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When Good Service is your Key Asset: How Global Business Plays on Main Street
Small business owner Carl Brown keeps customers happy by promising to do things right. When a paperwork snafu caused a product to get hung up in the U.S. Customs office, Brown had to decide if he should hop a plane to China to satisfy his promise.
Although suppliers to the DOD are the primary customers for SimplyRFID, the fallout from the collapse of Enron in 2001 created a new and large source of commercial business. "Companies scrambled to meet the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley,"
"There were hotels overseas that needed 500,000 tags fast, to get ready for an event. These aren't just blank labels. We have to put some information in them to make them useful. Our team worked around the clock to meet the need," says Brown. The SimplyRFID team credits their customer service and support with their market success. It was this very promise of top-notch customer service that led to Brown's dilemma.
"We had a company in Chicago that hired Inventory Management Solutions (http://www.imsolutions.net) to do a wall-to-wall Sarbanes-Oxley compliant audit of their fixed assets. They needed 10,000 tags, for the team to apply to the assets for accurate data collection. We quoted a timeframe that seemed conservative and reasonable. However, our blank labels came from China. They left China on time, but when they arrived at U.S. Customs, something was wrong with the paperwork. Our labels were sitting in a Customs office in Nome, Alaska, while the inventory team was on their way to Chicago. If we didn't get the labels and turn them into pre-programmed RFID tags before the team arrived, the team would be unable to start. Highly skilled labor would be waiting for a few inexpensive paper tags before they could productively work." Although the total job was a small dollar figure for Brown, he worried that the reputation of SimplyRFID was on the line. "I was afraid our customer would remember us for delaying his project, rather than for delivering a quality product that solved his problem."
To avoid the delay for his customer, Brown booked a flight to China. He thought it would be easier to get another batch of tags in China in person than it would be to straighten out the paperwork at U.S. Customs. He would be spending more on the trip than the job was worth, but he viewed the cost as a way to prevent damage to the company's reputation. His plan? To put the blank labels in a suitcase and bring them back as carry-on luggage.
Fortunately, just as Brown was packing for his flight, he received word that the labels had been released. Now, he just had to get them from Alaska. A quick discussion with UPS, and the labels were shipped overnight to SimplyRFID's office in Virginia. Another few phone calls, and the team assembled on a Friday night to print the tags. Everyone on the staff of SimplyRFID stands by to print emergency tags. In fact, the job training program runs every new hire through "print-tags training." This way, when an all-out effort is required, everyone can pitch in.
"There's not much point to working for this company if you can't print tags," says Emily Jacobs, Manager of Operations for SimplyRFID. "Printing pre-programmed RFID tags is what we do. It's our reason for being a company." By Saturday morning, the UPS truck came by for the rush delivery. Monday morning, first thing, when the inventory team arrived in Chicago, there were the boxes of pre-programmed RFID tags, ready to go. It was as if nothing had happened.
"As I see it," says Brown, "our small company in Virginia is just as much a global operation as General Motors. We sell in Costa Rica, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and anywhere. Our products ship worldwide, and we buy supplies worldwide.
We have representatives worldwide. We are seen on the Internet worldwide. We use international banking, international shipping, and international distribution. To keep competitive globally, we have to look and feel world-class. I would book a plane to China before I'd let down a customer. Service is our key asset. And that's just how we roll."
In the global environment of today's business, with service as the key industry in America, maybe this is how Main Street USA, can roll, too.
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About SimplyRFID: Engineering simple RFID solutions for asset tracking, surveillance, and inventory
SimplyRFID provides frustration-