Blog | March 10, 2016

VAR's Customer Service Secret: "You Can't Train Nice"

Jim Roddy

By Jim Roddy, Vantiv


A common mistake made by business managers, including solutions providers, is hiring a tech based solely on the candidate’s résumé. This is probably why you’ve crossed paths with so many high-skilled technicians who offend customers with their gruff demeanor.

Michael Tash knows this because of his nearly 20 years of experience in our channel. A partner with Essential Systems Solutions, a hospitality and retail VAR based near Washington, D.C., Tash recently shared with me some of his customer service best practices.

You said in a recent interview, “We’re in the business of serving customers point of sale technology, not serving point of sale technology to customers.” Can you expand upon that?

Yes. When we look at the solutions we offer, we first listen to the customer, try to understand what they are looking for and then create a solution that is right for them. We don’t just assume that they want to buy what we are selling.

One of your success secrets is focusing on personality traits more than technology skills when hiring. Can you talk about why you do that and how you execute on that philosophy?

The reason we do that is because you can’t train nice. You can train someone how to install, program, and service something, but you can’t really train them on how to be a nice person if it’s not natural. Most of our employees come from an operations or hospitality background. They were not technical workers. Because much of what we do has to do with our customers – people – and making technology work for them, we look for people who can talk and relate to other people.

A big part of stellar customer service is how you respond when something goes wrong. Can you share with us some of your best practices and maybe a story related to the topic of making things right with a customer?

We understand that when something goes wrong, the key is communication. As long as the customer is aware you understand there is a problem, even if you don’t have the solution yet, and keep them informed along the way, goes a long way to minimize the emotional reaction of the customer.

We sold a large, multi-location system to one of our customers. For this installation we hired a subcontractor. Due to a schedule change on the customer’s end – moving the open forward – the sub could not complete the job on time. We sent a team of installers to the sites for three days to get the installs completed on schedule and make sure the customer was satisfied.

You provide a wide range of technologies to your customers. Can you detail your current list of technologies and services and then talk about the importance of being a “Total Solution Provider” for your customers?

In addition to point of sale solutions, we offer credit card processing, loyalty programs, online ordering, digital surveillance systems, reporting packages, subscription music services, money counters, digital signage, and the related services. In addition to offering new solutions, we have a repair depot which allows us to service the customer’s legacy equipment while we are rolling out the new systems. This works extremely well when the customer has multiple locations.

A big trend we’re seeing among successful resellers is providing solutions beyond the POS and backend efficiency. The “VAR of the future” is also improving the experience for customers of their merchant or restaurant client. Where do you see ESS fitting in that picture now and in the future?

We currently do that by offering solutions and partnering with companies for enhanced loyalty and marketing programs. Some of these allow our customer to share data and some allow their customer to have more flexibility in ordering their food or managing their rewards. There are more and more solutions popping up, and the key is to be open-minded about working with other companies. We have relationships with vendors where we compete on some projects and partner on others, sometimes all in the same day.

What’s the biggest mistake you see fellow VARs making in regards to customer service?

Assuming they know what the customer wants and not fully listening.

What are the first one or two actions you recommend a reseller take if they want to dramatically improve the customer service they are offering?

Make sure you have a good personal relationship with the customer. Eat at their restaurant. Be a customer as well as partner. What we sell is a long-term relationship that includes some technology. There’s nothing that makes you a better partner than supporting your customer’s business.