Exceeding My Expectations

I recently had the opportunity to wear a new hat—that of a customer needing some work done by a precision machined parts maker.

It’s unique that I find myself in the position of customer to one of the subject shops we cover in the magazine. Although in my 15 years covering metalworking, I have often written about the importance of customer service and delivery for featured shops, my perspective has really been from the outside looking in.

However, I recently had the opportunity to wear a new hat—that of a customer needing some work done by a precision machined parts maker. The company I chose to contact was Barry Podmore, Inc., a family-owned shop located in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. We covered this shop in an article that appeared in the October 2006 issue of Production Machining (Making It Big In Small Parts).

The company’s specialty is production of small, complex parts, some with major diameters of 0.010 inch, for the test and measurement and electronics industries. It’s this specialty that I needed for my mission as a newly minted machined parts customer, so I called Barry, the owner and president.

I came to be a customer by default because of a promotion for the magazine that our marketing department dreamed up. At the upcoming PMTS, the staff thought it would be a good idea to give away “floaty” pens with our magazine logo and a selection of precision machined parts floating in the barrel of the pen. The idea was to use the parts as emblematic of a significant market segment that the magazine covers.

The marketing folks looked to me for a source to provide parts we could use in the pen promotion. Obviously, small parts are required to fit the confines of a pen barrel, which is why I indexed to Barry Podmore.

This is where it gets good. I called Barry with my request for a selection of ten different parts, small enough to fit into a pen. I asked for several different materials: steel, aluminum, brass and copper. Since we planned to order 2,000 of these pens, I needed 20,000 pieces. The answer came back: “No problem.”

I called Barry on a Friday, and being new to the role of customer (and because he was doing me a favor), I asked if he could get me the parts in 3 weeks or so. He laughed and said I’d have them by Wednesday of the following week. Sure enough on Tuesday, a box arrived for me with exactly the selection of parts, materials and quantity I asked for with each group of parts individually packaged. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “Now that is customer service.”

If my experience is typical, and I think it very well may be, then I am quite confident that Barry Podmore will continue to be a successful and growing company. Moreover, if many of the rest of our reader’s shops are as responsive to customer needs, and I am equally confident you are, then I harbor no fears for the continued viability of our industry. Exceeding customer expectations is a unique competitive advantage.