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Excellence Has a Name

By Greg Harris

Crazy ideas can translate
into excellent customer service!

Customer Service You don't survive over 38 years in business without developing a few company traditions. At Jameco, we honor one person each year as our Supervisor of the Year. This year our standout was Customer Service Manager, Yvette Washington, who was instrumental in turning a crazy idea into a serious Jameco advantage.

The crazy idea we had was to respond to every customer within four business hours. I don't think Yvette even thought it was possible when it was first suggested, yet she accepted the challenge. Today, at all levels of the organization, we are more responsive to customers than we ever thought possible. As it turns out, it's not that hard to do.

About 20 years ago I was sitting behind a one-way mirror watching a market research focus group. Sitting on the other side of the glass were twenty customers talking to a professional moderator about how they choose which companies to buy from.

I was having way too much fun. We sat in plush swivel chairs and snacked on a collection of junk food. My only responsibility was to listen to my customers, but as I recall I placed a higher priority on shoveling handfuls of cashews and M&M's into my mouth.

There was a point in the conversation when one woman positioned closest to me on the other side of the glass must have sensed that she did not have my undivided attention. She turned toward the mirror and looked right at me and said in a stern tone, "let me be clear, I don't buy from companies, I buy from people."

My memory isn't as good as it used to be, but I remember this customer lesson like it was yesterday. It's the people, the personal connection, and the quality of the interaction that creates true customer loyalty.

Yvette became our "Customer Champion-in-Chief." Quite literally she became our quality control for all customer interactions. Although being responsive was probably the hardest to pull off, there were other elements that proved important:

  • We asked ourselves, "How would we feel if we were the customer?"
  • We personalized all responses and never rely on form letters to respond to customers.
  • We agreed that we would admit to customers when we make a mistake and more importantly, figure out how we can learn to make it better for the next customer.
Today, our success has broadened beyond Yvette's leadership into a true team effort. Whether you write me, speak to our sales team, or send us a technical question, we are all working hard to respond within four business hours. We aren't perfect, but we know the value of a happy customer and no one is better at making our customers happy than our own Yvette Washington. Give her a call some time (800-831-4242) and let her know how her team is doing.