Customer service ideas that work: WOOD 100 Strategies for Success
October 29, 2018 | 1:31 pm CDT

Today's wood products manufacturers must work harder, smarter and faster than their competitors, while providing constant contact, consistent quality and added-value to wood products. What follows are some of the methods put in place by the 2018 WOOD 100 class, which includes cabinet manufacturers, residential and office furniture producers, architectural woodworkers, wood component manufacturers, closet companies and more.

Photo: Hansen & Company Woodworks

Hansen & Company Woodworks, St. Joseph, MN —  Excellent service and along with new product development helped grow business at the custom architectural and casework firm.

“First, we determined the added value we have to offer to commercial clients, like pre-construction planning and value engineering services,” said Sarah Hansen, marketing coordinator. “Then we implemented a process of vetting clients to determine the services they value and to verify that their valued services match with the added value we provide. Finally, we implemented stronger engineering to deliver the added value.”

The strategy worked, and 2017 sales rose 5.6%.

Aiding the efforts was the 2017 purchase of a nesting CNC router, and edgebander automation for material handling and a vertical CNC center in 2018.

Photo: Suburban Laminating

Suburban Laminating Inc., Melrose Park, IL —  In addition to its high-quality products and on-time deliveries, “we have always provided a high level of service to our customers.  When they have a vision in mind we work to help them realize that vision, minding all the important details along with cost and time line,” said Sherry Orrico, president/owner of the custom laminate casework and furniture firm.

“In 2017 our focus was to increase sales of custom reception desks. The key steps were to create awareness in our existing customer base that we could provide high end looks for any budget. We incorporated reclaimed wood, stone, acrylic panels and lighting into our desks. The results were increased business in our existing customer base, and along with an elevated image for Suburban Laminating.”

Photo: Cole Wagner

Cole Wagner Cabinetry, Rochester Hills, MI —  “Customer service has always been our top priority,” said Cole Wagner, president of the one-stop shop for custom cabinetry, furniture and millwork for kitchens, baths, closets and other rooms. 2017 sales grew  23.1%.

“We specialize in one-off designs and builds other shops can't do,” he said. “I like to create a relationship with our customer as a kitchen [for example] can be a very large financial commitment.”

Wagner continued, “Building relationships have helped us keep returning customers. We treat our cabinets as they are our own until the job is complete. We also help with other trades and keep the communication open to help the process/job move along smoothly.”

To aid production, the firm recently added another entire cabinet shop with CNC capabilities and an edgebander.

Photo: Maco Mfg.

Maco Mfg. Inc., Temple, TX —  “We really pushed customer service and customer satisfaction last year,” said Rachael Beaty, office manager at the educational casework manufacturer. The efforts paid off, with 2017 sales up 68.4%.

 “We added a designated person to handle customer inquiries, sales, and quotes. This provided quick turnarounds and easy communication between our company and customers,” she said.

“We also put a main focus on incorporating lean and TIMWOOD (Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Over Processing, Over Production, Defective) principles into our production floor to reduce our operating/cost of good sold numbers and ultimately optimize profit margins and offer competitive pricing for our market.”

In addition to adding equipment, Maco also invested in employee incentives to increase production times.

Service Specialists

Ace’s Custom Cabinetry, Gravois Mills, MO
2017 sales at the custom cabinet firm grew 21.4%. “I don’t turn down any jobs,” said Austin Edwards, owner. “I will bid on an entire house full of cabinets or all the way down to a simple door. I may not always get them but I at least put the effort of getting my name out there and showing interest in what the customer wants. I also keep up on the latest trends and new products for cabinets,” he added. “I treat each job as if it were to go into my home.”

Nashville Custom Woodwork Inc., Nashville, TN
“We have a continued focus on producing quality products and customer service,” said Robbie Barnhart, president. Business looks good for the producer of bench made custom cabinetry, kitchens, baths, bars, media, and specialty work, with plans underway to increase production and update equipment, including the saws.

Elipticon Wood Products Inc., Little Chute, WI
2017 sales rose 13.0% for the producer of specialty curved and straight millwork.  “We work individually with our Network of Customers to provide them the value-added solutions they need with great lead times and quality products,” said Patricia Heckner, controller. “We are employee owned and provide long-term positive employment opportunities for our employees by creating value for our customers.”

Interior Components Group Inc., St. Cloud, MN
“We worked with employees to service customers to keep them happy and coming back with next project,” said Steven Barthelemy, CEO. The effort paid off, as 2017 sales rose 3.4% at the custom commercial casework and millwork firm. Investments in technology, including a new edgebander, also helped increase production and spur sales.

Brooks Brothers Cabinetry, Colorado Springs, CO
Great customer service helped drive 2017 sales up 28.3% for the custom cabinet maker. “We have a amazing team of designers and craftsman that really care about the customer and end product,” said Darin Brooks, vice president of operations. 

