Brand Talk: Growing a Business Through Customer Service and Technology
Brand Talk: By Weyerhaeuser Distribution
Kelly Fox, CEO for Lumber Traders, Inc., passionately believes in empowering employees, embracing advancing technology and creating deep customer relationships. As the driving force behind Angeles Millwork & Lumber Co. and Hartnagel Building Supply, both in Port Angeles, Wash., Fox has led his employee owned and operated company toward increased success by helping them create outstanding customer experiences and delivering value.
Q: What basic customer service actions do your 52 employees embrace that could easily be used by other lumberyard dealers to enhance their customer relationships?
A: This may sound overly simple, but we focus on following through on what we say we will do. Our people are empowered to “own” the service all the way through the sale, and even a return if necessary. That ability for our employees to say “yes” and side with the customer helps make us a comfortable place to do business.
Q: What steps can lumberyard dealers take to achieve this positive relationship between their employees and customers?
A: Start by teaching the staff how the customer is the one driving their business. Next, truly empower employees to make decisions for the customer’s benefit — we find that critical to our culture. It’s not essential for employees to always look out for the company … sometimes this can create a wedge between the business and the customer. The staff need to be on the side of the customer.
Q: How important is it for dealers to advance themselves technologically … and what are your people doing in that arena?
A: Embracing technology advances is critical to how we’ve been able to grow our business and compete in our marketplace. We’ve found and deployed tools that streamline our quoting process from hours or days to just minutes — even for some very complex product lines.
These tools give us the ability to be the first quote submitted, and often, the most complete quote submitted. While our competitors are focusing on one line, with a few key strokes we can quickly submit five options.
Q: What about communicating with customers?
A: We recently started using text message features within our point-of-sale system to text customers the minute their special orders are received. This means we no longer need to notify our sales person and then have that person notify the customer. We’re closing the time gap. Additionally, this feature will soon allow us to direct the customer’s return messages to our delivery coordinators so they can get the order to the jobsite with very little change of information lost in translation. It’s a “win-win” for our customers.
Q: To achieve your company’s growth, you’ve partnered with a variety of key suppliers. Why have you chosen Weyerhaeuser Distribution as your source for TAMKO decking, premium dimensional lumber, Edge Gold OSB, Cedar, and other critical products?
A: We choose Weyerhaeuser on a daily basis because they sell the quality our customers demand from a service level that we feel meets or exceeds our expectations. It’s the complete offering of these commodity and specialty lines that make Weyerhaeuser easy to do business with.
I’ve met with Weyerhaeuser people and talked with them at length about making the investment in technology. As we advance our use and application of technology, Weyerhaeuser is moving into that same space as well. Before long, it will be our systems and products that are automated, giving us the ability to offer a very high touch experience because we are a fully integrated Omni channel lumber dealer.
Q: With the advancements in technology, is there a risk that your people will lose touch with your customers personally?
A: Actually, it’s just the opposite. Technology is about creating a streamlined process that allows us more time to build and maintain relationships personally with our customers.
We firmly believe that customer contact and relationships are essential to our business success. If the price is close and the service is the same, are you more likely to buy from the sales person who knows your son hit the game winning shot at last week’s high school basketball game or the one who hung up the phone so he could call in and talk with his supplier partner?
We’ve empowered our people to place their highest priority on the customer. This means supporting our employees with constant training and making sure they specifically thank our customers for their decision to shop with us. Together these tactics are helping us maintain an edge over our competitors and continually grow our businesses.