Shimadzu Regional Manager Tells All!

s_hattori at s_hattori at
Thu Jan 4 18:02:24 EST 2001

Shimadzu Regional Manager Tells All!

The following memorandum was forwarded by Mr. Terry Adams (Regional
Manager) to Shimadzu senior management including Pat O'Donnell (former
Regional Manager; what happened here?), Chris Gaylor (East Coast Area
Manager) and Lorenz Brosnan (National Sales Manager):

I feel that it is important to express my current state of
dissatisfaction with my job. It has taken me about 3 months to come to
grips with the fact that I cannot continue to be a top performing
Shimadzu salesman unless I either change my attitude or Shimadzu
changes the way that we support our customers. (Editor's note: Don't
stop now!)

I believe that this company has come to a cross road. That cross road
is to place the customer as our top priority or as it currently seems
to push paper and memos around and push off customer needs to each
other. It seems that every day I get at least one complaint about
various aspects of our business. They range from not getting the
correct part number, not being trained properly, people not returning
phone calls to them, getting different instructions from different
people, equipment not working properly, etc. etc. etc. I don't mind
handling the complaint, it is just that I am tired of making excuses.
The same excuses that we used four to five years ago. Are we ever going
to grow up as a company and find an efficient way to address the
customer needs? It seems that if you report a problem, everyone from
marketing, service and quality assurance has an excuse as to why it is
not their responsibility or why I should go tell my customer to "take a
hike, it is not important enough for us to concern ourselves with."
(Editor's note: This is amazing!)

Somebody please wake up! These "stupid, don't know what they are doing"
customers are our customers. They are our bread and butter. They pay
our bills. They are our future because if we lose their respect, we
lose a good part of our business as well as the references we need to
make the business grow. A salesman will never sell any more products
than he currently does unless he allows his customers to help him. You
could give me the names of everyone in my territory that is purchasing
equipment but unless I have a good reputation, we will only get a small
part of the business. The part that we will get will be the uninformed,
the friend, or the customer who uses us as a protest against a
competitor such as HP. (Editor's note: No surprises here!)

Now I know that you are going to say: "Tell me about your problems and
we will get you the help you need." What help? We hire tech support
people and provide them with little or no training. I am not talking
about putting them in a class for a week and now their an expert -
that's not training. I am talking about putting them in front of a
customer with a real problem, about how to handle a customer, about how
to troubleshoot the instrument, about when to ask for backup, about how
to schedule themselves, about what a timely response is. These are
things that need to be taught in the field. We should be having our
field staff travelling together and communicating better. We should
have some way to assess their abilities to figure out if they should be
sent out on a problem. When we send in our expert and they are less
trained than the salesman, we have a credibility problem. Sending
a "body" out there rarely solves anything but buying an extra couple of
days. (Editor's note: Maybe Mr. Adams is on to something here....)

It use to be that when I did all of my own technical support and part
of my own service that I could see problems before they became
PROBLEMS. We could head off problems at major accounts before they
infected everyone else at that account. Nowadays, when a customer has a
service problem, they get a rapid response that fixes the hardware
problem and typically a hefty bill. But I would argue that 50% of these
calls are just a symptom of poor training or communication. The service
personnel understand how to get an instrument to function when we push
the right button but they don't know how to run the instrument the way
a customer does. They don't know how to question the customer to find
out if there exists problems in his sample prep, his data
interpretation, his procedures, etc. I know that it is unrealistic to
expect a service person to understand the hardware repair for 50 some
instruments, let alone the customer's applications, but I do expect
that we should be communicating better than we are. Often times, I find
out that an instrument was repaired but did not really solve the
customer's real problem. Of course, he never described his real problem
to the service man; he may have just stated something like: "I think my
injector isn't working." The service man overhauls his injector, bills
him and the customer's problem continues. Unfortunately, we don't find
any of this out until we arrive and see a new HP instrument in his lab.
When we ask why he didn't call us back and say the problem continued,
he states something like: "I couldn't afford too." The only answer to
this scenario that I can conceive is to have the salesman follow up
every service call and/or discuss the problem with the customer while
the service person is on site. I can tell you this is impossible
because there is not enough hours in the day to bring in the dollars
you ask for as well as follow up every contact between Shimadzu and the
customer. (Editor's note: Does this sound like that unrivaled customer
service that Shimadzu so ardently proclaims on it's WWW page?)

