About this time last year, our pump build queue was so long that I put new orders on hold. I was concerned that the burden may rush the builders, impacting quality and that customers would get increasingly upset due to the turn around time. This, along with pausing things while on vacation, took quite a toll on orders and around the November timeframe I was wondering if pump upgrades were even worth it. As a result, I was thinking of permanently discontinuing builds in the fall and made a last call for upgrades on social media. Much to my surprise they went very quick and I was met with people upset because they couldn’t purchase before we went out of stock. Therefore, I reluctantly bought another batch of hardware and it’s now all sold out too.
Those that know me well, know I have a love/hate relationship with pump upgrades as I have always struggled with the net gain for the effort spent. A lot of people think I just take an order, hand it off and wash my hands of it but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The sales cycle can be long. For some this is a large purchase and they are very concerned about every aspect of their pump upgrade. In addition to sales, I have lost my Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years weekends to people needing technical support this year. Then there is the constant demand for status updates from people wanting to know where they are in the build queue and then there is the big problem of customers looking to me to support pumps from other companies. I get the fact that I am in the USA and that they have purchased other products but its not viable for me to spend many hours on the phone helping other companies.
So, I wanted to put the brakes on the upgrades to really think about how things have gone and how things would need to change if I were to continue. Additionally, the customer experience needs to be at the forefront, or no one wins. Here are a few of the high-level pain points that I felt needed to be addressed:
- Warranty. People think upgrades have a bumper-to-bumper lifetime warranty and that could not be further from the truth. My website and Dieselmeken’s make it clear that the warranty is on the hardware and the workmanship to install it. Additionally, there is a problem with people purchasing an upgrade, playing with the calibration, then reselling it. The new buyer is told it’s a lifetime warranty, but that warranty has been voided due to tampering.
- Cost of time. As stated, there is no reason to continue to sell upgrades if non-bench labor cannot be contained somehow or at least become a covered cost.
- Turnaround time. Customers are disappointed waiting 30 days. If it hits 31 then some people become very irate.
- Uneducated customers. Ok, the title sounds bad but we have all been the new guy doing something at some point. What this means is that I need a better way to help customers help themselves. I have customers watching videos from other companies whose pumps are timed differently arguing with me about what the pump should be timed at! Facebook groups and YouTube can be damaging if the information is not relevant to what went into the pump (timing, calibration, etc)
- Quality. I need to see how to improve the quality of the upgrades. Overall I think we have done well but more focus needs to be on a zero defect goal.
When I have discussed these in the past, I am often met with these types of responses:
- Why don’t you find a builder that charges less? It’s because I have been working with the same guys since 2018 and it was a chore to find them after spending thousands of dollars on builders that couldn’t do it right. I don’t just abandon partners where the relationship is working just to save a few dollars. That is bad business. There is no competition, and we communicate very well.
- I thought you had a test bench, why don’t you build pumps? I do have most tooling, a test bench, test fluid, etc but it comes back to the cost of time. The labor rate to pay the current builders is lower than my consulting labor rate so if I were to start building pumps then I would be even more negative on the effort.
- Hire someone… I was trying last year but could not find someone I trusted that didn’t think they should own part of the business or have a massive salary. With the economy the way it is now, there is no way I would sink money into a resource, there is a financial storm coming and it would be a stupid move in my opinion.
All of this comes down to a first world problem and I feel it can be solved with the following action items. Over the next couple of months I will be working to institute some changes and I realize that they may not resonate with everyone but I am fine with that because if it is not a win-win offering then it’s a loser.
- Clearly define the warranty. As clear as I think it is right now, it will be evaluated and attached to each upgrade product page. Warranties will no longer be transferable due to the problems and costs we have incurred. Additionally, while hardware and installation of that hardware will continue to have a lifetime warranty, other issues need to have a defined end date.
- Create better content. I need better content on shipping, installing, troubleshooting, and adjusting the pumps so that people can be self-sufficient. I believe people want to do this now, I just don’t have the right materials out there.
- Pricing. Prices will go up. After talking to customers, they choose to buy from BenzForce because we are here in the USA and they have a lifeline to someone (me). Time is valuable and most customers I have run this by seem to agree that the cost of that time should not be free.
- Turn around time. Initially when things open up, I hope to introduce pump exchanges. Once we get your core an upgraded pump will ship within 1-2 business days. I will have a couple of set configurations based on the most requested calibrations over the last couple of years. I need to put a lot of thought into this and I don’t have all the answers right now. Initially, I may not offer any custom upgrades, but I am not sure.
I have fielded so many calls on this topic this week and thought an article that spelled out what is going on would be easier. I hope to have things up and running again in the next 3 to 6 months but I am not in a rush. As always, anyone that has bought a pump should know I will cover things; I always have.