The effects of good (and bad) customer service

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell calculates the price of not looking after your customers.

“The customer is king as far as I am concerned,” Peter Lambert told me when I interviewed him last week for an article that will appear in next month’s Glass Times. “They all have my number and I will get up at stupid o’clock to service machinery anywhere in the country.”

I hadn’t specifically asked Peter about his customer service policy, and he wasn’t telling me because it was an item that he wanted ticked off the Glass Times interview list. As you’ll read in the article, Peter’s business grew primarily from giving a customer what he wanted.

In many cases it’s a difficult to claim corroborate because the term ‘customer service’ is a very broad description, covering all sorts of functions. Also, it’s difficult to measure because customers’ experiences vary wildly, and they may have differing expectations.

However, when you see a company like Selecta Systems, for example, invest in its customer service department, and win business as a result, you know they are doing something right.

I also visited Prime Windows in Devon last week, and the owner Jason Coates has been buying products from Origin for ten years, partly because the service he receives is impeccable – from ‘on time in full’ orders to technical support. Jason also told me how one rep drove down overnight from High Wycombe to ensure that he had all the parts for a project that was due to start the next day. Unsurprisingly, Origin now makes up 70% of Jason’s business.

Similarly, when companies appear to lose more customers than most, it is probably because they have taken their eye off the ball.

I hear rumours all the time about how a systems company (the identity of which could change from week to week) could be having a run of bad luck, and a handful of customers all choose to leave within a month. Therefore, I do try to take them with a pinch of salt.

However, I received a phone call from an installer yesterday who told me he had switched fabricator (and, consequently, systems company) because of “arrogance” on behalf of his supplier.

He had many grievances, but it boiled down to the fact that his supplier wouldn’t remake an outerframe for a door, which was faulty (independently corroborated by the systems company concerned).

I’m sure that I’m not the only person this installer called, and slowly this fabricator’s name is going to associated with poor customer service, which could hit it harder than simply losing one retail customer. All for the price of an outerframe, which should have been replaced anyway.