Buckets of Dirt

I encountered an interesting example of how not to handle customer service over this past week. Last Tuesday, I had a large stump ground out of my front yard. The stump measured 71” by 84”, thus creating a huge pile of shredded chips and dirt. Over a two day period, that pile was moved to the neighbor’s woods, creating an even larger hole.

I left Friday mid-day for Chicago with a group of EXAIR employees to attend the International Machine Tool Show. It is the largest machine tool show in North America and occurs every two years. We toured the show on Saturday and returned Sunday afternoon.

I answered an email from my wife on Friday before I left. She had measured the hole in the yard and by her calculations; we needed 24 sheets of sod to cover the damage in the yard. I double checked her math and agreed. I told her I would call her later that afternoon when we arrived in Chicago.

I called home after we had checked into the hotel in Chicago Friday afternoon. I started to talk about picking up the sod in my car on Monday and she said “Don’t worry, I already picked it up”. She had gone to the local landscape supply house, bought the sod and loaded it into her car. She still had some room in the back of the car, so she had them fill four 5 gallon buckets with topsoil to start filling the hole. When she went to the counter to pay for everything, she found out that the 5 gallon buckets of dirt were $ 5.00 per bucket. She asked the young lady waiting on her to check the price. She came back with “Yup, $ 5.00 per bucket”. My wife took her expensive dirt home and started her research.

She found another landscape supply house, closer to home than the first. She went there Saturday and found that their topsoil was free when picked up and loaded by the customer into 5 gallon buckets. Unfortunately, they closed at 1:00 pm and she was only able to get one load of 12 buckets from there. She spread those buckets and figured out that she still needed another load.

Sod only has a life of 24 – 48 hours, so the clock was ticking on getting the sod in place. Unfortunately, the second place with the free dirt is closed on Sunday, so she had to go back to the first place with the expensive dirt.

One of the managers appeared to be the counter person when she went in early Sunday morning. She had done her math and was ready for them. She asked the new person “How much is the topsoil by the bucket?”

Again the answer was $ 5.00 per bucket. She said “Ok, by my calculations, 35 5-gallon buckets make up a cubic yard of dirt. I need 12 buckets at $5 apiece which is equal to $ 60.00, while a cubic yard is $ 27.95. What if I buy a cubic yard, set out my 12 buckets, you dump your scoop over them and then you keep the dirt that doesn’t fall into the buckets?” The man looked at her with a blank look. Finally, he replied “We have to put the cubic yards into something – like a truck. Buckets don’t count”

She asked how much the 50 lb bags of topsoil cost, to which he replied $ 3.00 per bag. Not giving up, she asked him to explain the economics of them selling a bag of dirt, that they purchased from another supply house, for less money that a bucket of dirt from a pile of dirt larger that a two car garage. He was not in the mood to explain his margins to her on an early morning, so she bought 12 bags of dirt in order to finish the job. The sod was saved and job completed by the time I got home Sunday afternoon.

As she was leaving the landscape supply counter, a neighbor walked in and said he wanted 18 buckets of dirt. She stopped and explained the pricing policies to him. He switched to the bags also.

Bottom line – that landscape supply lost a loyal customer over their pricing policy. You have to be flexible and accommodate all customers.

I remembered a classic scene from a movie featuring a similar attempt to deal with rigid service policies:

EXAIR’s customer service policy is that we want to be easy to deal with for your needs. We can supply your “toast” or “buckets of dirt” however it helps you solve your problems. EXAIR can be very flexible for your special/custom products due to the fact we manufacture our products in-house as opposed to some competition who import products and face long lead times or an inability to get it done.

p.s. The sod is still doing fine, except for the holes punched in it by the deer. Look for my next clip to be from “The Deer Hunter”.

Passing Time – It Ages Us All

It is interesting to watch the annual ritual of students returning to school and their studies – whether it be Kindergarten to college campuses. It is a reminder for all of us about the passing of time.

Another reminder of the passing of time for me this year was EXAIR hiring the first batch of new employees with their birth dates in the decade of the 1990s.
Our growing business required increasing the workforce. We brought on a group of new people over the summer, several of them whose ages are less than the length of service of some EXAIR employees. EXAIR is approaching its 27th anniversary later this year. Our employees represent a diverse group of people and generations. Every decade from the 1930’s to the 1990’s is represented by our employee’s birthdates.

This mixture makes for an amusing exchange of ideas and comments. Some of our “young” employees are now realizing that they are twice the age of their co-workers. Conversely, I just overheard a 20 year-old guy telling his co-worker –“I am just like a young puppy, running around, yapping at the legs of an old dog like you”. The old dog he was referring to is 28 years old.
We work to get our internal communications across to our employees as much as we have had to adapt our marketing messages to our broad range of customers.

We are all passing through this life at the same rate – minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. Some people seem in a hurry to end the journey – such as drunk drivers, texting while driving, hunting with John Cheney – while others seem determined to make it last as long as they can by being late for everything.

Everyone needs to try to enjoy the journey as much as they can, through their friends, hobbies and social activities, and work experiences. There is no rewind button on the life cycle.

Personally, I’m opting for the slow lane – I am having too much fun.

BTW –Next time you call in to talk to an Application Engineer – ask them how old they are in “Co-op years”. (“Co-op years” – one co-op year is equal to a 20 year-old engineering student from the University of Cincinnati)

Bob West
Chief Financial Officer

Always Do Right

Always do right.  It will gratify some people and astonish the rest” is a quotation from Mark Twain hanging in my office.   I first encountered this quotation several years ago when my son, in a last-minute rush to complete an English assignment, needed a quote to write a paper about explaining its meaning to him.   He got a good grade on the paper and I got the quote.

The Customer Service/Order Entry group at EXAIR Corporation operates by this creed.  We have a dedicated group of Customer Service representatives who work very hard each day to “Always do right”.  They serve a variety of customers – both external and internal.  They are the first voice you hear when you call EXAIR.  We do not have automated call answering at EXAIR during the hours of 8 am to 5 pm Eastern Time.  You will always get a live person answering your call – sometimes more lively than other times, I do admit.  If your party is not available, we will offer voice mail or take a message. 

The Customer Service group processes all orders received – either by fax, email, web or telephone.  They are interacting constantly with our Application Engineers, Production Department or Shipping Department.  They deal with a lot of customers throughout the day from all types of industries.

Their goal is to satisfy every customer’s request in a timely and efficient way.  Recently, a customer called in a rush order after all ground freight carrier pick-up deadlines had passed.  He needed some EXAIR product on his floor on Monday morning.  One of our Customer Service reps took his order home with her. She came back to the shop on Saturday afternoon and met the carrier in our parking lot for their 2 pm pick-up appointment.

Give us a try.  Check out the rest of the website and see if we can “Always do right” for you.

Bob West
Chief Financial Officer