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April 2007
Flavors of Choice
By Janet Kropinak

     Whether you are seeking to create documents that get noticed by your customers, or to produce high quality documents in-house, the power of Xerox color is eye-catching. However, purchasing the machine that produces it can be eye-popping. That is, if you are not in the right shop.

      Doug Heineman and his staff at Basicsplus Office Products offer reproduction solutions that are mouth-watering. In line with the Xerox ambition of total customer satisfaction, they walk you through the different varieties and choices of equipment, and follow through with after sale support. It may not be a breeze through an ice cream parlor, but their many flavors of solutions are almost edible.

     You would think that in their competitive market, it might not always be in their best interest to devote so much time to their clients, but it is something that Heineman and company find valuable to solidify customer relationships and aren’t willing to compromise.


Learning the Recipe

     Heineman has been a member of the Xerox family for 41 years. In 1966 he joined the company as a sales rep and moved his way through the ranks to manager, branch manager, product management and eventually found himself working for Xerox International. For five years Heineman worked as the director of marketing for Latin America. He handled marketing for 37 countries including Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico. Although he didn’t live abroad, he spent much of his time traveling, which wasn’t always easy with young children at home.

     Heineman’s next position was with the Xerox corporate staff. There, Heineman developed a white paper recommending Xerox initiate a joint venture with China to produce machines there. At the time, Xerox was searching for an alternate channel strategy for the company and was debating between sales agents, dealers or retail stores. Ultimately, they made the decision to go with sales agents for rural areas and retail stores, so Heineman chose to leave the corporate staff to develop the retail channel in metro areas.

      A short time later, Heineman received a call inquiring about his interest in working on the project in China. He immediately answered yes, but indicated that he needed to discuss the opportunity with his family. His wife was on board with the move, but his daughter Tracy was a harder sell. She was getting ready to start high school and wasn’t excited about moving around the world. So Xerox sent Heineman and daughter Tracy to Hong Kong for 10 days so they could make an informed decision on whether or not this was something they wanted to do.

     After visiting schools and meeting other expat children, Tracy was excited about the move and Heineman accepted the position. For the next three plus years, Heineman was responsible for sales operations in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

     When the family returned to the United States, Heineman rejoined the Xerox corporate family as a worldwide product manager and, in 1994, he chose an early retirement package. Later that year, he joined another Xerox initiative and opened an authorized Xerox sales agency in the Charlotte area, which was the program he had helped initiate

years earlier.


Stepping Behind the Counter

      Heineman came to Charlotte with just shy of 30 years of experience with Xerox; he was excited about this new phase of his life. He describes the name for his business: “The name Basicsplus reflects our corporate direction to provide not only basic products to small and medium size businesses but also additional accessories and services. We want the name to reflect that we are providing more than base products; we also work with scanning, printing and faxing as well as after sale support. All of these facets are incorporated in our business.”

     Around this time Heineman’s daughter Tracy was finishing her degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology studying photography and digital imaging. After graduation she returned to Charlotte working for Biggs Camera in photo restoration and other imaging services.

     In 2001 Xerox made an announcement that they were expanding their color portfolio and were searching for candidates who had such training, Tracy thought this was a good fit for her and joined her father at Basicsplus. Tracy began working with sales reps and training them in color and how to use and sell the machines. With the rise of digital printing, Tracy’s experience made her even more valuable to the team and she eventually became sales manager.

     Heineman says that he and Tracy balance each other and compliment each other’s strengths. “Tracy is really technically astute and knows how to take advantage of each machine’s capabilities. Networking is another one of her strengths. I, on the other hand, handle the business end. My extensive background with Xerox is also valuable.”

     Heineman isn’t the only one who sees the advantages of working together. Tracy says she had no reservations about joining her father and the family business. “I love working for my dad, he’s a great boss,” she says with a smile. “With our combined efforts, we have our bases covered. I have learned an incredible amount of history and direction of Xerox as well as the art of customer service from my dad.”

