A family member recently bought a gently used truck (a demo that was used to go to promotional events) from a car dealership.

When taking possession of the truck, he noticed the interior had a strong smell of cigarette smoke. Who knows? Maybe the porter enjoyed his smoke break in the front seat before driving the truck to the front door? Bottom line: It stunk.

At the end of the transaction as he is driving away and after the dealership did little to rectify the problem outside of spraying an unknown liquid inside the truck and promising air fresheners it never delivered, the salesman stops him and asks if everything is OK. The new truck owner explained the truck still reeked of smoke.

What do you think the salesman did?

A) Shrugged his shoulders and continued to walk to his car to go to lunch; or

B) Immediately helped the customer?

“B” is not the answer here, folks. Customer service was out to lunch that day.

I know if I was that salesman, if I had to, I would have physically yanked the customer from the truck and drove the thing right into the service garage post-haste to rectify the situation.

In my recent travels around the country attending events and visiting companies, customer service continues to be the top-of-mind topic. One recent distributor I visited succinctly pointed out that “we all sell boxes” and that you need to differentiate yourself in the customer-service arena to remain relevant in today’s business climate.

Differentiation comes in many forms. This month we’re fortunate to have MORSCO’s Darren Taylor as a guest columnist talking about the importance of having a robust e-commerce platform. As Taylor puts it, “E-commerce can revolutionize the way suppliers and contractors interact.”

I also had the chance to visit Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Rampart Supply in July. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the father-son duo of Colin and James Perry have the distributor firing on all cylinders, mainly using the simple mantra of “Working Harder For You.” Robust inventories and strong training programs also are part of the Rampart playbook.

In the ever-changing business climate we live in, keeping up with trends, using data to your advantage and using innovation to move forward also are absolute musts.

Longtime industry consultant Bruce Merrifield crunches the numbers by showing a business model that fastener distribution giant Fastenal uses. This is worth checking out.

Luxury Products Group Director Jeff MacDowell is back again this month with the follow-up to his July column talking about eliminating spiffs from kitchen-and-bath showrooms. MacDowell’s initial column generated a lot of response both pro and con to his suggestions. Check out what else MacDowell has to say on this lightning-rod topic.

We also have our customary summer state of the industrial PVF market in this issue. One longtime executive tells me the landscape is the most chaotic he’s ever seen and he’s not alone in his views.

While customer service is a must, so is the ability to embrace the concepts of change and innovation. In the last month I’ve heard two people use the phrase “Start with why.” As in why are things being done this way and what can we do to change, improve and take the next step?

Retired Southwest Airlines CEO Howard Putnam spoke at the Southern Wholesalers Association convention in Florida in June and said most companies instead start with the word “what.” Putnam is a big “why” guy.

Distribution consultant Dirk Beveridge takes things a step further in his column this month.

“Innovation begins and ends with leading customers to a better future for which they are willing and capable of rewarding you,” and “Companies don’t change, transform and innovate, leaders do.”

And I’ll leave you with this perfect anecdote from Putnam. “Some play the game. Others change how the game is played.”

Are you a game-changer for your company?


This article was originally titled “What would you do?” in the August 2018 print edition of Supply House Times.