I also know that you will say "if we feel that our field people can't
handle the problem then we can go inside and ask for help." But I am
going to tell you that I am not sure that some of our inside people,
although specialists, know as much as our field people do about their
instruments. This is because they rarely run the instruments the way a
customer would. They are shielded from customers by being inside too
much. They don't seem to care about the science the way that an in-
house specialist should. Where are application notes, what scientific
meetings do they attend, what journals do they read? They seem to be
most concerned with reading competitor's ads, reproducing problems from
the field and doing telephone support. Again with little or no
communication to the field as to the nature of the telephone call. How
can I head off a problem before it exists if I am not informed? I have
customers call in and are told to try several different things from
different people inside, all of which I am sure is well intended, but
leaves the customer with the opinion that we really don't understand
our own equipment. The other problem with going inside for help is that
they are so overworked it seems "putting out fires," that they can't
help us in a timely manner. A problem that takes us two weeks to look
at and two months to solve does little to impress on the customer that
they should continue to buy Shimadzu products. (Editor's note: We can't
add anything to that!)

I can surely say that I am not sure where we are going as a company. I
see the field people getting laptop computers that I assume are going
to increase communications but no one seems to be using the bulletin
board. If the purpose is to make quoting customers more efficient, I
still haven't seen it. I know something is in the works but I wonder
how many of us will use it? Will it really save time? Is it worth all
the effort and man hours we put in it? Will price changes still come
out on paper so I have to spend hours correcting my online price book
as well as my hard copy price book. It seems that we have been spinning
our wheels for about three years now. Are we going to make some use of
power leads data? Is it worth the effort? Do we have the manpower to
manage it? Can it be supported by our in-house staff? Is the only
purpose of power leads to make a transition to another salesman easier?
(Editor's note: Three years is an awful long time to be spinning your

We have a training center. Are we supposed to run it like a business?
Are we trying to make profits from the tuition or is it supposed to be
a sales tool? Are classes being taught that are superior to the
training in the field. Sometimes I wonder if I am increasing or
decreasing my efficiency by having a customer go to training? Some come
out and say "If I have a problem, I call you" because they were not
that impressed. Some come out and say "Why didn't you sell me this or
that - So and So said that...." Hell so and so shouldn't tell my
customer what's best for them unless they go to his lab and watch how
it works. All that winds up doing is helping me lose my credibility. It
seems to me that when we have customers in our facility, we should be
giving them the best sales presentation ever conceived in a subtle
manner. We have two or three days of their undivided attention while
being surrounded by other Shimadzu users. Are we trying to sell
ourselves - I don't think so. Walking them through the building is not
enough. We should be interacting with them on breaks and finding out
what we can do to help them. (Editor's note: Why would students in a
learning environment want to be pestered with a sales pitch???)

I see us making profit from service, but at what cost to sales? I
thought that we were looking for long term growth, not short term gain.
Our reasonable and different approach to service is what landed us in
several of my existing accounts. It is what set me apart from my
competition. It seems now we are trying to compete with the competition
on their terms. I know that in several accounts that Shimadzu is looked
on as no different that HP and Waters in terms of how it treats a
customer. As a matter of fact, we cannot compete with them as they out
number and out support us. (Editor's note: Well said!!!)

When I first came here, it seemed to me that we were a company driven
by the customer. Whatever the customer wanted, we tried to accommodate;
we tried to compromise, we at least listened. Today, I think we are a
company driven by the competition. Customer suggestions and requests
are greeted with answers like "What other company has that feature?" We
certainly seem to spend more time trying to figure out what our
competitors offer than we do to listening to our own customers. Our
decision makers are tied up inside and can't get into the field. They
rely on salesmen for some information but of course, this is not first
hand and often details get lost in the translation. We need to spend
time imagining that we are our customer. We should put ourselves in
their places. We should operate our equipment the way the customer
does. Only if we allow ourselves to be driven by customers will we ever
be leaders in analytical instrumentation. (Editor's note: We are
wondering just how does Shimadzu operate it's equipment???)

....All and all, I will continue to struggle to come to grips with this
position. Some days are good and some are bad. The problems will be
here whether I am here or not, so I should stay around and try to solve
them. After all, "quality is my responsibility!" It seemed that when I
joined this company, everyone here believed that we could become a
great company different from the rest, but now it seems the attitude is
that we are just another company trying to be like the rest. I would
like to hear from management a couple of things: 1) do you recognize
that support problems exist and is costing us our long term business,
2) do they understand that we don't put ourselves in the customer's
shoes enough, 3) what are our long term plans, where are the details,
who is going to direct us, 4) is it my job to spend about an hour a day
writing memos so that they can be passed around to each other and
eventually forgotten. (Editor's note: So what does Shimadzu management
have to say???)

Pat, I understand that you are doing the best you can , hell everyone
is. We just need to make some decisions about where we are going as a
company and then act on them. I can say that support has increased in
the last six years - at least by a body count, but I can't say that
support has improved in my customer's eyes. I think that the product
line is becoming more demanding and the customers are becoming less
educated and need more from us. I think that a new support person
cannot be expected to master all the product lines is a reasonable time
and perhaps its time we specialize field support personnel. Thanks for
listening. (Editor's note: No, thank you Mr. Adams for writing!!!)

There is more about SHIT-madzu....

Sent via

More information about the Bioforum mailing list