Ask the employees of Tri-Lite Builders what they do, and they'll tell you that more than provide extraordinary design and superior construction, they sell an experience, hinged on the desire "to help clients realize their dreams." And in offering this experience, they're looking to gain fans - and referrals - along the way.
"When the phone rings, we start off thinking about referral from the start," president Wayne Minde says. "It's from that first phone call that we start to please the customer."
They believe that in their service, just as in their construction work, Tri-Lite's differences shine through in the details. For example, every prospect receives a thank-you letter after the initial phone call, production coordinator Sue Fogel compiles a notebook outlining the production process for the client before construction begins, and senior project manager Chuck Bruns pays follow-up visits to past clients at whim, two to three years after their project was finished.
Before and after every meeting with a client, sales and marketing assistant Mali Edmundson sends a thank-you letter confirming key details that were discussed and/or outlining the next meeting's agenda. At the close of a project, she gives each client a CD-ROM containing before and after photos of the project, pictures of the framed walls and digital copies of all contracts produced and signed. The company also gives the customer a themed, personalized gift basket.
Making the company stand apart even further are the resources it devotes to easing customers' strain throughout the remodeling process. Tri-Lite's innovative portable kitchen, for example, has two 4-foot-long units on rollers that provide a sink with hot and cold water; a two-burner electric stovetop; a convection oven; a dual-function, solid-surface cutting board and hot plate; and storage space via cabinets and drawers. Together, the portable units allow customers to continue cooking during kitchen remodels, while the sink unit can be used alone during a bathroom remodel. Projects are scheduled so the units can rotate among projects as needed. The company also has given clients gift certificates for a weekend getaway at a bed-and-breakfast during long projects.
After projects are completed, Tri-Lite keeps in touch with former clients by hosting client appreciation dinners. In addition to providing Tri-Lite with qualitative feedback on its process, the dinners allow past clients to mingle and build community as they share remodeling stories.
But the company's most important resource is its employees. General manager Linda Minde says ensuring that Tri-Lite employees are capable of delivering a high level of customer service requires looking for people who are honest, reliable and responsible, possess integrity and show initiative.
"If you hire for the right personality, you can train for the skill," she says. Staff as well as clients can acknowledge an individual's outstanding efforts with nominations for BRAVO (Being Right on, Adding Value to the Organization) Awards, which are given out throughout the year.
Even with a small staff of seven, Tri-Lite constantly studies and tweaks its written job descriptions and reviews the duties during weekly meetings to make sure its plans for growth stay in tune with its core values. And while Wayne Minde acknowledges that delivering great personalized customer service might be somewhat easier for a company of this size, he believes it would be a mistake to think that larger companies can't devote the same resources to customer service.
"I think a company of any size can be just as effective if they have the procedures and the right kind of people."