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Inside CI: Putting The “Custom” In Customer Service

May 11, 2000
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These days, you don’t have to go far to get exactly what you want. If one supplier won’t go the extra mile for you, chances are good that there are a dozen more that will. Companies know that in today’s highly competitive market, one sure way to differentiate themselves is to offer personalized, custom service in as many areas as possible, and a host of businesses are capitalizing on this trend.

Take the clay industry, for example. This issue profiles several clay companies that have undergone a vast array of changes over the past few years to increase their customer service (see pp. 35-40). Clay companies have spent millions of dollars to build new laboratories, expand their blending capabilities and open new mines. But almost every supplier we spoke with mentioned that the biggest change they’ve made is moving from an “off-the-shelf, take-it-or-leave-it” approach to a custom, made-to-order mentality. Need a special type of clay with certain characteristics? No problem—if it doesn’t exist, they’ll create it for you. And many companies will even take it one step further, sending technical service representatives into your plant to walk you through the implementation of the new product.

And the clay industry isn’t the only one pursuing a custom, hands-on approach—equipment suppliers are also reaching out to their customers more than ever before. Seminars held by suppliers are becoming increasingly common, as manufacturers of firing equipment and refractories seek to provide solutions to common problems in ceramic manufacturing. In February, North American Manufacturing Co. held its annual seminar on “Combustion and Process Control” in Nashville, Tenn. (A review of the meeting will be published in Ceramic Industry’s April issue.) According to J. J. Lukacs, one of the seminar leaders, “The seminar is designed to be application-oriented,” compared to the theoretical approach often found at larger, less personalized seminars.

Hauck Manufacturing Co. will hold its annual “Structural Clay and Ceramic Combustion Seminar” March 21-22 in Lebanon, Pa. Guest speakers will discuss the latest advances in the industry, and a hands-on session will enable attendees to see the company’s burners and kiln control systems in action. (A review of this seminar will be published in Ceramic Industry’s May issue.)

Lest the glass industry feel left out, a seminar hosted by Fosbel Inc. April 26-27 in Lexington, Ky., will cover glass melting, furnace/refiner design, operation and maintenance. And information on other supplier-hosted seminars will be listed in our “International Calendar” throughout the year.

While these seminars are relatively small and cater to a specific group of manufacturers, they might not meet everyone’s needs. That’s why each of these companies has also indicated a willingness—indeed, an eagerness—to work one-on-one with individual companies should the need arise.

In today’s society, technology is working wonders in the way we do business. But companies are discovering that advanced technology alone isn’t the key to success. Suppliers will continue to respond to each customer’s requests and needs with “custom solutions,” ensuring that the ceramic industry remains competitive for centuries to come.

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