Building Product Industry Should Embrace Customer Service

When did customer service die?  Stand-up and “Do What You Say You Will Do!”

As I flew to the International Builder’s Show, I was once again reminded just how much customer service is dead.  Business travel always provides me example after example of what not to do. I typically fly Southwest Airlines. Not for the low fares. Not for the free peanuts. They get me. That’s why.

Southwest understands that I want a plane to arrive on time. They understand that sometimes my schedule changes. I don’t mind paying a last minute fare, but don’t charge me a $150 change fee when I did all the work myself.

There are books and books on The Southwest Business Approach, but in the end, it typically comes down to some basic common sense and a fundamental understanding of what our customers want.

I was in a board meeting with a retailer explaining how the customer research showed that the biggest customer issue was out of stock merchandise. Pretty simple, right? Various ‘smart’ people on that board explained this as the customers were just looking for the wrong products. What?  (That’s a true story, I was there.)

Ultimately, however, our industry (building products) of making products that build or enhance homes is pretty simple, right? Make the product, get it in the channel, and let the home owner or LBM buy it. How often have building products or services been developed for a problem that we’ve never confirmed even existed. Instead, it’s the next big thing, the next value-add service.

It’s time to get the basics. If you’ve survived the past few years in the building product industry, you’ve either had a big pile of cash to burn or figured a lot of this out. So how do you get good at taking care of customers? It’s not an Alaskan fishing trip that retains customers anymore. While nice, that’s not really a long-term solution.

There’s an old acronym, DWYSYWD – Do What You Say You Will Do.  Amazing how many times we forget this simple idea. While perks, like free peanuts and an occasional free trip are nice, that’s not how Southwest keeps me. They do what they say they were going to do and if something changes they tell me and provide solutions. No BS, just real customer care.

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