No matter the type of service, demonstrating a true partnership with customers can prove beneficial for distributors. It's important, though, to be sure offerings don't go too far.

Very often, distributors offer vacuum services at no cost. Some believe this could be a mistake. While storage recommendations and routine checks from salespeople may be expected with equipment purchases, things like maintenance and loaner equipment go above and beyond. Attaching a price tag separates customers who value exceptional care from those likely to jump from one distributor to another looking for the best deals.

"In our industry, a lot of people think that all of the value that we provide to a customer, be it service or education, should be free," says Cadell. "When you give something away for free, it does not come across to the customer as something valuable. Service is a revenue generator, and is something that should come at a price."

Whether a distributor charges or not, training and maintenance services are important because they can extend the life of the equipment by several years.

"Consistent service also allows the distributor to monitor the life of existing vacuums," says Taylor. "When the time comes, they can recommend new equipment that can help improve efficiencies."

When a distributor helps extend the life of vacuums, customers won't forget. That's because they've opened up money in the customer's budget, which means more now than ever.

"It's these services that differentiate us from the online e-tailer, or from going to the big box store and buying a cheap vacuum," says Cadell.

Partnering with customers to solve their problems makes them feel valued. It tells them the distributor understands their goals and will do everything possible to help achieve them. That's a recipe for a long-term relationship that pays off.

"Some of the most appreciative customers have been those we've loaned a comparable piece of equipment to so they could keep doing what they needed to get done," says Allen. "Their gratitude is overwhelming."

Failing to offer vacuum services can be a deal-breaker for certain clients. More often, however, it serves as a deal-maker.

"They're making a large investment that they are going to have to live with for a while, and they want to know there's some kind of safety net," says Allen. "Customers want assurances that this piece of equipment is not only quality, but that they can get parts quickly and have it cared for in a manner that will make their investment more worthwhile."

Despite these benefits, many distributors offer few or no post-purchase vacuum services. Cadell and Taylor agree that it's becoming more uncommon, and the number who offer such services may be decreasing.

"Most distributors have not found a way to calculate the return on their investment," says Taylor. "It's expensive to have a service department and most distributors can't see the profits generated."

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