Customer Service

Stock Building Supply

A new CEO took over a year ago for Stock Building Supply Co. Stock has gone through restructuring and felt the effects in the decline of new home construction. (article from N&O)

The challenge for Stock and other companies operating in an industry where demand is not what it use to be, is how to grow its market….when the market is shrinking.

It seems Stock has a new strategy….as  the newspaper article stated – “In Stocks’s case, the answer is in customer service”. Over the past year the company has invested heavily in additional employee traing to help them be more attentive to customers.

The more interesting question: “Where was customer service in the past?”. Customer service isn’t a startegy….it’s a value that defines how a company operates.

Excellent customer service will certainly help Stock Building Supply….and notice the difference at Home Depot and Lowes….a postive shift in customer interactions.



A Wake Forest professor teaches business negotiation that applies not only for companies….but also for consumers. He says in today’s economy….people that negotiate a price will get a better deal….of course if they do it in a courteous manner. Negotiation has always been a part of many businesses….auto dealers being an infamous example.

Did we negotiate in the family business?….sure we did. It depended on many variables. We were a medium size fish in a big pond. The big fish didn’t have to negotiate….all the others had to.

What we negotiated depended on price….total purchase….inventory….delivery distance. Most of all….the willingness to make a sale and gain a new customer.  There are always many variables in the sales process….what made us better was to analyse these variables….complete the sale….give value for price….and encouage the customer to consider us in the future.

Businesses have to have room to negotiate. The key element in negotiation is that it is a win/win outcome for the buyer and seller.


No Leaders

Listening to a radio commentator….and his comments on the leadership vacuum in politics….government….business. Any business/organization needs good leaders. The interesting part is that many continue to exist with poor leadership.

Leadership is in some cases a natural trait….born leaders. In others it is a learned skill.

Is management leadership?… not really. Businesses need good management and they need good leadership. Strong management and leadership are what differentiates excellent from average.

Perhaps in today’s world there seems to be a leadership vacuum….the best organizations make sure that they are developing the next leaders.

Domino’s Pizza

Pizza Innovations

I know Domino’s Pizza….they were founded in 1960 in Ypsilanti, MI (Ypsilanti was just east of Ann Arbor, MI and the U of M). We more than likely had some of the earliest Domino’s Pizza’s delivered to East Quad dorm.

Domino’s has sales of $1.5 B and is the second largest pizza chain. While there are numerous large chains and endless numbers of local pizza markers….Domino’s has been a significant part of the pizza revolution.

The innovations are what make pizza makers billion dollar businesses. Here are a few:

  • Pizza boxes….they have to keep the pizzas warm
  • Pizza delivery….no 30 minute or free for Dominos now
  • Pizza warmer bags….keep the pizzas even warmer
  • Fresher  ingredient….from PapaJohns
  • Frozen pizzas….make them at home
  • Gourmet frozen pizzas….other than the normal ingredients.

Pizzas are not a complicated product….yet these businesses keep on innovating to maintain a competitive edge.

It’s still the same story – Get Better….Be Different’s_Pizza

It’s Back

Where’s the Beef?

Remember the famous Wendy’s ad slogan – “Where’s the Beef?”. The ad campaign lasted from 1984-1986….yet the slogan become a phrase in the popular culture.

Wendy’s has brought back  “Where’s the Beef?” in promoting its new Dave’s Hot’n Juicy.

In this case of resurrecting an old slogan….it might be a good move on Wendy’s part….always fighting an uphill battle with McDonald’s.


Pay attention

Recently I spoke to a leader whose organization was in the midst of a downward trend in numbers. In fact, a rather dramatic decrease over the past five years.

For the most part….this group doesn’t recognize the downside that is taking place. It seems to be business as usual….nothing that is urgent.

While this group won’t completely go out of existence….its numbers and future impact will be minimal.

