Staying in touch Featured

9:45am EDT July 22, 2002

When Northcoast Business Systems opened its doors in a 2,600-square-foot building 15 years ago, it would be fair to say company President Sonny Kumar was starting from scratch.

“We had no customers at all,” he recalls. “Our first order was $37, and that was the first month of work. It was a zero customer situation.”

A litany of smart decisions spurred growth over the years, leading Kumar to his current 40,000-square-foot building in Valley View’s Hub Park. Kumar attributes the growth of his copier sales business to hard work and a little luck, but admits a steady stream of referrals made a big impact on his current customer base of 9,000 clients.

He attributes those referrals to a practice of staying in touch with his customers.

“There are a lot of touches we try to make with the customer,” he says. “It’s not just sending one letter out and forgetting about them.”

Here are some ways Kumar builds solid customer relationships:

Ask for feedback

Every time a sale is made, Kumar sends a letter to each decision maker asking for honest thoughts on their experience with his company. The idea is to learn everything he can about how each client views Northcoast Business Systems.

“I want them to let me know what we did right and what we did wrong,” he says. “I have at least 7,000 that have come back from customers. I have a sales meeting once a month and I go in and make copies of those for the entire sales staff.”

Assign company contacts

Once a sale is made, a customer service representative is dispatched to train workers on how to use their company’s new machine. That person then serves as the customer’s contact with Northcoast Business Systems for the remainder of the business relationship.

“As soon as they are introduced, that customer service representative is in contact with that client, if not once a month, at least every 45 days,” says Kumar.

Require sales staff follow-up calls

Kumar also requires his sales staff to place follow up calls to their customers on a regular basis to ensure the copiers are meeting their needs.

“It’s not OK to say, ‘Here, have a machine, here’s your sales invoice,’” Kumar explains. “Our sales reps are required to call customers consistently. Every eight to 10 weeks they have to be in touch.”

How to reach: Northcoast Business Systems, (216) 642-7555

Jim Vickers ( is an associate editor at SBN.