Committed to leveraging the experience and industry knowledge of its employee base, this industrial distributor continues to grow customer loyalty through ongoing investments in its private label products, accelerated category expansions and more.
Systemax’s Global Industrial business may be 70 years old, but the industrial distributor is moving the business forward at a “frenetic pace” that is befitting of a young startup. CEO Barry Litwin is guiding the Port Washington, New York-based company’s development through five clearly defined pillars designed to promote a customer-centric organization:
1. Differentiated Customer Experience — how the market engages with the company;
2. Leading Products & Solutions — expanded offering and continued development of a robust private label business;
3. Product Knowledge & Expertise — becoming more of a solutions provider for customers and delivering additional value through highly trained staff and online content;
4. Operational Excellence — continuous process improvement and investment in automation;
5. Strategic Acquisitions — opportunity to accelerate product category expansion and synergistically grow customer base.
“Within each of these five pillars, we maintain a series of initiatives that we’re executing that ultimately results in better performance in our fulfillment, product availability, digital self-service, and online and customer facing experience,” says Litwin. “As we see improvement in these areas, our customers’ loyalty and the value they find in Global as a trusted brand for their business will continue to expand.”
Private Label Excellence
From floor scrubbers to whiteboards, work benches to pallet jacks, one element that has been “a real differentiator” for Global, says Litwin, is its line of private label products. To stand out from the brand name competition, Global brings its products to market at a value price point while also “spec’ing up” product features. “We’re always trying to give the customer a little bit more in terms of the feature sets on Global branded products,” he says. “It’s not about creating a cheap knockoff of some existing product. It’s about, how do we make it better?”
Global’s reported second quarter revenue for 2019 was approximately $249 million, with organic average daily sales growth of 7.8%. Tex Clark, CFO, says the quality of Global’s private label offerings contributes to the company’s ability to continually outperform the market. “When we develop private label products, it’s not just developing something that will hit a nice margin point for us and a nice, valuable price point for the customer, but it’s also about us improving upon what the existing product in the market may offer, by providing thicker-gauge steel on a locker or improved ball bearings on a cart,” he says. “Really continuing to offer the high-quality products that will keep our customers coming back for more.”
Another reason customers continue to buy from Global, Litwin adds, is the service they receive from account managers. The company recently implemented a voice-of-the-customer survey where respondents continually say they appreciate the personal attention and conversational problem solving they receive from Global’s OSHA safety-trained account managers. Ritesh Chaturbedi, chief operations officer, spearheaded the initiative, which reached nearly 10,000 customers in the second quarter of this year. “We want to listen to the customer directly, not through second-hand knowledge, or a secondhand data provider,” he says.
Chaturbedi recognizes that most companies say they want to be customer centric. Global’s approximately 1,600 employees are the driving force behind making it a reality, he says. “They are highly motivated, highly engaged. Many have been here a long period of time and built this business from the ground up over the last 70 years,” Chaturbedi says. “Engaging them in this transformation process, as well as getting their ideas and input, is really driving our growth for the future.”
It’s about creating a friction-free customer experience across every touchpoint, he adds, from pre-sale to transaction to post-sale service — driving speed, reliability and convenience across every omnichannel interaction customers have.
Litwin calls Global’s people “the lifeblood of the business.” Customers are increasingly seeking the institutional knowledge inherent in the company’s tenured workforce. The company has internal development programs to provide continuing education and training on sales and products. At the same time, Global is investing in enhancing the digital skillset of employees so that their relevant skills are magnified.
Chaturbedi is focused on Global being an industry leader in speed of service, be it self-service, in an SMS chat, over the phone or in person. “Enhancing every touchpoint in engineering that experience so that we take effort and any challenges away from the customer in a very focused manner,” he says, “making that customer experience better and better as we go along.”
Global uses internal measurements to track these metrics, such as a net promoter score that monitors the customer’s likelihood of interacting with the company and promoting it to friends, family and colleagues. Customer satisfaction metrics for both sales and service look at average speed to answer a chat request or phone call. Global also monitors rate of first-contact resolutions and overall customer sentiment.
This fall, Global will further deliver on its commitment to service by opening a new distribution center — the company’s 7th — outside Dallas. “From a service level, we really saw the central Texas region as an area where we can support the current customer base and continue to grow,” says Clark.
The DC will bring the products closer to more customers and enable Global to distribute them quicker at a lower cost, Litwin adds. “We’re trying to serve the customer in the fastest, most efficient way possible, and Dallas is a great example of how we continue to expand the business as the value proposition drives more customers each day to Global,” he says.
It comes down to a simple vision, Litwin adds: to serve customers in any way that they want to be served with as frictionless a process as possible. “The next horizon for us,” he says, “is to provide customers with more value by continuing to double down on our products, our knowledge capability and the ability to deliver technical solutions.
“We’re a company that is 70 years old, that really understands the space, but we also know that just being in this space doesn’t give you the right to just keep doing what you’re doing. We are modifying and driving the business accordingly. There’s plenty more customers and growth for Global to achieve today, and we believe we understand our customers’ needs, as our strategy and people are taking us to where the puck is heading tomorrow.”
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