Enhancing the Customer Experience

hardwood lumber buying experienceIn the hardwood lumber industry, perhaps like many others, customer service is critical to your success. We operate in an industry where seemingly everyone knows everyone else.  Competing sawmills do business with each other. Customers know all the hardwood suppliers and it is common for most of your revenue to come from repeat buyers. So keeping your customers happy is essential. That’s why we constantly look for ways to enhance the overall hardwood buying experience we provide our customers.  We are constantly looking for ways to get better.

I recently re-read the classic book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. It reminded me that satisfying customers is just not enough! If you want to develop a strong, loyal customer base your goal should be to delight and exceed expectations through an exceptional customer experience. And to do so, I found their three point approach to trying to improve the service you provide your customers something worth emphasizing again! Perhaps you’ll find it useful.

  1. Decide what your vision of service should be - Start by establishing a clear vision and purpose for the type of customer service you want to provide as a company. Take some time to think about all the different aspects of customer service and try to come up with an ideal picture of the customer service culture you want your organization to have and provide. Aim high and don't let yourself get stuck on existing limitations.
  2. Discover what your customers really want – Get real feedback! Reach out to your customers to understand their needs and desires regarding the services you provide. Listen to what they find valuable and what they do not. Ask questions and take note of what they say. Use their comments and suggestions to alter or improve your vision where possible. Be open-minded when it comes to making changes based on their input, as this may ultimately improve your overall product or service offering. But also be aware that you cannot be all things to all people. You might find there are times you just simply cannot provide everything the customer wants. And when that happens, be honest with yourself and undersatnd you might not be the best company to serve that particular customer, and that is ok.
  1. Deliver on the vision and add one percent! – Deliver consistently! To create a loyal customer, you need to consistently meet their expectations. You must deliver on what you will say you will do. To do this will require you to have good repeatable systems and procedures for your employees. Invest in proper training and align your vision and incentive programs to build consistency in your company customer service culture. Once you are excellent at meeting your customer’s expectations then pick one thing and try to further improve it by one percent!  If you continually do this you will eventually be increasing your differentiation and delighting customers more than your competitors!

So what could this mean for those of us in the hardwood business? Is it improved packaging? Maybe a new online customer portal for your customers? Or perhaps it is a new type of proprietary lumber grade or hardwood lumber sort? If it is what your customers really want and fits into your vision of how you can provide an exceptional customer experience, do it!  Maybe you’ll find success?

What other ways do you look to improve customer service? Drop us a line!

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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