     With Heineman running the business end and Tracy keeping up to date on the technology side, the missing piece was a sales team. Says Heineman, “The Xerox philosophy of customer service runs in my veins, and we try to emphasize to our reps that you cannot promise to do something you know you cannot do.” This should seem like common sense, but so often he says people make promises to get a sale and don’t worry about the aftermath when the customer finds out you can’t produce what you promised.

When it comes to adding members to their “family,” finding the right people isn’t easy.          
       Heineman and Tracy admit that their interviews often turn into lectures and have been known to last several hours. This is the process they use to determine whether or not someone really wants to join their team. Heineman explains, “We are really proud of the fact that we always aim for the satisfaction of our clients; we have a high retention rate and strong loyalty from our customers. And we are always looking for the people who are going to help us carry out that tradition.”

       Having the Xerox name behind your company does help attract sales people in large part because of the extensive training they offer. “Xerox provides enough resources to allow someone to train for 40 hours a week if they chose to do so. Everything from product information to skills training and e-learning exercises,” Tracy describes. Finding people who are ready and eager to take advantage of these resources remains a top priority for Tracy and her dad.


More Than Just Vanilla

      Xerox is a company where everyone is invested and the majority of the people working there have a long history. Despite the financial problems they have had over the years, they have always maintained their focus on customer service and maintaining customer relationships after the purchase. And it is with these very principles that Heineman and Tracy run Basicsplus.

     “We like to refer to the three S’s in Basicsplus: Solutions, Support and Satisfaction,” Heineman says.

      Tracy explains, “If you can provide your clients with more than just a great product, a total experience that exceeds their expectations, then you form a partnership and become more than just a vendor. These become your long-term clients and it’s instilled in our reps via example as we have rep/client relationships that have been in place for many, many years.”

      Tracy has trained her reps to listen to what the client is looking for and helps them find the right solution. There are so many “flavors of choice” available in office equipment today that the process can seem overwhelming. This is where the experience of the Basicsplus team comes in. They go over your options and all the choices available in an effort to find the best match for your needs, which sometimes can mean creating a custom machine. Although Xerox has a strong support team, the Basicsplus team also makes sure they are available for any questions a customer might have.


A Satisfied Customer

     Years ago, Xerox started offering a Total Satisfaction Guarantee (TSG) to its customers in response to winning the Malcolm Baldridge Award. “They were looking to show people that they were a quality company and that they were working to do what was best for the customer,” Heineman says.

     Tracy continues, “Our machines are not always the least expensive, but we make up for that in the kind of follow up customer service we offer and of course the TSG that Xerox offers.”

     The job of a Basicsplus sales rep doesn’t end after the sale is made. They are expected to work with the customer and follow up with them, making sure they are happy with their decision. Tracy emphasizes to the sales reps to listen to what a customer is looking for and to work with them in finding the solution that best fits their needs, and again stresses the importance of not making empty promises to “land a sale.”

Basicsplus is currently the only Authorized Xerox sales agent in the Charlotte area.            

     “We’re happy doing what we’re doing and will continue to look for ways to do it better,” says Heineman. “We don’t want to grow past a point where customer service doesn’t remain a top priority as often happens with larger companies.”

      Tracy says she would like to get to a point where they no longer have to worry about turnover in the sales department. “Our goal is to build a team of people that really work well together, enjoy their jobs, and will remain with the company for many years.”

Both Tracy and Heineman agree that the number one priority is being able to grow without losing focus and Tracy offers a few secrets on how she plans to do this.

      “Xerox does have the absolute best product and service out there as evidenced by the fact Xerox just won the J.D. Powers Award for Excellence in Customer Satisfaction for the second year in a row, so we have to focus on finding clients that understand how important documents and communication are to their success.

       The only other secret I have is that we never keep secrets—we are a very open, honest and straightforward company. We never promise the moon and stars and then deliver Lucky Charms.”

Janet Kropinak is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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