Focus on Service and Family Values Yields Customer Loyalty
In 1925, H.M. Royal started a business in Trenton, New Jersey, supplying compounding raw materials to the local rubber industry. Since that auspicious beginning, the company has expanded to a nationwide company that represents suppliers from around the globe. They now supply materials for customers in the rubber, adhesives, sealants, plastics, and protective coatings industries throughout North America. While their products and services may have changed, their mission throughout those 90 years has never wavered: to consistently meet and exceed customers' needs and expectations.
Everyone in the organization recognizes that sales and service are primary; that's their mission. After all, H.M. Royal contracts with manufacturers of materials and signs up to be extensions of their sales force. Every associate has a role in that sale, no matter the position or department —whether it's customer service, receiving, shipping, logistics, or quality. And, every interaction counts.
One of their key factors for success has been a focus on family values and treating employees like family. "H.M. Royal is about much more than our products," notes Joseph Royal, current President and grandson of H.M. Royal himself. In fact, Joe and three other third generation family members manage the company with family values in mind. After all, what distinguishes a good company from a great one? Its people. And, organizations that care about their employees and treat them with respect build lasting customer relationships and loyalty.
Terry Smith, Director of Operations, reinforced that mindset and its impact: "Management truly cares about their employees. Employees are not considered ‘assets'; instead, they're thought of as ‘family.' If people have a need or an issue, they know the company is there for them." As a result, they feel a strong connection to the company; a feeling of belonging and contribution. And, according to Terry, "They don't want to leave! In addition, knowing their employer cares about them makes everyone want to perform at the highest level, above and beyond their job's standard requirements."
Remarkably, the average tenure is about 13 years; some have 20+ years. There is even one associate who has been there for 41 years. This longevity and continuity has had a direct impact on the corporate culture as well as the company's continued success.
In fact, "Continuity" is one of their Five Bedrock Goals. All of the associates know these goals and are committed to doing their part to help the company achieve them. They are:
Quality Products and Services
Intense Customer Focus
Continuity in Management and People
Entrepreneurial spirit (discovering and addressing new opportunities)
These goals inform the company's strategic approach and guide their decisions, in the best of times and the worst of times. For example, when the economy collapsed in 2008, most companies saw a severe decline in sales and profitability. The typical and understandable survival response: massive layoffs, which led to skyrocketing unemployment.
H.M. Royal certainly felt the impact—their sales dropped dramatically during that time. But Joe Royal set a goal during this tough time: "To go forward without laying off a single individual." According to Joe, "We thought it would be foolish to lay off our people, even during this crisis. We would lose their valuable experience, and it would hurt morale. It was not worth the risks."
The decision paid off. They achieved their goal of "no layoffs," and sales rebounded the next year. Perhaps even more importantly, the associates recognized that the management team made a decision that most companies would not make in the same circumstances. And, they truly appreciated the company's commitment to its employees, which yielded a culture of greater trust and associate commitment.
The five bedrock goals also reflect a key mindset embraced by the Royal family: "When you speak with anyone, whether it's on the phone or face-to-face, you are providing customer service. And, at the same time, you are selling H.M. Royal." Most of the company's development in customer service over the years came from learning by doing or watching others. They had formal technical training in the past, but never any customer service training. They realized it was time to further develop their people in this crucial skill directly aligned with their strategic focus.
Joe Royal, a lifelong learner, joined Vistage, a peer coaching group that helps executives solve business challenges and become better leaders. During one meeting, Tim Hughes, President and CEO of Movers Specialty Services, gave a presentation on their MAGIC training initiative and the results they achieved. Joe was intrigued and expressed his interest in learning more. So, Tim invited Joe and Terry Smith to visit their company and see MAGIC in action.
Even though it had been several years since the training initiative, Tim was still complimentary about its impact. Joe and Terry visited Tim's company and brought along Tami Puccio, Customer Service Supervisor.
Joe and Terry were convinced—this was exactly what they were looking for to help them take their great company to the next level. In addition, Joe could see how this training could enhance the communication between their California and New Jersey organizations. Tami was also instantly impressed with the program. Perhaps most notable to all was that the associates were still modeling the MAGIC attitude and behaviors, years after the training.
