Recently representatives of a very large company in the industry visited our office to pick our brains on the usual market research: "How do you specify"? "What causes you to choose one product over another"? "What is the most important aspect of the product to you"? ...and so on. The message they took back with them was loud and clear from every specifier in attendance. What is most important to us? "Information". And what is the most important delivery method of that information? "Personal Service from the Product Rep". And what is the most important service the rep can provide? "Call me back".
There it is, plain and simple- "Call me back". When we call a product rep it is usually because something was dumped on us last minute, we need quick, accurate information, and the product website is not helpful. Manufacturers could increase their market share if they all had "super reps". We all know a few...folks who get back to you quickly and can supply answers. Unfortunately, like anything else, not all reps are created equal. Here is a brief example.
On a recent project for a large architectural firm, who was working for a huge client, who was involved in multiple projects with this architect, a question of compatibility and warranty came up. Briefly, they needed to create a barrier floor in a high-rise to protect lower floors from leakage. Fine...there are many liquid-applied products available that will work. BUT...the client wants to use Product X because they've had success with it. Ok fine, BUT now they would like to install miscellaneous finish floor products over the barrier material, such as fully adhered carpet tile, VCT, ceramic tile, vinyl plank flooring, etc. Our client then asked for help in confirming that all of those materials would be compatible (in particular, the adhesives) and also if a warranty could be offered with such a system.
I called several people at the various finish product manufacturers who were helpful, but passed the liability issue off to the barrier product. I then contacted Product X and got a technical rep, who said, "Sure, no problem". He would check and get back to me. That later turned into, "Send me cut sheets from all of the adhesives and I'll pass them to our chemistry guys". After a long wait the client moved ahead with the preferred product because the Owner insisted. More than a month later, I had forgotten about the situation when our Architect called and inquired if I had received any answers. For the sake of brevity, the conversation went on and on, with my pointing out to the rep that this customer has been and still is using a LOT of his product, and it would be prudent to get the testing done to ensure that continued use. Well, a few weeks later the crickets are chirping, and I still don't have the information.
Subsequently I have spoken to representatives of other similar product lines who have told me that they could certainly supply the documentation associated with such a request, and coordinate with the other manufacturers to offer a warranty. They also offered to have the testing done to support such a warranty if needed. That is great, but the client has moved ahead with Product X, evidently with no assurances. I can think of one manufacturer that would lose a prominent customer if it were up to the specifier.
As specifiers we do a lot of research and we can find answers. When we can't find the answer, however, the product rep is the most important thing between us and the sale of a product.