The Customer Connection

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear an executive of the Ritz Carlton hotel explain his company’s commitment to customer service. The Ritz Carlton brand is synonymous with service. Employees are taught how to make every stay memorable, and to exceed customers’ expectations with legendary care. They have been trained to respond to any customer request with the words, “My pleasure.”

Yesterday I stopped by a Wal-Mart store on my way to work. After thanking an employee for pointing me in the right direction, he responded with the words, “My pleasure.” At the dry-cleaners on the way home, the clerk handed over the clothes bag with the words, “My pleasure.”

The Ritz Carlton executive pointed out that you can buy a bed and a meal in any hotel in any city. What you can’t buy is a smile, a relationship, caring service or an emotional experience with the brand. And that’s what sets the legendary service of the Ritz Carlton apart from every other hotel in the world. Customers remember their experience there and want to return.

By many accounts, The Ritz Carlton is considered the number one hotel chain in the world. Despite the accolades, the executive explained, things had to change. Not that it wasn’t a pleasure for employees to serve customers, but providing service was beginning to seem scripted. So the company set out to teach employees how to take ownership of the act of serving customers and how to be accountable for exceeding customer expectations.

I thought about the Ritz Carlton when I read this issue’s cover story about customers. Most GAWDA members say that what sets their company apart from the competition—be it a big box store, a large national distributor, or another independent—is the service their employees can provide. When asked to be more specific, many distributors can’t really describe what the exact service is that they offer, but it’s there.

Through Welding & Gases Today’s thousands of LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers, we spoke with end-users of gases and welding equipment, who told us their expectations of suppliers. While several purchase directly from the manufacturer or at a big-box store, 80 percent purchased from a distributor who was a member of GAWDA. One even said, “It is my pleasure to do business with this distributor.”

You may find the customer comments surprising.

Speaking of customers, after the tragic fire at its Louisville plant in March, Carbide Industries is working very hard to take care of its many customers. Despite the initial challenges of obtaining product, distributors acknowledge how CI went above and beyond to serve its customers. I’d like to share the message that Rich Dippolito sent Welding & Gases Today. We wish the company well as it continues its recovery.

For many years our customers, suppliers, employees and community have relied on our support here at Carbide Industries. Our commitment to these stakeholders has never been as strong as it is today following the tragic event that all but paralyzed our ability to manufacture calcium carbide in Louisville, Kentucky. We understand the impact that this unfortunate occurrence has had on our employees and the families of the two dedicated co-workers who lost their lives in the explosion. In addition, our declaration of Force Majeure has affected many of our loyal customers who have depended on our supply and who remain supportive as we move forward. We want everyone to know that we remain focused on the rebuilding of our furnace operation and returning to the business of providing a quality product. In the meantime, we developed a supply chain infrastructure to source calcium carbide from imports to help our customers. The carbide that arrives in metal drums is unloaded, analyzed, screened, processed and packaged for final delivery. Working closely with customers to meet their specific needs is an important part of our efforts. Finally, we wish to express our appreciation for the support we received from so many as we continue working toward a favorable outcome for all of our stakeholders.
Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Carole Jesiolowski Carole Jesiolowski is managing editor of Welding & Gases Today magazine, which is published by Data Key Communications in Syracuse, New York, and on the Web at www.datakey.org. She can be reached at 315-445-2347 or carole@WeldingAndGasesToday.org.