Lesson 5: Involve customers in the business

Establishing and building relationships with customers has always been a key to Kenroc’s success.

It started in the earliest days with Ken Sexton visiting new building sites in fresh subdivisions in Regina. But when you are a contractor buying truckloads of supplies each week, you have plenty of sales people who are friendly.

“We like working with Kenroc, we trust their team and they’ve given us no reason to look elsewhere for business,” said Steve Schell, principal and general manager of Hutchings Drywall.

“Business is about people and when you’re dealing with good people it’s easier to create and maintain lasting relationships.”

There has to be more than friendliness to keep customers loyal. You’ve got to deliver.

“We must never take for granted our customers. We are able each day to earn the trust and the business of our customers. They are our lifeblood and they all have choice as to who will receive their support,” said Brian Kusisto, president of Kenroc and all its operating entities.

For Kevin Stanwood, he appreciates that Kenroc never gets complacent.

“The one big thing about Kenroc is their effort to not only stay current, but also to be consistent in their effort to deliver their level of service,” said Stanwood, who is the president of Winwood Construction Ltd. – Calgary.

He assesses a supplier based on a simple equation.

“Price plus the service equals the value,” said Stanwood, who has seen value from Kenroc since 1997.

“They are always trying to ensure their pricing and level of service is top notch every year. That’s a big reason for their success. They stay diligent.”

Amrik Karra says that being conscientious is how Kenroc employees strive to be the best.

“You are trying to always please people as much as you can. The moment you let your guard down, it’s all going to fall down,” said Karra, operations manager in Coquitlam.

“As long as you get the job right and be polite, the customers are happy. When things are wrong, you rectify them as quick as you can.”

Getting it right takes a special skill.

“We need to listen closely to our customers in order to not only meet their needs, but to exceed their service requirements,” said Brian McCormick, vice president of Kenroc.

“Markets are constantly evolving and our customers’ needs are constantly evolving. Job sites are becoming more complicated.”

Listening to what’s required on each job site is how Kenroc is able to deliver to meet the customers’ needs.

“Every customer wants their product delivered in a certain fashion and it’s not always the same. How does your customer want the product put on the job site?” Bruce Bryan said he’d say to staff. He worked for Kenroc for more than 25 years in Saskatoon, Calgary and Regina.

“You are not going to know how to do that unless you listen to them. Each is unique in the type of service they require. You need to understand that and pay attention to what they are saying.”

It’s not just those doing deliveries that listen closely. As office manager, Ryan Funk handles inside sales at the Kelowna location. He works with every customer who comes through the door, making sure to take notes as they discuss the materials they need. While doing this, he is conscious of the time.

“Guys are in a hurry. They just need their materials to get back on the job site,” said Funk, which is why he makes sure those materials are loaded quickly and accurately.

When it comes to special orders, he learns precisely what they require and why so that he can ensure the right product is brought in. Those special orders are an opportunity to gain new knowledge about customer needs, not just in Kelowna, but potentially for other branches as well.

Closely listening to customers teaches Kenroc’s team what it can improve about its service and what else it could sell.

“If they want it, we should be providing it,” said Kusisto.

Anita Greter recalls how one manager learned a customer was trying to find a supply of a product not being sold by Kenroc at the time. He tracked down a supplier and negotiated the best price, passing on that price to the customer.

“The customer was both surprised and pleased with this extra service provided at no cost to him and remained a loyal customer for many years,” said Greter, who is the office manager in Regina.

“This same manager always had the motto ‘Never give our customers a reason to set foot within the competitors’ doors.’ It is this type of leadership that demonstrated to the entire staff the expectations of customer service Kenroc embraces.”

Listening also teaches staff what customers expect of their relationship.

“The lessons over the years that customers have taught me is, one, always be consistent, two, do what we say we are going to do and, three, respect and live our values,” said Kusisto.

That’s what keeps customers like Robert Dunlop of A. Clark Roofing & Siding LP connected to Kenroc.

“The nice thing about working with Kenroc is there will always be hiccups in our business. But when there is an issue, we work together to resolve those issues,” said Dunlop, from his office in Edmonton.

“You’ve got to earn our business. Kenroc has met that mandate.”