Uniform Rental Services
Q&A: How Location Impacts Your Uniform Costs
We recently caught up with Brian Gamble, Fine Tune’s Senior Vice President of Uniform Services, on how location impacts your uniform costs.
Q: Talk about one of the most common frustrations experienced by customers of uniform services?
A: Our large, national clients often express frustration over the variability of their uniform suppliers’ service levels in different parts of the country.
Due to the unique evolutions of each of the national players in the industry, “National Supplier 1” may be strong in the state of Texas but unreliable in the Midwest, while “National Supplier 2” is great in California but inconsistent in the Northeast.
Even within broader regions, though, individual supplier service territories can vary dramatically based on the quality and reliability of the servicing operations and their people.
Q: What drives the difference?
A: The answer here is complex, but broadly speaking, the suppliers’ reliability in most markets can be explained by their path to their market presence.
For example, a supplier founded in California which grew its presence organically in the Western US is likely to be strong in that region of the country. But when that same supplier makes a huge acquisition in the Midwest to expand its footprint, it’s likely to struggle in that part of the country—at least for an extended period of time as the acquisition is integrated.
But of course, there’s more to the story than that. Within “Supplier X’s” strongest region, you’ll find a mix of state-of-the-art facilities delivering world-class service and broken-down service operations leaking oil in all directions.
You’ll also find operations with a 20-year General Manager who runs her plant like a well-oiled machine, and another where the leadership role has turned over a dozen times in those same two decades.
Q: So, can the people of the operation save it?
A good service rep is critical, but not a cure-all.
Service satisfaction at a local level starts with the route representative. A conscientious route-person will shield the customer from a lot of behind-the-scenes imperfections. But no matter how hard that person tries to deliver good service to their customer, if they’re operating out of a struggling plant, there are going to be things that are outside the rep’s control, structurally setting them up for failure.
The best route-people are less likely to stick around in those environments.
Conversely, even the best operations in overall strong regions do have subpar route-people…and that is certainly a recipe for disaster no matter how good the behind-the-scenes operation may be.
A good service rep is critical – but not a cure-all.
Q: How does Fine Tune help its clients navigate these waters?
A: Well, multiple decades of being deeply involved in the industry is a massive leg-up. We have a general understanding of the industry landscape—who’s strong in which region and which are the problematic operations. But even in the rare cases where we may not have specific experience with a particular supplier plant, we know how to vet that operation to make sure it’s a good fit for our client.
Our broad experience with the industry’s leading suppliers at the national accounts level is a huge benefit, too.
For example, we just transitioned a large national account from one supplier to another. The new supplier was required to assign a specific national account representative who we know will care about the account and do a good job. If the local reps in any particular region aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, we know that this individual will get involved and things will get fixed.
Part of our specialized knowledge is knowing who the key people are on the national level for each of the uniform vendors—being able to get the right people involved to help our clients.
Then, from a local service standpoint, we simply roll up our sleeves and get involved.
Q: Can you give me an example?
Sure. I just had a situation with a customer who told me about a problem they had been battling for four months. The local folks simply were not getting it resolved.
My immediate course of action was to call a director of national accounts and say, “This is a big account of yours, and your local person is not getting it done, and you know as well as I do that we shouldn’t be talking about this issue. Somebody with some juice has to get on it and get it fixed.”
The national account manager for this particular account immediately called me asking me for the specifics.
He then reached out to the customer and followed up with the local service manager and got it fixed. So, we know how to assess issues at a local level and also when—and how—to escalate matters for expedited resolution.
With our resources, knowledge, and contacts there is simply no doubt that the customer is going to get much better service from their vendor with us involved no matter where they are located.