When announcing this training plan to the organization, Joe reinforced his belief in his associates and their potential. "You are great, and we appreciate all you do," he proclaimed to the team. "We're just looking to elevate ourselves, and be the best we can be. MAGIC will help us get there."
The training initiative began in September 2011, and the associates were immediately receptive and engaged in the process. The programs were delivered for the East Coast team as well as the warehousing and operations associates in California. The selected format: half-day modules over time to ensure sufficient coverage and allow associates to apply what they learned between sessions.
Immediately after the training, associates realized the benefits of the program and shared their commitment to apply the learning to their jobs. It was clear that the session made an impact, personally and professionally, as evident in their comments:
I have a much deeper understanding of how everyone who I come in contact with is truly my customer—and deserving of my respect and care.
I will make a better connection with customers and will be more aware of my words and tone, and will listen and be more empathetic.
There was also quick recognition that change was happening. The internal climate was improving as a result—associates in both locations were treating each other differently and noticing the shift. And, for some individuals, the experience was transformative. Certain people in the office tended to be distant or stand-offish in the past. Not anymore. Some are now the most prominent MAGIC leaders in the organization.
Equally important, customers noticed too. They quickly recognized that something had changed. In fact, the number of testimonials and the amount of unsolicited positive feedback from customers increased. Even six months after the training, they were still hearing praise from customers.
Joe knew he made the right choice when several new customers made affirmations such as, "I know I made the right decision to go with you." And, "The reason why I am doing business with you is your customer service." According to Joe, "I did not get these types of pronouncements years ago." This was further proof that the organization not only embraced it, but was living it too.
In July of 2012, H.M. Royal decided to engage in MAGIC Email training to ensure that every one of their e-mail messages was aligned with H.M. Royal's strategic goals—for they knew that one e-mail can make a dramatic shift in customer perception and confidence. Joe noted, "Our people were focused on getting emails out quickly, but not on their impact." He knew that emails were not just one-dimensional, and they were critical to the business. Each message needed to be professional, clear and customer-focused; in other words, as "MAGIC" as their phone and face-to-face communications.
Communico delivered the training to associates as well as the sales team. To ensure relevance and immediate application, their own samples were used to demonstrate how emails can be transformed with the right language and flow. The groups learned "what not to do" and gained new tools to ensure their writing was clear, concise and focused on their readers. They enjoyed the training experience and committed to applying the guidelines to their own writing, to internal and external audiences.
Joe and Terry also knew it was important to keep the MAGIC going. So, they asked for volunteers to reinforce MAGIC principles and behaviors, and help keep it alive. Hoping for a few volunteers, they were astonished by the number of people who wanted to help. Given their associates' enthusiastic response, they created three groups, two in NJ and one in CA, and encouraged them to come up with plans to sustain the momentum. Tami, a strong advocate from the start, volunteered to be the group leader for one of the NJ teams.
Joe and Terry gave them a budget, and let them decide how to use it, with minimal direction from them. Group One was responsible for first quarter; then Group Two would come up with ideas for the second quarter. They would switch back and forth throughout the year to keep the focus and engagement level high.
The enthusiasm, creativity and commitment generated by this opportunity was far more than they expected. Run by peers, the teams planned breakfasts, scavenger hunts, relay races and celebrations, and created a wide range of prizes. The NJ office has a MAGIC board covered with letters and quotes, while CA has a MAGIC room with posters and other MAGIC reminders.
The teams also designed employee recognition programs, where the ratings and rewards were decided by associates/peers, not the managers. As a result, associates felt heard and knew that their thoughts and opinions mattered. And, they felt more connected to each other and dedicated to success as a team.
MAGIC has become part of the day-to-day language amongst the associates. You'll often hear them share comments such as "That was MAGICal!" or even "That was not so MAGICal!" All of the feedback is given in an open and supportive manner, so associates appreciate and "get" the message. This process also helps keep the awareness alive in a fun, friendly and non-threatening way. According to Terry, "A lot of programs get people excited for a week or two. With MAGIC, the interest is as high now as the day the training was completed."
Joe now admits that he was a bit dubious at first about the kind of dramatic impact this training could make. But he has no doubts about it now. He continues to hear customer commitments to stay with H.M. Royal. "People are saying that the reason they continue doing business with us is our outstanding customer service", noted Joe. "MAGIC is important in our culture," he declared. "In fact, it is ingrained in our culture now. It is here to stay."
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