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Customer service the ‘secret’ of success for Synergetics

STARKVILLE — In the past 10 years Synergetics Diversified Computer Services has grown from a staff of three to 37 with sales in the range of about $7.5 million in 2001. The “secret” to success is one that is key to all businesses, not just those that are technology based.

“Our formula for success is pretty simple,” said David Palmer, CEO of Synergetics. “It is customer service. We have taken information technology knowledge, skills, experience and expertise, and applied it with a very good core ethics of customer service. Our customers have in turn referred us to other customers. We have gotten where we are by taking care of our customers, and they have taken care of us by continuing to do business with us and referring us to their family, friends and people they do work with. Good customer service is not a difficult concept, but it is difficult to actually execute. You have to get every team member to buy into that.”

Palmer said the company’s philosophy is to have a relationship-based approach to our customers.

“It means that we are there not for the short term but for the long term,” Palmer said. “We are there for this project and the next one and the next one. As we learn customers’ systems, we learn what it takes for them to do business, and we learn what they want to use their information systems to accomplish because that is the end goal. An educational user probably wants to use IT systems to teach students and improve their achievement. A commercial customer may have specific objectives they need computer systems to help them achieve. We want to help them make that happen.”

Customers can get frustrated when they dial up call centers to get help with their computer equipment. Each time they call, they get a different person. And that person doesn’t know the customer’s entire system.

“It is easier to talk to someone if you have been in their office, know their face, and understand their system,” Palmer said. “If a customer says, ‘The accounting server just crashed,’ you understand the importance of that. It just makes it a heck of a lot easier and more productive when you are working with someone who has that relationship with you already rather than have to re-explain it to someone new and different each time.”

Synergetics was founded by Jim Raines in 1992 when he was only 23 years old. Palmer, an industrial engineer, joined the company in 1997. Employment has grown so rapidly that the company has had to move three times in three years. Recently Synergetics moved from a 5,800-square-foot office to a 26,000-square-foot space on Veterans Memorial Road, a place that gives the company plenty of room to grow.

“We have to make sure we are ready for other growth spurts we are sure to have,” Palmer said.

The company’s motto is creating synergy between business and technology. Palmer describes Synergetics as a turnkey company. Services include maintenance contracts, hardware, software, cabling, wireless solutions and IP telephony solutions.

“We do the whole gamut there,” Palmer said. “We will sell you the hardware, configure it, install it and manage it over time. We will service the manufacturer’s warranty, the system’s management and maintenance, and not just on your server but your whole system.”

Customers can also benefit by not getting the runaround when calling for service. For example, a customer can call a software vendor who might say the customer needs to check the cables. A hardware vendor might say it must be a software problem.

“With us you are working with one company that will help you resolve the problem regardless of where we track it down to be,” Palmer said. “You don’t get the runaround. That’s the way we do business. That is simple and old fashioned, I guess, but it is the one we think is the most effective way.”

Synergetics’ business mix is 80% serving education, 10% government and 10% commercial. Palmer said they are seeking to grow all sectors of the business, but would like to raise the percentage of government and commercial work to make the mix more balanced. While to date most of their advertising has been work of mouth, the company plans to ramp up advertising in the year ahead.

“Really, up until the past 12 months, the business we have grown has been on a referral basis,” Palmer said. “If someone hasn’t told you Synergetics exists, you probably don’t know it. We are just now beginning to advertise. We want to at least let the commercial market know we exist, what services we offer and that we are available for them should they need us. That’s what the campaign we have going on now is all about. We have some real good commercial advertising and prospecting going on in the Golden Triangle area and Cleveland, and plan to start marketing in the Jackson area in the first quarter of next year.”

The company is headquartered in Starkville with branches in Cleveland and Jackson. Currently the company plans to add three new technicians, one in each area. Plans have been made to open an office in Cleveland early next year.

The technical services that Synergetics provides to customers have also come in handy managing Synergetics own rapid growth. The company is currently in the process of implementing a $175,000 accounting, business management and technical tracking software that will allow customers to go to the company’s Web site to enter requests for service, and tracks orders for equipment and service.

“That’s exciting to our customers in the fact they will be able to enter a request for service or a ticket online, they will be able to track the status of that ticket online,” Palmer said. “They can track the status of the work going on in their account per their request without necessarily having to call and have it reported to them. We are going to expand our extranet available for our customers, making their lives easier and our jobs more efficient. That is an exciting process for us.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.


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