Our Customers Tell Us What's Important, And We Act
by Jeff Hopkins, on 5/25/17 8:30 AM
Surveys show us where we shine and where we need a little more polish
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Only as good as you say we are
Every smart company knows you are only as good as your customers say you are. That's why we make a point of asking our customers how we rate. In this instance, "we" means both Swagelok Northern California and Swagelok Company in Ohio. Altogether we've surveyed 20,000 customers since 2014. This summer, we will be lauching another global survey to see how we have improved since our last survey and find out opportunities for further improvement.
In this video, Art Anton, president and CEO of Swagelok Co., explains how that information affects us.
"We know that our quality is excellent and our service is excellent. Those are two things we don't want to change," he says, addressing customers directly. "But we realized you want us to be quicker, and you need us to be most specific with regards to your own fluid system needs. We get very upset when we disappoint. But we know we're not perfect, and we're working real hard to get better."
Locally, Swagelok Northern California received similar feedback when talking with customers in our service area.
"We get very high marks for the quality of the product, very high marks for any interactions with our associates," says Rod Fallow, president of Swagelok Northern California. "But customers also notice that our lead times stretched out a bit at times. They also wanted to see improvements on our website."
Continuous improvement is a core value at Swagelok. So, what are we doing about it in those areas where we weren't quite up to snuff?
Anton recognized that for Swagelok to do some smaller continuous improvement projects and sustain them, the company needed some guidance. Swagelok sent a group of executives to Japan to study the corporate culture at Toyota Motor. After that, Swagelok conducted 30 events in 2015 and over 40 in 2016 for getting things done quickly.
At the local level, Swagelok Northern California brought in some outside help as well. Last year, we brought in ThomasNet for a digital marketing project, and we continually consult other experts on strategic initiatives.
"We get excited when people say we are not meeting their expectations and we can do something about it." Fallow says. "It's important to act quickly on that kind of feedback, and I think we are getting better at it."
That's why we are creating new products and services such as the Product Wizard, a software program for those occasions when you need, say, a general purpose pressure regulator, you need it fast, and some of the specification details aren't that crucial. We can use the Product Wizard to see what we have in stock that comes closest to your ideal. We've also added our Electronic Desktop Technical Reference (eDTR) software, which lets you browse Swagelok catalogs without having to go online, and earlier this year, we launced a web based version of the eDTR: The Swagelok eCatalog
We're putting a lot of "how to" videos on our website so you can see what proper procedures look like in real life.
We get excited when people say we are not meeting their expections and we can do something about it.
Of course we pass along our survey data and customer comments to Swagelok Company, so that Swagelok Company can incorporate it into global initiatives. In fact, when we first created our own board of advisors, we asked Art Anton to join it. So when we came up with ideas to improve performance, such as working with Swagelok Company to create better demand forecasts, Anton was in a position to help us make them happen.
That's especially important for managing inventory.
David E. O'Connor, Swagleok Company's Vice President of Distributor Support Services, has recenlty replaced Anton on our board of advisers. He leads a team that is dedicated to connecting Swagelok sales and service centers like Swagelok Northern California with Swagelok Company to ensure that our customers have the best service and support in the industry. Now we are even more connected to Swagelok Company with him on our board.
You might be interested in knowing how we go about surveying customers at Swagelok Northern California. Since 2011 we've been using a tool called the Net Promoter Score. It's deceptively simple. The customer simply rates us on a scale of 1 to 10, and is invited to give us the biggest reason for giving us that score.
"If anything is a 6 or lower, we've got to fix it fast," Fallow says. "If we are rated a 7 or 8, we have a satisfied customer, but not yet a raving fan. Satisfied and less than satisfied customers both offer us opportunities to reach out to learn what we can do differently to realize our vision of being our customer's favorite story."
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