“I’m sure that among your readers, you have managers who put on their Superman capes and go out to save a customer relationship,” he says. “That is waste. We have to do it, but what we ought to be doing is eliminating the problems, not running around like Superman trying to turn customer situations around.”
Maintaining strong communications
Although Graniterock implemented many of its customer-based initiatives when the California construction market was strong, Woolpert says that customer service is every bit as important in economically challenging times. “Focus on customer satisfaction and doing it right the first time is essential, because there is no fat,” he says.
“I’m sure among your readers, you have managers who put on their Superman capes and go out to save a customer relationship,” Woolpert says. “That is waste. We have to do it, but what we ought to be doing is eliminating the problems.”
“There was a period of time through the fall of last year where a lot of contractors in California were bidding below cost just to have something for their people to do,” Woolpert says. “In that kind of environment, you just can’t have mistakes. There is no safety margin in anybody’s numbers.”
While both the market and profit margins have improved somewhat, they continue to fall short of historic levels, he says. Being able to offer technical consultation and a wide product range gives savvy producers an edge in that environment, but the essential element is the ability to listen and respond to customer needs. “What I call ‘insulation from the customer truth’ is deadly, and it’s going on everywhere in America,” Woolpert says. “It’s going on in our industry, and it’s going on in every industry. That’s why businesses cycle. It’s why a successful business today is not a successful business five years from now. They become arrogant, think too much of themselves, and stop listening.”
Through tools such as ‘Yes, we will’ and a short-pay guarantee, Graniterock has created a system that makes such isolation from customers difficult, if not impossible. “If you put the short-pay policy on the back of an invoice, you’re going to get calls from customers,” Woolpert says. “It’s not written in invisible ink. It’s in real ink, in big type, and it goes out with every invoice.” AM