Without hesitating: define outstanding customer service (OCS). Can that be relayed to your customers in writing or is it simply that the actions behind OCS speak louder than words? Is it inherent in your company, automatic per your employees’ behavior, or is it taught and practiced by you? Personally, I’ve found that it’s a combination and in need of constant tweaking. What about the flip side of the OCS coin? One thing for certain: you certainly know OCS when you’re on the receiving end!
OCS builds brand loyalty. Don’t buy into the notion that there’s no customer loyalty these days. From the initial phone contact, to the sales force, to the folks who go out the door to deliver service: all have the power to eviscerate customer loyalty and drive customers to the competition. How many times have you overheard, or been told, about lousy customer service (LCS)? Fortunes are being made by owners of websites built specifically to allow customers to spout off about their LCS or OCS. Some of it legitimate and some not. Mom and dad were fond of telling me (repeatedly) that if you give a customer OCS, they might tell three others, but give them LCS and they’ll spend their lifetime telling anyone who will listen. Mom would always add that friends come and go, but enemies accumulate — be a friend to all of your customers — especially the complainers. She also noted that on very rare occasions you will have to fire a customer.
OCS to the rescue
We recently were awarded the installation of a large commercial-sized cast iron steam boiler for a very large home built back when coal was king. Converted to oil (I’ll have 4-GPH, thank you) and then natural gas a few decades ago and condemned by the gas company for lack of combustion air.
The existing steam boiler was, to put it kindly, grossly oversized. No guesswork because the connected load survey revealed the actual size required to adequately meet the system’s needs. Demolition was to reveal that its front-end section weighed more than the new boiler! Hat’s off to our crew for the OCS in protecting the owner’s property and the cleaning that followed. The new boiler’s size and its half-ton+ weight were a concern due to both the steps to be negotiated and the boiler’s shallow-recessed pit.
I’m breaking the tell-three rule today by pointing out the OCS delivered. The brand specified, and subsequent requests for quotes, dictated which supplier was to be used: Thomas Somerville. As is the case with several of the local supply houses, they have a power-lift hand-truck available for deliveries. That and the fact that our contacts there, as is true for almost all local suppliers, go the extra mile, which has built loyalty. However, the sheer size and weight of this boiler caused concerns for everyone’s safety. So much so that we were visited at the home’s jobsite by several representatives who had serious doubts about attempting to move the boiler as a single block of factory-assembled cast iron. The boiler’s end sections have long thin cast iron legs and this was causing much concern for turning the block onto its end for transport-clearance through the home’s doorway.
Full disclosure: as someone who began his career in the trades in 1972, this was hardly my first rodeo, or largest tussle, with a steam boiler! It wasn’t unusual for steam boiler sections we wrestled with to be larger and taller than we were. Allot younger and physically stronger, but dumber in those days as sheer muscle power and non-motorized, solid-rubber-tire hand trucks were available. Had it not been for the power-lift hand truck, we would have simply dismantled the boiler block into more manageable chunks. As for those apparently too-thin cast iron legs? Lay the boiler on its substantial back and then lift it to rest on its end. No stress on the legs — no worries mon, as they would say in Jamaica!
That’s when I got the call from Bob Kuhn, our sales guy at TS. “Les Scrivens has volunteered to handle the delivery and will assist with the move-in.”
If you ask me, the backbone of this industry, any industry, rests on the shoulders of those who have direct contact with customers. The first time we experienced OCS at Les’s hands, was the delivery of two large modcon boilers, their hydronic rack, and dozens of large flat-panel radiators for this job. You can read about this project in the Spring 2011 issue of Green Mechanical Contractor. You will find it on page 12. Or you can go online: www.greenmechanicalcontractor-digital.com/greenmechanicalcontractor/spring2011?fm=2#pg12. Les insisted on helping us move each item to its final point of installation. Unexpected OCS! This time was no exception and Les cheerfully pitched in from start to finish until the new boiler was resting safe and snug in its new home.
With all the whining and complaining that surround us each day, OCS is so unusual it often passes us by without our bothering to tell the owner or boss. Take a minute to let others know when someone provides OCS. Maybe it’s the folks at Panera Bread or the cashier at the grocery store or someone from a vendor. Pay it forward and speak up!
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