A Most Misunderstood Word…

Monday, October 17, 2016


To keep you from guessing, the misunderstood word I’m referring to is "Service"… Have you ever thought about what “Service” means to us now? The market, our customers, the whole atmosphere changes along with economic times we’re in. In some ways “Service” inevitably fluctuates along with it. So now we’re on that "other side" of the cycle that started with the “Boom” (sales were really good!!), to when the bottom fell out (the six years of "The Great Recession")...and now we're back on the "good" side again. Yes, it's great to see profitable sales again: Plenty of customers, new building projects, etc. Life is good! So what about the strength and well-being of “Service”?

Why am I mentioning the obvious? I guess I just have a l-o-n-g memory...I remember the eerily spooky sound of "Crickets" in the background, when I wasn't real sure if that next customer was coming through the door!! So, my concern (and it should be everyone's concern today) is "Service." Before I go any further, I'm talking about “Service” to our "Internal Customer" (all our Associates), as well as the "External Customer"...All those Builders, weekend Warriors, etc., that insure that we pay the light bill, pay ourselves, etc., and keep the doors cheerfully open!

So we're into that period when hearing complaints is sadly not that uncommon. Some of those calls of complaint make it to me—from a frustrated Builder, or maybe a week-end Warrior who was trying his/her darnedest to buy from us, and we just can't seem to get it "right" for them. I hear things like, "I had to call back four times to get an answer, when I was promised I’d get a call back by the end of the day."...Or, "Don't you guys ever reply to emails?” (Unfortunately a pretty common one.) And I hate these kind of calls. "Boy, you did a great jobs delivering that last frame load, but...you were short fourteen 2X12's that you promised would be on the job the next day...and three days later, and after I made three calls, they showed up...But still not good...I was expecting the 16 footers I ordered and somehow they "shrunk" two feet...oh well they finally showed...Can't you get anything right?"

Let me qualify some of these complaints for a moment. We all know how a lot of these Builders are, they build a great home, but are woefully short on "Organization, Scheduling, Coordinating, etc." Somehow, a lot of that "Job Management" falls on our shoulders. (So what else is new??) I guess when it comes down to our “Service” I could say something crass…"Hey, we're no worse (and maybe a bit better) then the competition." But that is not the answer I should have to resort to, is it?

So, I'll pull this "rant" together this way…Business is good at the moment, we can keep going and "muddle" through the mistakes, unreturned calls etc., because it seems, "When you’re super busy, that's just the way it is.”

Or…Instead we can put ourselves way above the competition. We can be on a mission. Here at Kimal.... As we've done with many things, this initiative to "Do much better" is ingrained in our Culture. With no excuses, we always try to ace this "Service" thing so it really stands out. The challenge to do that, day in and day out, is always there and it’s always the most important part of our reputation.

A little story here at the end...Ann and I had an opportunity to go to the "Portillo's" restaurant in Brandon. We walked in at noon, and it was chaotic--probably 250 folks eating, waiting to place orders, etc. We stood near the "Order" counter for a moment…Kind of confused…A young guy stepped up…"Your first time here?" (I think that was pretty obvious.) He quickly assisted us...Wrote our two orders on two brown bags...Six or seven minutes later our number (231) was called (Got the order right, by the way!!), we got our food in the aforementioned brown bags, found a table and ate…Twenty or so minutes later, as we left I heard the number 304 called...Wow! With all that traffic and chaos, we'd just witnessed "A well-oiled machine" in motion. What stood out was that their Protocol/Systems were impeccable. It was obvious that the folks in there were very well trained, and almost more important, everyone seemed to be "empowered" to do whatever it took, to take care of the customer...

Now if a plain old hot dog (Hey! Best Chicago Dog I've had in almost forever!) and hamburger joint can function that unbelievably well, then why can't we "Up" our "Game"? I don't want to be four, six, whatever years down the road when the next "down" cycle hits, look back to observe that..."Well, we weren't any worse than our competition." Even if we'd had a pretty good run of it...that would really "Suck"!!

Good luck moving forward, and maybe with all of us "Upping Our Game" as an industry, we’d really stand out.

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 10/17/2016

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