Hamilton Custom Wood Products, Hamilton, MI
“Consistent quality, on time delivery at a great price,” helped drive a 55.6% sales growth in 2017, said Thomas Grifhorst, president. “A local economy that is hot,” will mean even better sales for 2018 and 2019. The company makes wood components, custom furniture and cabinets.

Haas Cabinet, Sellersburg, IN
“We made customer contact and care our number one goal late in 2017 to prepare our customers for some significant product changes to be introduced in 2018,” said Bryant Haas, vice president of sales. The effort paid off as 2017 saw a rise in sales, and 2018 and 2019 should also be good for the stock and semi-custom kitchen and bath cabinet manufacturer. The company also received a 2017 WMIA Wooden Globe Award for its Commitment to Excellence Through Technology.

Cabinet Werks Inc., Ukiah, CA
President Keith Graydon attributes “our consistent fair pricing and quality service in the marketplace,” for the custom cabinetry and closets manufacturer’s 2017 sales growth of 16.7%.

Talbert Architectural Panels and Doors, Brea, CA
Business is good at the FSC-certified custom architectural panels and doors manufacturer. “We focused our efforts on selecting the highest grade of veneer available,” said Len Gordon, owner. “We produce at a reasonable price and we are sensitive to accommodating our customers scheduling needs.”

Law & Hicks Millwork, Maryville, TN
2017 sales grew 8.6% at the high-end custom cabinetry, door, furniture and paneling firm. “We exceed customer expectations, and that results in more high-end customers,” said David Law, partner. Aiding the company’s production has been the addition of a dual head sander in 2017, with plans for a new CNC in 2018.

Quality Built Cabinets lnc., Marion, MI
“Making sure my customers are always happy and the job is done completely And making sure the deadlines are met,” are the secrets to the custom face-frame cabinetry and storage solutions manufacturer’s success, said Marc Pluger, owner. Helping the production efforts is a recently acquired line boring machine and a new pocket hole machine. Also planned for purchase is an inline ripsaw plus some additional equipment.

Closet & Room Solutions, Grand Rapids, MI
“Service, quality, workmanship, integrity, and ethics,” said Richard Dreiband, owner, helped spur the closet and home organization’s 15.6% sales jump in 2017. A full-service provider, the company designs, builds and installs its products.

Heritage Woodwright LLC, Denver, NC
Sales at the cabinetry and components manufacturer rose 37.5% is 2017, due in part to the company’s customer service efforts, said Robb Parker, owner. The company also takes pride in the quality of its products, and in 2017 invested in a CNC router and edgebander, with plans in 2018 to add additional spray equipment.

Romac Lumber and Supply Inc., Leesburg, FL
The company’s great customer service is opening doors at the Romac Lumber and Supply, as 2017 sales rose 4.6% for the entry door and custom moulding firm. “I run one of the nine profit centers at Romac,” said Chuck Shoop, Door Plant and Custom Millwork manager. “We focus on quality and customer service. We at Romac put our customers first.” To aid production at the shop, the company recently purchased a KVAL interior door line. Additional purchases include a V” nail back nailer for better miters, Shoop said, and a briquetter for waste compaction and to reduce manpower.

Wood Works Custom, College Grove, TN
“Our main goal company-wide is 100% customer satisfaction at the completion of each job,” said Tom Vernon, owner. The strategy is working well, as 2017 sales rose 24.4%, and projections are also good for 2018 and 2019. The company manufactures all types of custom cabinetry for residential homes.

Commercial Casework Inc., Fremont, CA
2017 sales rose 8.0% for the architectural millwork and cabinetry firm. “We focus on existing customers, as well as pursuing new customers,” said Nicholas Palmer, CEO. “We are also focused on maintaining consistent quality and a high level of customer service, regardless of project size or client.”

Premium Woods LLC, Lincoln, NE
One of the secrets to the laminate casework and surfaces manufacturer’s success, “We maintain constant contact with our customers — we try to call them before they call us,” said Bob Long, president. Business also projects to be good in 2018 and 2019.

Dutchmaid Woodworking LLC, Shipshewana, IN
Business is good for the manufacturer of residential cabinetry and components parts for RV vehicles, said Chris Miller, salesman. “We strive to always do the right things, and are very responsive to our customers’ needs. We also focus on producing quality components, all solid wood parts, with  timely delivery, and service after the sale,” he added. Aiding the production efforts was the addition of a 6-head moulder and gang ripsaw in 2017.

Sam Schuyler Designs, Ocala, FL
2017 sales grew 29.6% for the custom cabinet and closets manufacturer. “Customer service, marketing and product production,” said Sam Schuyler, president, should continue to help drive the sales growth, projected to be good for 2018 and 2019.

The 2018 WOOD 100 is sponsored by Pollmier Inc.

Read more 2018 WOOD 100: Strategies for Success

Marketing Initiatives
Go-to-Market Strategies
Business Strategies
Productivity Enhancements
Technology Integration
Product Innovations
Customer Service
Return to WOOD 100 main page
Read the special 2018 Leadership issue of FDMC online

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]