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FE&SEditorial Archives2005April — Parting Shot

Speak the Same Language
Even in a perfect world, establishing effective and efficient communication among all these parties would be a significant challenge.


, President
Key Food Equipment Services
Burnaby, British Columbia

The foodservice equipment channel, relative to the supply chains of many other industries, is rife with participants. Manufacturers, manufacturers’ reps, dealers, consultants, service agents and, most importantly, end-users all play their own unique role in comprising the channel.

Even in a perfect world, establishing effective and efficient communication among all these parties would be a significant challenge. This world is, of course, less than perfect, and often we do not meet the most basic requirement for good communication: widely understood and accepted terms.

The problems this creates for businesses are obvious. If people do not agree on what a word or phrase means, priorities are misplaced, expectations are not met and, ultimately, the customer suffers the consequences.

To address this problem, in September 2003 CFESA’s ad hoc Industry Standards Committee, of which I am chair, held its first meeting, and has worked ever since to provide the industry with clearly defined terms that everyone can agree upon.

The committee’s first task was to create definitions to four widely used and commonly disagreed-upon terms: clear communication, first call fix, OEM parts and response time.

These are perhaps the most troublesome of terms on the industry’s repair and maintenance side. For example, to some people a first call fix means that a problem is solved on the first trip to an operation. But for others, it means that once they solve a problem it doesn’t reoccur, no matter how many trips it takes to fix. And these are just two of the many definitions in use.

To settle such disagreements, the committee asked manufacturers, service agents and end-users for their definitions of these terms, giving the greatest weight to how operators most often apply them. The finalized definitions are published in the January/February 2005 edition of CFESA’s On Target newsletter, which is available on the group’s web site,

Prior to this, firms in the industry faced great difficulties accomplishing many tasks since the multiple definitions meant that companies kept records differently. With meanings for these terms set, business can be done much more easily. Again using first call fix as an example, when a manufacturer wants to audit its service agencies, it can easily obtain this data when everyone uses the same definition.

This information can be used even more widely, in fact. Consultants can rely on accurate first call fix information to choose the best equipment for their clients, while manufacturers and dealers can use the statistic to market their products, giving them a powerful tool to sell equipment on quality, not just on price.

Similar benefits can be found by setting the meanings of the other phrases mentioned above.

So what can you do, then, to make these benefits real? The answer is simple. In your dealings with channel partners and customers, use these terms as they are defined. For example, when talking about response time — different from emergency response time — let them know that in the CFESA definition, only working hours are counted. Of course, if they want to count time outside of normal working hours, that is something for your negotiations.

Even if these definitions are widely adopted, there remains much to be done in this area. And though no one is looking for extra work, the committee will achieve its goal when people are able to communicate more effectively, do business more efficiently and make the customer’s life easier at the end of the day.

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