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Thanks for your business.

My family and I once lived in a medium-size central Wisconsin town where shopping was done in the town center. This was in the edge of town, before they were paved over with shopping center parking lots. Most shopping was done at the local department store. Their unofficial motto was "If we don't have it, you really don't need it."

We didn't consider this statement arrogant; it was simply a fact. This store had everything from lamb chops to a reed for my son's clarinet, all on three floors plus a basement. It also had a commitment to service that may have seemed unnecessary considering its monopolistic position in town. But folks were persistent in telling the story about the store's owner who personally delivered an ironing board to a customer who had a problem in getting her purchase home. Versions of that story succeeded in building an enviable reputation for this retailer that said he treated his customers as if he appreciated their business.

It's a far cry from today's attitude in retailing. We are turned loose in a five-acre, neon-lit discount complex to search for a needed item. There are virtually no clerks who can tell us the difference between Model X and Model Y. When we do make a selection, we are forced to dutifully stand in a long line for the privilege of paying for our purchase. We are all at the mercy of service industry indifference; banking, retail sales, insurance, airlines, and others have all given us grief. Industry, on the other hand, has learned a hard lesson. International competition has forced manufacturers to pay closer attention to customer needs. In capital equipment, price and delivery are important, but it's after-sales service that keeps customers coming back. Yet, there seem to be some companies that still haven't gotten the message. A letter from a long-time machine-tool distributor tells a disturbing story about a US builder's attitude. Delivery for a replacement part for a current machine model was promised in 7 weeks from date of order. It was finally shipped 8 weeks after the original promise date. The customer went for fifteen weeks without the use of the machine. OK, so it sometimes can't be helped.

More disturbing, however, is the cold-hearted wording of the machine builder's terms as recited to us in the distributor's letter. The order acknowledgement uses such phrases as, Acceptance subject to our standard terms and conditions ... Not subject to any riders or conditions imposed by the customer ... and, Customer cannot cancel without seller's consent, regardless of cause or delivery delay.

Yes, these are standard purchase order terms, but they still sound as if the accounting department said, "Look, these parts orders are a lot of trouble. We can't afford to lose money on them." After which, the legal department said, "Don't worry. We'll make it tough for a customer to give us a hard time about poor delivery." As a result, they have a tight, legal document for a part-order acknowledgement that should make their sales manager cringe when he tries to sell a new machine. It also was pointed out to us that nowhere does the acknowledgement say, "Thank you."

Just imagine what might happen if the service manager took it upon himself to personally deliver the late replacement part and offer an apology. On second thought, his accounting department probably has no travel expense entry for customer goodwill.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:machine-tool customer service
Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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