In my last article I dealt with a certain lack of positive attitudes our industry has in dealing with customers. I had many phone calls, all positive not one negative.

One phone call came from a contractor who had a great success story with a customer. He was so excited, I thought I'd share a positive experience with you. Here's a guy that works hard on his reputation and enjoys his ability to solve problems. This gets around to customers.

A farmer wasn't happy with the yield in his well and asked this driller to "witch" a new well. "I do my witching with my kelly" was his response. (Great line!) This farmer wanted a 24" hole to make sure he got enough water (larger is better - isn't it?). "I drilled a 4" well and produced 15 gpm," said the contractor. All other wells in the area are 3 gpm. He did this through good well design, proper fluid control, good development, and maybe a little luck (his kelly witching). This satisfied customer told his neighbor. This is in the middle of rural water country. His neighbor (a dairy farmer) was the largest rural water user in this area and was paying $1,400 a month for water. Incidentally, the pipeline water was highly chlorinated and the cows were having digestive problems. Coincidence? Related? I don't know. He wondered if this contractor could drill a well with similar yields as the first farmer. The contractor drilled a test hole and his first well produced 40 gpm. The customer was so impressed, he wanted a second well which also produced 40 gpm. This user is now on private wells and no chlorine injection. He stated these two wells are worth more than a quarter of corn. What is water worth? Maybe not enough to us. Maybe we in the industry put too low value on good, clean water.

This dairy farmer asked the contractor, "Did you go to college?" "No," was his response. "How did you get your education?" asked the farmer. "I call the best minds in the industry to get opinions and gain direction, and then put that knowledge to work," said the driller.

This is a story about attitude. It reversed the rural water direction for two customers in this area. Are there others on rural water that aren't happy with cost, mandatory hookups, chlorine, etc? Are you looking? He solved a problem for his customers and they spread the word.

When solving problems in your business, do you ask the basic questions, what happened, why did it happen, what are all possible solutions, or what is the best solution? This may require some looking and real understanding of techniques or products. When you can answer these questions you can start to separate yourself from your competition by such a distance customers will call you because of your reputation. We all need to quit fighting competition and understand what our customer wants. That is the only way you escape, "price" as the buying decision. Ask customers what's important to them. Keep in mind they don't know much about water wells, so guide them through an understanding of why problems exist and why certain directions are better, even if these options cost more. They may still go to your competition, but now they're armed with knowledge. When competition starts talking cheap, red flags will go up, and the customer will come back to you if you've done your job of education. "I expect to be higher priced, but I'm more than worth it," should be your attitude.

Our industry is way too price competitive. We still have too many contractors (and manufacturers, and distributors, and sales reps) trying to do the same thing at lower cost and you can't do it and be profitable. We have become a society of believing we can get more for less. Advertising today is based upon luring customers because of price. "We're the low price leader" (if you're low price, you're really a follower), "We're smashing prices," "A whole meal deal," all indicate low buck.

Do you look at your competition and design a method to do it for less? I've done 7 seminars this year alone on "You are your own worst competition, when pricing." At every seminar, contractors have stated they were thinking about how to work faster, cheapen their process, cheapen their products, all to beat their competition. Now you are in a downward spiral of declining pricing and guess what? Declining profits. You're working harder for less money.

When you do something exactly like your competition, the customer doesn't perceive any difference. You force him to buy on price because that's all you've given him to base his decision. You LOSE if you're not low $. You have to separate yourself from you competitor by offering better service, better marketing, better sales, more knowledge, better longevity, better development in wells, better products, more water, better water quality/treatment, lower pumping costs, safer products, more consistency, better cleanup, etc.

Whatever it takes. Separate!

Find people in our industry to lean on for technical advice. They're all over the place, as manufacturers, sales reps, distributor sales people, engineers, other contractors, etc. You will learn quickly how good they are by your success. If they're good, use them to your advantage. Provide answers to your customers and elevate yourself above your competition .... and then, make some money.

The contractor I told you about has a great attitude. He isn't satisfied with traditional methods and failing. He learned about well design, well efficiency, sand pumping problems, etc. He's found when he continually returns to problem wells without answers, it costs money and reputation. He tries to understand the problem and solve it for his customer. The result is "word of mouth" advertising that is much more effective than Yellow Pages, plus your customers' words are free without your competition listed right beside you.

One satisfied customer will tell 3-5 people about good service, but a dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10. Which would you rather have happen?

If you have employees, you are partially responsible for their attitudes as well. It's amazing how your attitude affects the direction of your company. So goes the dragon's head, so goes the dragon. Your attitude is imparted upon your employees and you may not realize it. Are you open to new ideas? Do you recognize problems in your area? Have you failed at solving problems? Do you seek opinions of others in the industry on problems? Do you seek new products and directions? When is the last time you had a training seminar for your people? How do we train entry level people in our industry if you don't?

You can solve problems for your customer, enhance your reputation, enhance the industry's reputation, and increase profitability. Profit is not an evil word. Make it a good day and we'll start on iron bacteria in the next article. Dave Hanson of Design Water Technologies.