Linking customer service and company culture
Considering how much of daily life in the U.S. now integrates digital technology, it’s almost jolting to realize that the world wide web came into being over two decades ago. The internet has transformed the way that business is done. And, while the plumbing, heating and cooling (PHC) industry may not be operating at the pace of corporations in the Silicon Valley of California, strides are being made in avenues including device communication, system troubleshooting, e-commerce, and more.
One company making such strides is SupplyHouse. Founded in 2004 as PexSupply, the company changed its name to SupplyHouse in 2014, in order to accommodate its vastly expanded portfolio of products. Today, the company carries more than 85,000 products and 300 brands in its inventory. In addition to PEX, SupplyHouse features Heating, Plumbing, Fittings, Valves, HVAC, Thermostats, and Electrical products. But, it is not just SupplyHouse’s offerings that have made it unique; it is also its dedication to customer service and company culture.
“Since the name change, we’ve really grown in the industry. We’ve tried a lot of new and innovative things to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition, as other companies are starting to come online,” explained Lauren O’Toole, marketing manager at SupplyHouse. “We want to continue to add new features to our website that aren’t available on other sites in order to make life easier for our customers.”
“We also have our programming team in house,” explained Kari Stirnweis, Human Resources director at SupplyHouse. “It’s exciting for us to be able to move fast and really build all of our own solutions to our customers’ needs.”
An effort that SupplyHouse completed in 2015 to deliver faster shipping to many customers around the country was an expansion. Now, there are two locations for the company: Farmingdale, N.Y. and Columbus, Ohio. The New York location houses a warehouse and distribution center, as well as departments including Customer Service, Marketing, Human Resources, Accounting, Information Technology, and Purchasing.
The Ohio location opened in July 2015 as a second distribution center.
“It really helped us extend our one-day shipping,” Stirnweis said. “It’s a great service for our customers to help them get their products faster.”
While SupplyHouse is matching many of the consumer-facing retail brands’ online strategies, such as expedited shipping, mobile browsing, archived shopping carts, etc., they are also very cognizant of the industry and the pace at which their customers are adopting technology.
“We definitely take the learning curve of technology to mind when we design things for the website,” O’Toole said. “We want to have the newest features on the website, but we also try to keep it simple with a clean aesthetic so it’s easy to look at and use.”
O’Toole continued, “We know that the trade is used to going to local supply houses and picking up the day of. And, that was a big reason for us improving fast shipping and giving customers as much information as we can on the website about available inventory.”
As for SupplyHouse’s online shopping cart feature, it’s not just there so customers can aggregate items in one place then weed out those expendables when ready to purchase; as many shoppers do on retail websites. Instead, SupplyHouse sees the shopping cart as a place that a contractor, for example, can store every product that they foresee needing for a project under a specific job name, return to the shopping cart on the site when they are ready to order, and seamlessly check out.
Ideas such as the shopping cart functionality come from the more than 145 employees at SupplyHouse. The company prides itself on the talent and camaraderie of its team.
“We’ve always been trying to put a face to the company; the people fulfilling the orders and running the website. We want the fun of our culture to come through to the shopper on the website,” O’Toole said. “It’s an exciting challenge to make our products interesting with videos and other engaging content. In some areas we even are gamifying it.”
Company morale is a top priority for SupplyHouse. One way that the company fosters relationship-building is through sports leagues in bowling and softball, which compete after work hours. Recently, the company also started “Core Values Weeks.” Over the course of eight weeks, employees are invited to an activity that embodies one of the company’s core values: Respect, Humility, Innovation, Open-mindedness, Teamwork, Positive Attitude, Education, and Flexibility.
“This year, for one of the weeks we gave back. Another week, we did group karate,” Stirnweis noted. “We just wanted to get the entire company together to act on what we believe in.”
The company also recently started its “Department Swaps,” where employees are randomly paired to shadow each other for one hour during the workday.
“It’s an amazing experience to get people who don’t work together day-to-day to spend some time and get to know each other on a different level while seeing another area of the company,” O’Toole said. “Every person I’ve swapped with I’ve been shocked by how much I learned about their areas, and how those insights trickled into my work.”
The company culture that SupplyHouse has today did not come by happenstance. Since 2013, the company has been fine-tuning its hiring practices in order to create the environment that exists now.
“I would argue that all of the employees that we hire are kind, genuine and hardworking,” Stirnweis said. “They really do care about the company, and I believe it’s because they know we care about them.”
One hiring practice that SupplyHouse prides itself on is transparency. Candidates for employment are introduced to a variety of existing staff members and encouraged to ask them questions. The purpose behind this practice is to allow both the candidate and employer to determine if there is a natural culture match-up that will result in positive outcomes for the person and the company. Once a new employee is brought on board, they go through another newly implemented program, “New Hire Mentorship,” in which the employee is paired with an existing team member who can show them the ropes.
This year, as news spreads about the latest delivery breakthroughs from Amazon, remember to keep an eye on SupplyHouse. They will be bringing innovation to front doors; innovation handcrafted by invested team members and customized for PHC professionals.