How Can Drilling Companies Keep Customers Happy?
Can you imagine the well business without customers? To some, that question probably brings a slight smile and the thought, “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the customers.” To others, the customers — though sometimes difficult — inspire them to treat drilling as a craft and service to take pride in. The Bundicks fit into the latter category. Bundick Well & Pump in Painter, Va., prides itself on and has a reputation for excellent customer service. Vice President Danny Bundick summed it up at the end of our call.
“I would say my grandfather, James Bundick, when we were coming up we spent a lot of time with him, and he was a stickler for yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir,” Danny Bundick told me. “He was a stickler for talking to people correctly and treating people the way you wanted to be treated. He drilled that into myself and my sister [Brook B. Duer] from the time we were able to talk. I would say that probably meant more to me than anything for the way I handle my customers and talk to them.”
But it’s more than politeness. It’s also about going above and beyond for customers. National Driller interviewed President Jimmy Bundick to find out more and see what advice the company can offer other drilling companies.
Our interview here has been edited for space and clarity.
Q. What services does Bundick offer?
A. We offer water, sewage, electric and the connections still for mobile and modular homes. For stick-built homes, for domestic work, we offer water and sewage. … We offer irrigation wells for the farmers, for the seafood industry, and then municipal wells for the towns. We have about five towns that have public water, town systems, that we help them maintain, drill new wells and keep them up to date with that. We have several housing projects that we offer water and sewage installation to, and also small buildings where people have shopping centers. We also offer water conditioning.
Q. For a drilling company, what does good customer service look like?
A. Good customer service for us is, for a customer that has low water pressure or no water, for us to handle completely with the health department their permit and get in and take in a temporary water supply and piping it in through a tanker strictly for non-drinking, but for bathing and bathroom facilities. We take a backup tanker in and pipe it into their plumbing system. It does everything but drinking for them. We then provide them with bottled water for drinking and give them the tanker for plumbing service. We keep them in service while the health department is issuing their permit and we’re drilling their new well.
Q. So, it’s not just coming in and installing the well, it’s making sure they have water regardless?
A. Right, that’s right.
Q. Do you measure customer service? If so, how?
A. The follow up for us is, a lot of customers we do give service to do send in a nice letter saying how well they were treated and how they enjoyed our people on site to take good care of them.
Q. You’re family owned and operated. How does that factor into how you treat customers?
A. It works very well. We have in the company my son, our daughter — one of our daughters is with us here. Danny and his sister, Brook, are part owners of the company. Brook’s husband, Pete, is a part of the organization that heads up one of our divisions. We just now started this week with Danny’s oldest daughter, which gives us three generations participating in this company.
With the family owned business, we feel like we get good response from our customers saying they were well treated. … We also are very heavy in septic tank service, pump trucks and taking care of people’s sewage systems as well as their water supply. In this business when you don’t have water or you don’t have bathroom facilities and need help, it’s so important to have somebody that cares about your needs and gets somebody to get you service as quickly as possible so it doesn’t interfere with your household needs, with families — especially during school time.
Q. What advice would you have for companies dealing with difficult customers?
A. That’s a great question. Some of the difficult times, you’ll have a dozen or a 100 excellent, wonderful customers that are good team players and … then you’ll have that one customer that has 1,000 questions, feels that maybe your prices are too high, or something that you offer isn’t exactly something they’re interested in. The thing is, the longer you work with people and the older — I know age for me has been a big help in answering some questions that you would normally say, “Well, just go ahead and get somebody else because I don’t want to deal with this.” … That’s not the way we address any customer. We try to listen to them and put ourselves in their position.
We feel all questions are good questions. … We’ve taken a customer that we kind of felt like we really didn’t want as a customer, we felt we’d rather have him go someplace else, but after we spoke with him, and answered their questions we really make a good friendship. Our motto is, we make our customers our friends. There’s very few customers who walk away that we don’t feel are our friends.
… We don’t just discard anybody. We take every call, no matter what price the job is. If it’s a $10 job or if it’s a $1,000 job, we consider it to be a job and a part of our budget at the end of the year that we need to have secured. We try to treat every customer with respect and, like every other business, there are times when you can’t achieve all that. But we try hard to achieve it.
Q. How do you make the case to customers when you may not be the cheapest quote?
A. We really aren’t. We don’t try to be the least expensive. We don’t offer the least expensive job. What we do tell folks is that we’re going to try to do the job for you just like we’d want it done at our own home. Shortcuts don’t pay dividends and don’t make things last and give you the quality of the job that you need.
We also, at the same time, tell them that we are going to try to be fair. Health department changes, rules and regulations definitely change the cost of jobs. Fuel prices and material costs affect that. And labor costs. Insurance. Safety — we have a big safety program here that we try to do. … Sometimes, the person that is going to try to get the job just on price falls short of being able to offer what the customer really wants.
We don’t discuss competitive prices. … But we try to be fair. We don’t try to ever put our competition under the bus. We want to be fair to them. … We welcome you to consider other people, and then after you talk to others and come back to us, we’d love to have your business and we’ll help you all we can.
Q. What does your rig fleet look like?
A. We use the Simcos. We used table drives for years. … But what we were looking at was a rig that would have less maintenance and make it easier on the men. When your arms and your shoulders are worn out from clutches and pulling gears on table rigs — the old-style table rigs, you look for something in a better safety factor, less wear and tear on your men to make it easier on them. So we went to Simco … told them what we were looking for and worked with them to build us a rig. Right now, we have four of the Simcos that are doing a really nice job for us. We have two 2800s, a 5000 and a 7000. They all do a fine job for us. And those folks out there at Simco have just been outstanding to give us service, meet our needs with any suggestions we might have to design those rigs for us for our area. We couldn’t ask for a better rig than what we have to do our work with than the Simco.
Q. You both serve on the board of the Virginia Water Well Association. How can being active in professional circles help when it comes to your interactions with customers?
A. We’re both on the board. I will be president up through February. … We’ve got a team on the board of all different types of drilling that we have, because of the way the state is set, it covers everything really well. … It does give us a full service of the board members that know a little bit about all types of drilling and can share that, and stay on top of regulations, which are changing rapidly.
It really does [help customer service]. … Sharing stories of the state and sharing what’s going on with some areas versus others, and customer relationships that are going on, it is a real asset.
Q. What are some tips other drilling companies could use to improve their customer service?
A. Starting out, it’s the person that answers the phone when they call. Be friendly and helpful. Get the proper information from them that they need — their phone number, their house number, the problem they’re experiencing. … Then get out to see them. Make the time convenient for them [customers]. But then go on out and meet with them at least within a 24- to 48-hour period. Once they call this office, I try to be on site the same day. Sometimes, it’s hard to do that. But at least call them back. Make a return call to them the same day. And then, at least, see them if it’s convenient for them either that day or the next day. Time and hours with us here in this office doesn’t matter. We start early and we work late. Hours doesn’t matter — we don’t have hours. Our hours are our customers’ hours. …
Basically, what you’ve got to do is do everything for the customer, right from the beginning right on to the end, do everything for them. Do their application [for the well/system permitting], walk it in, get their permit, get their well in, meet back with them to see if they’re satisfied, take them their bill. … The more you can do on a personal manner, and knowing that the customer is satisfied and their problems have been answered, it makes a complete statement where you don’t have a situation where a customer calls to say, “You said you were going to do this, but you haven’t done this.” Meeting in person, for me, has been the answer to having a better satisfied customer.