In 1982 John Naisbitt wrote….“Megatrends –  Ten New Directions for Transforming Lives”….a best seller that took into account the need to recognize future trends.

Any good leader needs to pay attention to trends….the first comment when a sales rep walked in our front door –

“What’s new?”

It’s the customer!

Banks: Good and not so good

A study by cg42, a Connecticut-based boutique management consultancy, shows many people are turning to credit unions. And because of it, the top 10 banks may lose $185 billion during the next year.

Of the 10 banks included in the study, Bank of America has the highest vulnerability of losing more than 10% of its customers in the next 12 months. PNC Bank has the lowest vulnerability.”

A followup to the 11.08.2011 post. In particular Bank of America. One has to wonder how they make decisions to do the things they do. Clark Howard has for years referred to the large banks as “giant mega banks” with little regard for the customer. He has consistently recommended a community bank or credit union.

As in the 11.08.2011 post….BofA had its origins in NCNB (North Carolina National Bank). PNC is a conservative bank from Pittsburg that has a strong presence in Michigan and will in North Carolina when it completes its purchase of RBC.

When a business/organization does not value its customers….it loses!

Final Destination

A reason to visit

I have alway been impressed with a destination business….a business that gives people/customers a reason to visit.

Jon Schallert is the expert on: “The New Rules of Business Success:  Turn Your Business into a Destination.”

Our family business was on the north side of town. Our ad theme: “Drive out a ways and see how it pays.” As we evolved….we promoted various weekend themes as a way to make our business a destination. It took an extra effort….yet well worth it….as it brought people to the business.

I suspect we would eventually have had  monthly events….whether OktoberFest or Winter Wonderland….we had the property to expand….good reasons for people to visit (and become valued customers).

B of A Califonia

Bank of America Corp.

Will Bank of America (2011) continue to exist? The above logo is of the Bank of America in California when it was a well-managed….excellent bank. In the early 60’s, our bank was Bank of America (CA).

The Bank of America today is not the same….unfortunately. Bank of America has its origins in NCNB (North Carolina National Bank)….a pretty good regional bank in the 1980’s. As banks became more national….NCNB became Nations Bank and Nations Bank bought Bank of America (CA) and assumed that name….sadly tarnishing the original B 0f A.

Bank of America Corp. has been plagued by overambitious management and in some cases inept customer awareness. The recent $5 debit card fee being the most recent example.

G. D. Geraino wrote in a column for Business North Carolina (Nov 2011):

” In recent weeks, I’ve found myself returning to the idea that Bank of America will not survive. After a while it stopped sounding crazy.”

Is Bank of America Corp. too big to fail? At some point one would say yes. The real question: Will a bank or any business/organization that does not perform well….care about customers or understand its market….survive?

From Simon Sinek (11.04.11) :

“Saddest of all, this is not an article bashing Bank of America. They are just the latest example of a modern company that has replaced a person with a number and erroneously called that number a customer.”

Times Change

End of an era

Even well-managed companies have a life cycle. Two recent announcements from Muskegon made change perfectly clear.

A little background: Muskegon Heights is a city adjacent to Muskegon….in the 30’s….40’s….50’s it was a factory town with all of the plants scattered up and down Broadway. Times changed….the factories either moved or closed. Muskegon Heights is not the same in 2011.

The Muskegon Chronicle has been the local paper for more than a 100 years. I delivered the Chronicle as a paperboy (a substitute, routes were hard to get) in the Heights. Last week, The Chronicle made the announcement ….it was only going to be delivered three times a week, most of the writing to take place in Grand Rapids….the classic 30’s building to be sold. All print newspapers have to change in the new multi-media Internet world.

The other announcement….Potter’s Lamps is closing after 65 years.  A family business with no one to take over. And perhaps a business like Potter’s is no longer viable at least in Muskegon Heights, MI.

Both The Chroincle and Potter’s Lamps were part of a different era….some businesses/organizations are at the far end of their life cycle….others can adapt and change.