Distributor’s 90-minute guarantee widely unused

By Joe Salimando

“We’ll deliver it to you at your job site within 90 minutes, for a charge of only $35. That’s guaranteed! If we take 91 minutes or more—no charge!”

Does that offer, from a distributor to contractors, sound like a deal? For most electrical contractors, the alternative is an expensive disruption.

Instead of that 90-minute delivery from the distributor, to get a vital item—a tool or some other product needed immediately—the contractor’s foreman will instead pull someone (probably an electrician) off whatever he or she is doing. That person will jump into a pick-up truck, drive to the distributor’s local branch, place an order, wait for it to be picked, and then drive back.

It may take 90 minutes for the dispatched person to go, get what’s needed, and return. Even if the electrician sent to fetch the needed item is paid only $30/hour (wages and benefits), the $35 distributor charge is a bargain. Also, with the distributor delivery, the contractor saves money on gas, prevents wear-and-tear on the truck and avoids disruption to the work that electrician was doing.  Add in the possibilities that it takes the electrician longer than 90 minutes—in the case of a traffic problem or accident—and the distributor delivery offer seems even smarter.   

Certainly, it sounds as if the 90-minute/$35 deal makes sense. But despite the nearly two years’ worth of efforts Wiseway Supply of Florence, Ky. has spent to promote this, it’s not frequently used.

Promoted and discussed

Over nearly two years, Wiseway has exhaustively promoted this guarantee. In fact, as recently as early May 2012, those logging onto the company’s website saw the guarantee first, before anything else.

But that’s just a fraction of the effort, according to Marianne Brummett, vice president of marketing. Wiseway has sent flyers promoting the offer in its mailings to plumbing and electrical contractors. The offer is also routinely included in company literature, and yet there are few takers.

“I’ve even gone out on calls, with our sales people, to listen to the contractors about it,” Brummett said. “We’ve outlined the offer—it’s pretty simple, really—and asked them if it makes sense. They say yes, it does. Yet we generally get only a few people who use it in a given month.”

To crystallize the benefits for contractor, electrical and plumbing customers, Wiseway developed the postcard shown below:

Surprising internal use

Is it time to throw this brainstorm in the “ain’t gonna work” bin? There’s a bit of chagrin in Brummett’s answer. “We could terminate the offer, but it’s been a part of our promotions. It’s included in a lot of our current flyers and other materials. We aren’t throwing all of that away, so this will be around for a while, even if we stop promoting it right now,” she said.

Along the way, the company has learned of one major user for the 90-minute service guarantee—Wiseway’s branches. “When one of our branches is out of stock of a given item that a customer has requested, they take advantage of the service. They place the order and can tell the customer they’ll have it in 90 minutes. This is definitely okay, after all, the idea is about making our customers happy,” Brummett said.

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