The person who writes the check may not be your only customer. One family member may appear to be the driving force in a purchase, but that person may turn out not to be the decision maker or primary user. "Customer satisfaction is a function of everyone who uses the product, so we try to involve all family members in the purchase process," says Doug Steimle, CEO of California Pools and Spas, a $60-million company, headquartered in West Covina, Calif.

It's not unusual to discover that different family members envision different pools--an aesthetically pleasing design, a lap lane for exercise, a diving board, or a slide. Sales reps are instructed to inquire about everyone's needs. Do you need handrails and a gradual entry area for grandparents? Do you want a large deck for social gatherings?

"We make a point of interviewing as many family members as possible," says Steimle. "If we can't talk to them directly, we ask the person we're dealing with to specifically consider their needs. This encourages the buyer to seek the opinions of others before the next meeting. Kids should be involved too. We provide a coloring book to educate kids on the pool-building process. They can entertain themselves but still be present to add their views."

By getting everyone involved in the design process, the company shows its customers that it wants to satisfy their needs, instead of just putting a product in their backyards. "Involving everyone is good for customer satisfaction, and it's good for sales," Steimle notes.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing