Customer Service: Centerless Grinders and Shoes

May 21

This week I went to the local Westfield Shopping mall to return a pair of shoes that I purchased about 4 months ago. They are nothing special and not expensive, but I wear them most days and they look the part, but far from worn out. The reason for the return is the rubber soles split across the ball of the foot and I was annoyed that this could happen. I am not a return kind of person, I dislike the whole experience that it entails, finding a receipt that you put in a drawer six months ago and trudging to an overcrowded mall. Nasty salespeople are more interested in flirting with the kiosk employee across the mall, and not trying to help you. So what makes this experience noteworthy. I was in and out in less then 3 minutes flat.

Without a receipt I walked into the store, pulled out a shoe from the bag I brought, politely said “ is this supposed to happen?”, the answer was no from the very polite sales employee. He quickly offered that even though he did not have them in stock, he would order then and have them shipped to my home at no extra charge.  After filling out my name and address, I was on my way explaining my 7 year old daughter the difference between   good service like this and poor service like we had at chain store a few weeks back. Her simple reply was why would someone NOT give good service, and Daddy can we get a Pretzel.

I had to think about her question and I did not have an answer, as we went and got a Pretzel, Cold Stone Creamery for me.

We all live in a environment where  we are genuinely surprised by a thank you when you pay for your bagel and coffee or surprised when you get a small bag of peanuts on your cross country flight.  How did it get this far, I do not know but when this happened it made me sit back and just listen to Alan Schell our customer service person.  Everyday I hear him on the phone as we sit close to each other, but I just decided to listen, and listen intently.

Alan has a conversation with our customers, he just does not take an order. At times it seems like they should be making plans for a weekend picnic at his home. One instance came to light yesterday that made me talk about it here.

A very good customer called us yesterday afternoon inquiring about delivery of some spare parts that he needed to order and needed quickly. It turns out his customer needed additional parts from him, creating panic  down the food chain. He turned to us.

He needed many specialty work rest blades and an propionate amount of a special type of sliced regulating wheels and quick, by the end of the week, and we needed to deliver. Alan asked him if he could put him on hold for a minute to find out what we can do. Before he put him on hold they shared a good laugh. Within a minute Alan returned and triumphantly and told our customer that everything he needed would ship by Friday and if we needed to we will ship out the remainder on Saturday for him.

Signaling that the answer was satisfactory, they continued on their conversation about weekend plans, soccer games and Alan’s new weed whacker which was much better than an old electric one he had.

Customer service is a really important part of our business, We are a family business, with employees that have been here for 20 plus years. We all take pride in what happens between these four walls, and it starts with a Friendly greeting from Lori when she answers the phone to Alan’s genuine Thank you for your order. It is not a rehearsed thank you, but when I really listened to Alan’s Thank you for your order, he really means it.

Are Friday Afternoons Strange at Your Factory?

May 17

Today our granite machine bed was delivered for our centerpiece machine at IMTS. About 5 months ago we looked into the possibility of enhancing our machine as we started running into applications that required better tolerances. Two areas to address were thermal stability and vibration dampening. ( Hey every micron counts ). The granite machine bed was born.

Friday afternoons at Royal Master are funny, they either feature pure chaos as people call in last minute for parts or they are quiet, with the only calls from spouses looking for a choice between pizza or Chinese for dinner. There never seems to be anything in-between.

With the bed came a bunch of new ideas of the machine, many which without a doubt enhance the mechanical properties of the machine, but some are purely ascetic in nature. Meetings on the machine came at different times, nothing planned, usually a cup of coffee or Mountain Dew was in hand and it started out with a “What if we…. ” And ended with, lets get Todd to figure this out, it sounds good.

This bed has been highly anticipated here for the last 10 weeks as Rock of Ages in Vermont helped us develop a product that could be manufactured, but also meet our requirements. The result arrived today. When the truck arrived there was crowd, all eagerly anticipating the bedrock machined base, which arrived crated. But when uncrated, many just “Wow”


As many times as you look at a solidworks model, and visualize the end result, nothing prepared me for the relief to see the idea which started out as a “ what if” get uncrated. Looking at the certification paperwork that came with it, revealed another surprise. Just like a Born On date. Rock Of Ages who knew of our excitement to receive this, included a few photos of it in process. I have to say they got copied many times and passed around as everyone had to look at them, a lot.

After I finish writing this blog, I am out to the shop to go place a headstock, wheel guard and some other items which are finished on top of the machine to see what it looks like, unless someone beats me to it.

John Jr