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Could this be the reason American manufacturing is failing?

Recently Marketing Excellence was invited to bid on a major contract. The contract involved some promotional products. Well actually a large volume of one product.

I looked up several American manufacturers (which will remain nameless). Being a veteran and with the state of the US economy, I wanted Made in the USA. I was excited by the size of the potential order so I quickly started contacting American manufacturers. When I called the first company to ask about product specifications, shipping details, and pricing, the person who answered the phone was very polite but a little overwhelmed by the large order. After the 3rd consecutive question that she could not answer, I asked if could speak to whomever she was asking. I had a lot more questions and the put on hold for a brief wait (30 seconds to 2 minutes) to answer every question was starting to frustrate me. The response was "I can help you, sir. Sir, please allow me to help you." My reply was 'I have about 17 more questions so I think it would be easier for both of us?' Well I got no where with that. So I ended the call immediately after the next question which of course was accompanied by the delay in responding while she asked someone else.

What's interesting is that this was my easiest call. The other American manufacturers were less knowledgeable about their product offerings and several had attitudes. After the fourth call I had enough. I asked the person if I was bothering them or annoying them. Her response was a candid "We get people who are always asking questions and don't buy, especially people asking for large quantities like you." I was stunned by her logic for dismissing my request. I tried to share some business 101 with her so I responded with, 'Don't you think that maybe they are not buying because of your attitude. Customers want to be treated like customers not like interruptions. Perhaps that is why you are not getting this or any large order.' I respectfully said good bye and hung up. I could only shake my head.

Attention American manufacturers: Treat customers like they are the customer!

I am not a believer that the customer is always right. But I do believe the customer should be treated with respect and professionalism even when they are wrong.

If 5 out of 5 did not know or present their product well and over half were rude, how can American manufacturing succeed?


  1. In contrast, I had in the past done some research bidding for supplies in China, and, even with the less than perfect English, all were quite knowledgeable with their products and were willing to ship samples. This is the China of today, aggressive and willing to bend over backwards to satisfy their customers, regardless of the quantity, adding, How can you compete with the luxury of cheap materials and labor as well.

  2. I think it also speaks to the value of the person who answers the phone. This is the first impression that a potential client or customer receives. Yet, many companies treat this position as a minimum wage, non-skilled position. I always wonder how many potential sales/customers and associated revenue are lost due to the lack of professionalism on the part of the person who answers the phone.

  3. Interesting observation about that frontline employee Jim. But if the company does not value training and preparing that person that answers the phone, what else are they not doing that we can't see? I do a Retention Marketing workshop and one of the modules is the cost and economics of loyal and lifetime customers. People who attend are staggered by the total lost revenue and profits from this type of situation.

  4. Wow! This is the first time I saw an entry like this and this makes a lot of sense. Product knowledge is really important, and how come people have the courage to negotiate without enough product knowledge? I think this will be an eye opener for a lot of manufacturers.

  5. Incredible! Product knowledge is important, however realizing the importance of the person on the other side of the phone is absolutely critical to the long-term viability of any organization. Obviously, leadership from upper management is lacking if the person answering the phone is not knowledgeable enough answer simple questions about their product or service.