Henny Penny Corporation, Eaton, Ohio, was recently named Dayton Business Journal’s 2021 Business of the Year. It’s a terrific honor and we take a certain amount of pride in being recognized for the effort our employee-owners put in every day and the accomplishments that result. But it goes deeper than that. We see this as a validation of what we have, for decades, simply called the Henny Penny Culture.
What is that difference? Is there something unique about this 900+ employee-owner manufacturing company that was founded in small-town Ohio and never budged? In this 4-part blog series, we’ll hear from some of the individuals who understand best the hows and the whys behind the things Henny Penny does and believes in that have made our company not only a Midwestern success story, but a highly regarded global brand in the commercial foodservice equipment industry.
Customer care is as important as employee wellbeing at Dayton Business Journal’s 2021 Business of the Year. And it shows. Some of the largest global restaurant brands have been doing business with Henny Penny for decades. We often attribute this loyalty to the quality of the products we make or our ability to understand our partners’ unique needs. But really, it boils down to how well we take care for our customers both over time and on a day-to-day basis. How we treat customers is one of the things that sets us apart.
Very few foodservice equipment manufacturers, for instance, rely on the independent distributor model, preferring to sell directly to customers or through agents and dealers. Our global network of more than 90 exclusive distributors gives us incredible market reach. Each distributor is the face of Henny Penny in that locality or region. Our brand is their business. They’re working on Henny Penny every day. What customer is not going to benefit from that?
“If you think about it,” says Todd Hennigan, Henny Penny Vice President of Services, “most of the experience a customer has with our company is on the service side of the business. From the moment you place an order, through delivery, installation, training and after-sales support—it’s all service.”
A big selling point of the exclusive distributor model is that customers have a single point of contact to help with everything from sales through start-up and employee training. At the same time, Henny Penny Services looks to establish multiple points of contact with customers and distributors so information gets where it needs to go quickly. It’s also the way Henny Penny strengthens relationships with new customers.
Kevin Hilbert, Director of Technical Services put it succinctly: “Henny Penny is a premium brand. If you are going to be a premium brand, you need to provide premium support.”
Hilbert was referring to the red-carpet treatment his Customer Care Team provides when onboarding new customers or addressing a technical issue with existing customers. “They’re tech ninjas. They’ll go anywhere and do anything to make it right. They help internally if there’s an issue with equipment or shipping or installation so the problem never reaches the customer. They deploy externally when a customer can’t resolve something on their own or at the distributor level.”
On the other side of that coin, a technical services hotline saves Henny Penny customers roughly $1 million annually by resolving one out of three service calls remotely. Trained technicians can be reached 24/7 by phone, text, or online chat. Add to that a merged reality service tool that lets remote techs point or mark in real time on a user’s shared mobile screen grab to show how things work as they talk through the solution.
“We’re generally more advanced than other manufacturers when it comes to service,” Hilbert says. “Stuff like our merged reality tool might seem kind of exotic. But it’s not really. We’re just using technology to meet people where they are at, and ninety-nine percent of the time that’s in the kitchen in the middle of a shift. There’s a QR code right on the equipment. Crew members just use their phone to snap the code and get help.”
Hilbert says most technical service outlets don’t do troubleshooting over the phone. “Every time they get a call someone has to roll a truck. That’s a lot of expensive hourly labor. We look to minimize our customer’s cost of service. But it’s even more important to minimize their equipment downtime. If it’s a simple fix and we get your fryer back on line in half an hour instead of tomorrow, that’s a big deal. You aren’t missing orders or disrupting production.”
Gathering every external function of the company under the conceptual umbrella of Customer Experience allows Services to be active in a much broader space, routinely connecting with sales, marketing, product management.
According to Amber Brandt, Manager of Customer Services and Credit, Henny Penny logs more than 40,000 customer “touches” per month just from its service tools. These range from views of training and operations videos on the company’s YouTube channel to interactivity in the HP Service Cloud and help from the 24-hour Tech Hotline.
“We use a data-driven process to make sure we’re doing what is right for the customer,” Brandt said. “Order processing time, for instance. How do we make sure they are being taken care of? It’s a way of challenging ourselves that’s built into the system.”
It must be working. Customer satisfaction surveys average 9.5 out of 10. This isn’t just about having customers rate their experience. It’s about gathering information to address a customer’s ongoing needs. When this activity reveals a specific issue, our contact center can escalate it immediately to our Customer Care Team. And when the Customer Care Team is done taking care of the problem, they will likely have addressed additional or upcoming preventative care points with that customer.
The past eighteen months have been particularly hard on the spare parts side of the Services business. Like every other manufacturer, the current challenge is to manage the supply chain to keep up with demand. “Everything came back strong in 2021,” said Kim Wright, Director of Parts and Supplies. “That means we’re experiencing labor and commodities shortages with our suppliers, as well. We’ve been less impacted than most because we make sure our distribution partners have enough of what they need before they need it.”
That sounds simple enough. But what it requires is fairly unusual.
“Not too many manufacturers have a separate fabrication and assembly line for spare parts,” Wright says. Roughly a third of the total number of maintenance and repair parts required to service Henny Penny equipment are made on this line and stocked onsite in a parts tower, available for immediate shipping. Both common maintenance items and critical components are also pushed out to the inventories of Henny Penny distributors, kitchen equipment suppliers and parts warehouses around the world.
Wright and her team provide a list of critical parts to Henny Penny service and repair partners. These parts must always be on their trucks in order to perform a first-time fix when equipment is down. Certain other non-critical maintenance parts must also be on hand at the partner’s location.
“We basically over communicate,” she said. “It takes a complete focus on communication with our partners so everyone understands what they are dealing with in terms of customer repair and maintenance schedules. Together, we’ve developed a “most wanted” parts list. With the right communication, our partners stock what they need, which means we effectively have parts inventory everywhere.”
It’s one thing to talk about customer service. It’s another thing to actually go out and do it day in and day out, to believe in what you are doing, and to provide leadership and support to the people who do it.
Hilbert praised the cohesiveness of his team. “None of us can do our job without the others to help out. If you make a mistake, it’s a learning opportunity. As long as you are trying to do the right thing, we fully support whatever you do. You will never be in trouble for helping a customer.”
Hennigan: “Everybody here is passionate about CX (customer experience.) We don’t have people that say ‘this isn’t my job.’ The technology we deploy lets us run with that and manage it effectively. At the same time, we have a responsibility to our employees and customers to build a process that scales up, that gets easier not harder, as we grow. We can do right by our customers without having to be heroes every day.”
Continued growth also means being able to scale up efficiencies in manufacturing while maintaining product quality. We’ll take a look at this topic in Part 3.
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