How technology helped Ferguson meet community demand in Texas
After the historic winter storm, community need for plumbing products at an all-time highThursday, March 4, 2021
For over a year, business continuity in every industry has been tested. The only way to stay in business was to innovate, diversify, try new things and seek opportunities once thought impossible.
Companies were again tested on their ability to sustain critical business activity when an arctic storm swept across Texas and then into 25 additional states. The ice storm left catastrophic and unprecedented damage.
As the ice melts, contractors, skilled trade professionals and homeowners begin to make temporary plumbing repairs. Julia Bell, Ferguson district operations manager in Texas reported, “Being a major distributor of plumbing products, Ferguson understands the important role we play in disaster recovery and rebuilding our communities. Our call volume was more than double a normal day and many of these calls weren’t from our traditional customer – the plumber or contractor – but from homeowners who needed assistance assessing the issue and finding the right product.”
With a wide variety of plumbing products, tools, repair parts and operating supplies, the products and services that Ferguson offers are the backbones of any disaster recovery. For both homeowners and contractors, Ferguson must make transactions quick and efficient, and be strategic with real-time inventory calculations to ensure that the products their customers need are readily available.
Adopting technology to ensure business continuity
Prior to the pandemic, Ferguson transitioned to Microsoft Teams. Bell said, “Our Ferguson associates were already comfortable with the technology. However, we could not have predicted just how helpful it would be during this historic winter storm. We have used Teams to communicate business-critical information statewide, from location closures and openings to product availability. In the past, this information may have been buried in email. Today, it lives in Teams and is targeted to those who need it, easy-to-find and available on mobile.”
The demand for plumbing parts in Texas is at an all-time high. Bell said, “To keep up with customer demand and get the community the supplies they need, we had to increase our staffing at our plumbing locations, repurposing many of our sales associates to work at our retail counter. We created a Microsoft Teams group chat that served as an ‘internal help group’, crowdsourcing knowledge from other associates with hundreds of years of collective experience. This has helped us serve Texas customers as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
There are other benefits to adopting technology to ensure business continuity. Bell said, “Microsoft Teams has not only allowed for ease of collaboration among Texas associates, but it also helps with team morale. Our associates are working long hours and going above and beyond what is asked of them, and it’s nice to be able to thank them in real-time. We overcome challenges, but we also celebrate successes together – no matter what Texas location we are in .”
During this unique and widespread disaster, there is much stress and concern that is shared by the Ferguson community. Our communities continued safety and timely recovery are two of them. We’re working to ensure our contractors’ safety and efficient time management while helping the families they serve. “The Ferguson location in Austin is up-and-running with texting capabilities for our trade customers, which has helped immensely during the aftermath of the winter storm. Customers can place an order online or over the phone, we’ll pull the supplies and text you as soon as your order is ready for pick-up. This is a huge time-saver for our Austin associates because they aren’t having to make outbound calls to customers. We plan to deploy this technology to other Ferguson locations in the coming months.”
Disaster recovery is never easy and requires resilience. Ferguson associates hold themselves to higher standards because, during a crisis, they know that contractors and homeowners not only need parts, they need a trusted advisor.
Also see: Digital Tools Aid Texas Plumbers in Wake of Winter Storm - WSJ