The Personal Touch

More important now than ever
Joe Erb
August 22, 2019
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : SALES

Have your expectations changed as a consumer over the past year? Five years? 10 years?

Chances are they have. The era of internet retail shopping has come with the expectation of fast service and delivery. You might have come across the term “Amazonification,” a term denoting the tech giant’s enormous influence on commerce, and on the industries it’s coming for next.

It isn’t likely architects will be ordering a new commercial glass façade with guaranteed next-day delivery anytime soon. But the way we as individuals consume goods in our everyday lives has likely influenced how we expect to be treated as customers. Our expectations on delivery timing, service and overall customer experience are evolving—and that’s something for businesses to consider, no matter which industry they’re operating within.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. We’re in the heart of the busy season. GlassBuild America happens in Atlanta this month. What are some of the most impactful ways we can be elevating the customer experience to meet evolving expectations? How are we personalizing the customer experience based on their business needs?

Identifying the need

Some purchases are more involved than others. For example, I personally won’t order a pair of shoes online—I want to be able to try them on, make sure they fit and know that they’re comfortable before I pull the trigger on a purchase. Receiving helpful service from a knowledgeable attendant at a shoe shop elevates the experience even further. If I feel like someone has listened to my needs and has used that information to make a thoughtful recommendation, I feel even more confident in my purchase.

While it’s certainly more complex than buying a pair of shoes, the commercial glass industry isn’t so different. Building owners, developers and design professionals taking on a new commercial construction project want to feel heard. They want to know that their design concerns, performance criteria and other factors were thoroughly considered by the key stakeholders, including the glass fabricator, fenestration component suppliers, consultants, installers and more. A successful project that will live a long and useful life depends on it.

It’s in these areas where person-to-person interaction is hard to replicate, even where modern technology comes into play. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a number of meetings, industry events and customer visits over the summer, and in-person conversations have the tendency to uncover hidden challenges—and their potential solutions—in ways that emails, webinars, other digital tools and even phone calls can’t match.

Of course, that in-person interaction depends on customer insight to be successful. It’s important to adopt a customer-centric mindset in identifying their challenges, evaluating their needs and making a successful recommendation.

Trust; it’s not a commodity

What is it about in-person conversations and interactions that can lead to positive results? When I think about some of my most successful professional relationships, they’re based on more than just business transactions. These are people I’ve known for years, with whom I’ve conversed about far more than just business. Chances are we’ve had conversations about challenges they might be facing that have nothing to do with the products and services I’m able to offer.

Those types of conversations tend to happen naturally, without the pressure of a more formal sales call. Those types of conversations also result in something else: trust. And trust can’t be overvalued in an industry where cost pressures are mounting, and new project demands are more complex and stringent than ever before.

If you’ve truly taken the time to get to know your customer—not just their business needs, but who they are on a personal level—chances are you’ll be able to make a more effective recommendation than if you didn’t know those things. And chances are the customer will listen to what you have to say, too.

Consider also the wide and varied needs of today’s glass professionals. Whether it’s new performance standards, new materials to choose from or new methods to build efficiency into their businesses, all are looking to stay ahead of the competition. Choosing with whom to do business depends on many factors—cost being an important one, certainly. But another factor—often the more important factor—is who they trust to help them solve a tough challenge. Who do they trust to deliver a solution that will stand up to the demands of a given project? Who do they trust to help illuminate opportunities for success they might not have previously identified?

Offering these qualities to customers requires the right people and the investment to let those people succeed. In my experience, that’s one investment that will always prove worthwhile. Regardless of the technological advancements that have driven the glass industry to new heights, it’s still a people business. 

Joe Erb is a commercial sales specialist for Quanex Building Products. He can be reached at  joe.erb@quanex.com. Visit Erb and the Quanex team at GlassBuild America at Booth #2571.