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By Darryl Stewart

Customer Service is Not Dead

It’s not every day that a typical businessman in the payroll industry needs to buy a cutting torch, but then I’ve never thought of myself as a typical businessman.   The fact is, I needed a cutting torch – not some namby pamby cutting torch that you can buy at any hardware store – I needed a serious torch for some serious cutting action.

I knew the only place to get the type of oxy acetylene setup that I needed was at a distributor or professional trade supplier.  But I’ve had plenty of experience with professional trades and I know how bad the service can be – especially if you don’t have an account or you don’t know exactly what you need.  Needless to say, I was dreading the whole experience.

It only took a few moments on the internet to find Welders Supplies on McPhillips.

I prepared for my visit.  I ditched my business attire and put on some work clothes so I’d blend in and attract less distain.  I rehearsed my story and was ready to go.

When I walked in, my confidence waivered slightly as I was greeted by a professional and attractive receptionist.  I was so nervous that I started right in on my torch requirements without even looking around.   Part way through my rambling, it dawned on me that I was talking to the wrong person.  She smiled and with a quick gesture, directed me slightly to the left.  And there it was, a huge showroom of supplies and, the place I feared most, the order desk.

The order desk looked just like many others – a high counter with a steel counter top, computers, phones and stools inscribed with supplier logos.    It looked pretty innocuous, but I’ve been through several inquisitions at counters just like these.  I know these stools are where you sit down, face the service reps and are sized up for whether you’re worthy of attention.   These are the stools where the dreaded “Do you have an account?” always comes up.  This question is “loaded”.  If you answer “yes”, you pass because you’re probably in the trade, not likely to ask a bunch of stupid questions and probably know exactly what you want.  If you answer “no”,  you’re treated like a schmuck who doesn’t know what he needs and will test the rep’s knowledge and patience.

I psyched myself up and walked right up to the counter, confident that I would pass first muster in my heavy duty work clothes (slightly dirty for effect).  I explained the project I was working on hoping to come off as a busy general contractor not sure of exactly what was needed for this particular job.  This was pure genius on my part because it provided a valid reason why I would not have an account, but why I should not be treated like a one eyed monkey.  It worked!  I got tremendous service from the professional behind the desk (Glen Tobie I think his name was).  He even came out from behind the desk and showed me stuff.  We got outside of Glen’s area of knowledge a bit and he went and got a more experienced guy from the office.  I thought the gig was up; this guy would see right through my general contractor routine and see me for the serious hobbyist I truly am!  To my surprise, even though his questions showed my general contractor status to be questionable, the service continued at a super high level.  My gig was up, but I was treated with respect, everything was explained to me and I got exactly what I needed.

Next, Glen took me back to the order desk to write things up.  Another employee was standing on the customer side of the counter, she stepped aside, motioned for me to sit down and proceeded to help Glen with the paperwork.  Then she asked “Do you have an account?”  I simply said “no”.  To my pleasant surprise and relief she responded “No problem, I’ll just run upstairs and set one up for you right now.”   Moments later, Glen finished the order and directed me back to the front desk.  There I was greeted by name, given my new account information and sent on my way.

It was a simple as that.  No fanfare, no gimmicks, no rehearsed lines, just genuine interest, respect and commitment to helping a customer.

I sat in my truck in shock, surprise and astonishment – this was the best experience I had ever had with a trade supplier.  I’ve worked with a few professional trade businesses and I’ve never been treated with such respect or saw such pride in any of the companies I worked with before.

It turns out that it isn’t the way I look or act that determines how I am treated, it is how the companies are run and their relationship with their employees that matters.  I don’t know much about Welders Supplies, but I suspect I would find a sincere management team and a culture of respect if I dug into it.

It’s clear, customer service is not dead at 150 McPhillips Street in Winnipeg.

  1. Hello Darryl and thanks for the kind words about our company and our staff. I didn’t realise our culture was as evident to customers as you describe. I am sincerely grateful that you took the time to reflect on Glen and our other staff’s service ability. Thanks again, Grant

    Grant Cockshott
    Welders Supplies Limited

    • I worked with the electrical distributors for years Grant and got very used to being treated badly. Your place was a welcome change.

      I recently had to get my tanks re-filled and that went just as well. Congrats on a very well run business!


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