Monday, August 20, 2007
Why Steve Geppi Should Hire Me
Mr. Steve Geppi (pictured) is the owner of several businesses, one of which is the infamous monopoly holder of all comic book distribution in the United States - Diamond Comic Distribution. He needs to hire me, or at least whomever runs Diamond needs to hire me.
Because there is such a disconnect between the company and the people on either end of their services. I think the company needs someone who can bridge those gaps - well probably a few people, but they can start with me and see how it goes. The communication between Diamond and the comic book retail outlets is really pretty bad, and from what I understand the communication between comic book publishers (especially the small guys) and Diamond isn't great either. Yes, we all have "Diamond Reps" that are supposed to be the go-between from the stores and publishers to the corporation that is Diamond, but it seems like there is some kind of lack of organization or supervision or something that causes little communication to actually go up and down the pipelines.
When someone wants information on starting a comic book store Diamond is of little to no help. They mail out a Diamond catalog and that's about it. As if all the answers were there.
We had our Diamond sales rep get a promotion and for MONTHS we were without a rep, so when we had a problem we were LITERALLY on hold for 20 minutes or more waiting for the "next available Diamond sales representative" to take our call. Eventually when one did, if there was something they'd have to "look into" and get back to us, we almost never heard back and would have to call back and see if we could track down that rep for the answer or solution. Then this week we called with a problem and Craig asks when, if ever, they're going to finally give us a new sales rep. Turns out Gary is our rep, and he's been it for a couple of weeks now. Gee... you'd think he'd call or something. Wasn't Gary wondering why his job seemed easy - not getting any calls from his current accounts?
Diamond also asks every day on their mailer for stores to send them their sales ideas. What I'd like to know is WHAT happens to these ideas? Either they've never had a single store send them an idea, or they just archive these for use "some day" because I have never ever seen the list of retailer submitted sales ideas appear anywhere.
Diamond also does an occasional survey to find out people's satisfaction with the service they get from them - mainly being the weekly shipments. I think I have seen one report that had the accumulated data on it in the nearly 4 years we've been working with Diamond. There might have been more that I haven't seen. But let me tell you it is one thing to collect data and make nifty reports with it - it's another thing to use that information to try to fix problems. Problems like week after week of damaged shipments or wrong comics and books being sent out or shipments arriving at stores a day or days late. Yes, there will always be errors. And yes, accidents happen. Sure, Diamond does replace damages (as long as they still have replacements in stock) and send correct items out when the wrong ones come. But the infrastructure for this process is difficult and seems to change from week to week -- sometimes they want damages sent back in the same box they came it, sometimes they don't want damages sent back at all, when the wrong item is sent they seem to not have any kind of process to reclaim those items (we have an entire shelf of incorrectly shipped items that we don't know what to do with).
When I call my rep to find out where an item is - why it has not shipped yet - they typically have no idea at all. Often they cannot give me any kind of new shipping date either. Then when I take the time to contact the publisher myself I find out the reason. Sometimes it's a publishing issue like the printer or something. But other times they tell me that Diamond has had the item for WEEKS and they have no idea why it hasn't shipped yet. Clearly there is not a good line of communication between publishers and Diamond and then down the chain to stores. If a comic book or other item is not shipping on time I think the folks at Diamond should have an idea why - and if it is just sitting in their warehouse they should know that too.
Here's what could help the situation - some organization and a person who's job it is to make sure these lines of communication stay open and go both ways. So when a store has a problem they can feel like Diamond is actually doing something about it. If a store looses a rep this person makes sure that the store is still serviced properly and then knows who their new rep is as soon as that person assumes the position. Someone who maybe has run a store and has some idea what it's like to be on that end of the service. Someone who collects data from publishers and retailers and compiles it into usable data for both Diamond and the folks on either end of their service. Someone who makes sure that these go-between reps are doing their jobs and that both stores and publishers have some idea that they're actually being helped. Someone who works on improving the shipping times for certain areas of the country. (Washington State is one example of an area that experiences constantly unpredictable shipping from Diamond) They need someone who is organized, friendly, smart, tenacious, persistent and appreciates the comic book industry. Someone just like me.
Of course the problem is that Diamond does not have any competition when it comes to distributing comics, so they really don't have to try to improve anything. And I don't really want to move out to Baltimore, MD and leave my comic book store and great customers. But, I really would like to see Diamond do more than create a Point of Sale and inventory management program and host two retailer summits in order to try to get retailers to feel like they're being helped. Forget those big things and focus on little things like helping new stores and making sure that existing stores know who their sales reps are.