Sometimes the most lucrative order is the one you refuse to take. That’s particularly true when you realize that your reputation is more important than your profit margin. Let me explain with a couple of examples.
It’s quite common for customers to send us specs or drawings for a caster that they would like us to manufacture. Recently a distributor sent us a drawing for a side-braking caster with 3500 lb. capacity and asked for an estimate. I looked at the drawing and immediately saw that there was a major problem. With the specified capacity, the brake simply wouldn’t hold. There would be no positive lock and neither the wheel nor the swivel would be engaged. I tried to explain my reservations to the distributor but he insisted that’s what his customer wanted. To be sure I asked the manager of our engineering department to look at the drawings. His reaction was priceless. He peered at the image on my computer monitor and then literally jumped back in horror muttering, “There’s no way.” It’s not that the caster couldn’t be built but rather that it would be too dangerous to use.
There are times when the best customer service we offer is refusing to even quote on an order. There’s no question that the side braking caster that would result from those specs would be a disaster waiting to happen. We lost the order to a competitor and we were thrilled. Our integrity is worth way more than any amount of money that could be made on an order that was flawed from the outset.
Here’s another example. A few years ago we manufactured a series of casters for a customer in the retail sector. They were made to their specs with a Polyolefin wheel, which is very hard. They didn’t tell us that the caster was being used on high-end hardwood floors – that were, of course, destroyed by the hard wheel. We replaced all the wheels with our Protech™ series – a softer wheel that offers great floor protection. Sure enough we recently received an RFQ from the company that specified the original hard wheel. We spoke to the buyer and reminded him that we had to change those wheels to protect the floors in their retail environments but he was insistent. You see, the softer wheels are more expensive. We verified that the casters were still being used on hardwood floors and tried once again to explain what would happen. It was all to no avail. So, we did the only thing that our integrity would allow us to do, and refused to provide a quotation.
We could likely have got the order but it just wasn’t worth it because we would be providing what the customer wants – not what they need. No doubt, there was a competitor that had assured the client that their floors would be just fine with the cheaper (but harder) wheel. We didn’t want to be the supplier responsible for damaging floors a second time.
A lesson I learned from my father many years ago was that you always have to think long term. The short term gain of taking an order that is going to be a problem for the customer is way less important than our reputation. That’s worth more than any order.