Hardware Retailing

NOV 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | November 2017 36 Checkouts SERVICES Turning 'Scrap' Into Savings CUSTOMER RELATIONS Employees Make the Grade at City Mill P orters Building Center prides itself on providing whatever its customers need. From a full-service lumberyard to rental and hardware, the four-location business has built a loyal following for service and products. Yet one of its most desired products started as an outlet for "scrap" lumber. When developing a creative use for warped and unsellable lumber, Porters Building Center founder Mack Porter created a template for what would become a thriving shed business. Mack Porter doesn't believe in scrap, he says, but he knew there had to be a way to make use of odd cuts of lumber. The template, which is still in use in the lumberyard behind the Porters location in Kearney, Missouri, was first used to fit pieces of lumber together into trusses, allowing the lumber to be used as the frame for the sheds. The wood would fit into the template like pieces in a puzzle, which allowed employees to use almost any piece of wood to build a shed. Once enough wood was collected to complete the trusses, a shed could be built on the frame. Today, the sheds have become so popular in the area that the business has long since stopped using warped lumber for their construction, Mack Porter's grandson Alex Porter says. The sheds come ready for paint and are delivered to a customer's yard upon completion. "We put a lot of pride in their construction, and we're able to work with customers on alterations and other customization packages they want. That could be moving a door to a different side or adding a window. For the price we put on them, they're a really great option for our customers," Alex says. S taying sharp with customer service means listening to what customers have to say about their experiences. At City Mill, customers can post comments on social media sites like Facebook and Yelp, but many of them choose to use the store's Customer Service Card. And the company takes every comment seriously. City Mill, which has eight locations on the island of O'ahu, Hawaii, has the comment cards available in the store or in a digital version online. The cards let customers rate their experiences at the store and leave their compliments or complaints. Then, each card goes straight to Steven Ai, president of the company. Ai reads and signs off on each card, and usually writes a note, such as a thank you to the employee the customer may have mentioned in their comments. Store managers use those cards at staff meetings to recognize employees or use them as teaching moments to show examples of what it means to provide good customer service. If a customer reports a bad experience, someone at the store will follow up to ask what went wrong and look for a solution. "We're always looking for feedback from our customers, whether it's for our service or our product mixes," says Caleb Hanisee, store manager at the Ewa Beach location. "That feedback allows us to constantly improve, because if we don't, it could be easy to become complacent." The garden sheds on display at Porters Building Center in Kearney, Missouri, have become hot items for the business. At City Mill, employees Ernalyn Tumamao (left) and Minerva Ecraela, offer customers the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience at the store.

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