I left the showroom a little hot under the collar with no further information and the assistant was not able to tell me when I might expect to hear from the engineer.?
Two weeks had passed when I received a phone call at my office. I was out, but a message was left with a phone number to ring. I rang.
After a short delay during which the phone played some music (irritatingly, it was ?Greensleeves?. The third rendition of the chorus only succeeded in emphasising how long it took to answer the phone), someone answered, ?Gas-Co!?
?Could I speak to Mr. Plumb, please??
?Just connecting you.? More ?Greensleeves? ??
A lady answered the phone. I repeated my request, ?Could I speak to Mr. Plumb, please??
?I?m sorry, Mr. Plumb is out, may I help??
?Yes, I?m returning his call as requested. I think he wanted to make arrangements to survey my house for central heating.?
?Do you have a reference number??
?No, I?m sorry I don?t. Would my name and address do??
?I think you need to speak to Mr. Plumb. He is normally in the office between 8.30am and 10.00am.?
?Shall I ring tomorrow??
?That will be the best thing to do.?
That evening I arrived home. My mother-in-law told me that a ?Gas Man? had called. He was in the area and thought he would call on the off-chance and would call back in about an hour?s time. Indeed he did and in half an hour had surveyed the house, taking notes and estimates of heights, lengths and widths of rooms.
?Yes, you will need an indirect cylinder and we shall have to put an expansion tank upstairs. We can put a wall-mounted, room-sealed, balanced-flue boiler in the kitchen and I should think a 35,000-40,000 BTU Fuelsaver would be adequate. I shall calculate your precise requirements and send you a quotation in the post. I shall need to take account of the room sizes and thermal coefficients you see.?
No, I didn?t see. ?Can you explain what an indirect cylinder is, please??
?Yes, certainly. Central heating works on a secondary, indirect, closed water system. We can either put in a new cylinder or convert your existing cylinder using a Yorkshire Sidewinder to prevent the central heating water and domestic water from mixing.?
I thought I had better change tack. ?Oh, how much do you think the whole central heating system will cost??
?About ?2900 I would think.?
?What about the system advertised at ?1095??
?That system is really only suitable for a small flat or for background heating or, perhaps, partial heating. Probably a maximum of 15,000 BTUs. I don?t have any leaflets with me as the system isn?t really any use for most people. I shall send you more information with the quote.?
I was little the wiser and my dinner was cold. I still didn?t know what an indirect cylinder really was and was afraid to ask about a balanced-flue boiler, BTUs and Yorkshire Sidewinders. I did know, however, that the ?1095 system offered in the advertisement was not for me and if I wanted central heating I would have to pay considerably more.
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