IBT’s Employee Longevity = Better Customer Service

By IBT Inc

July 01, 2014

IBT, IBT News

Good news for the customers of IBT Industrial Solutions: folks at this company stick around. For a long time.

How long? 110 of the current 342 employees have been with the company for over 20 years. That’s a whopping 32% of the current staff. And out of the Top 100 employees with the most seniority, exactly 0% left the company in 2013.

Superior Customer Service

That works out to an average of 14.6 years with IBT—which is 10 years longer than the national U.S. median of 4.6 years with a company.

According to Anthony Akin, the Director of Marketing, E-Commerce and Information Systems at IBT, that longevity translates into great customer service.

“When people stay at a company for that long, they develop excellent problem-solving skills and an incredible base of knowledge—both of customers, and of products,” Akin said. “That translates to superior service for our customers.”

Best-Trained Staff in Industry

Another bonus of employee longevity at IBT? The staff is extremely well-trained on products and solutions—thanks to a culture that’s passionate about education.

“When you call IBT, you’ll most likely be working with someone who has many years of experience,” said Gary Hense, the Director of Training/Marketing Services at IBT.

Hense has been at the company for 37 years, and started out doing inside sales in the rubber department. Today, he is in charge of training and development. “We have the best-trained people in the industry,” he added.

Hense said that one reason he’s stayed so long is the positive work environment. “People simply don’t leave,” he said. “They enjoy the family atmosphere, the continuous training, and the Open Door policy. The employee involvement here is a great way to improve retention.”

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Stability and Reliability for Customers

Chris Williams, the #5 employee at IBT in terms of seniority, said that customers love how they can call on the same service person at IBT for help, year after year. Today he is the Director of Corporate Accounts, and manages the company’s major national and government contracts.

“There’s a lot of ‘turn and churn’ in our industry,” Williams said. “Customers trust our stability and reliability.”

Williams was hired in June 1973 for inside sales, and later transferred to an outside sales position. He will retire in December 2014 after 41 years of service. IBT was his first job out of college.

“I’ve worn a lot of different hats here over the years, and that keeps it fresh and fun,” Williams said. “And it’s still fun, even after 41 years.”

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Low Turnover = Better Customer Relationships

IBT also discovered an important connection: lower turnover translates to high customer satisfaction and an overall better customer experience.

“A few years ago, we did a study of all of our 35 branches to see which ones were most successful, and why,” said Stephen Cloud, the Chairman of the Board at IBT. “What we learned is that customer satisfaction is directly tied to the longevity of our employees. The branches with the lowest turnover routinely performed the best, and have better customer relationships.”

As a result, Cloud decided to make retaining employees a business priority.

“We decided to focus on longevity because it directly contributes to a positive customer experience,” he said. “The longer an employee is here, the more comfortable a customer is with them. When you work with a customer for 10 years, you really get to know their needs and operations. That takes time to learn.”

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Treating Employees Like Family—Good Business

Creating this environment is simple to explain, but difficult to execute, Cloud said. By treating individuals with the utmost respect, you lay the foundation for employee longevity, he added.

“When my mom and dad founded the company in 1949, they tried to make every employee feel like a part of the Cloud family,” Cloud said. “We still do that today.”

In fact, many employees who leave IBT eventually return—and Cloud welcomes them. 43 of the current employees left and were later rehired—which accounts for 13% of the staff. “Many people who leave IBT discover that they’re not treated like family,” he said. “So they often come back.”

Cloud added that this environment is difficult to create at a larger company. “A lot of our competitors have 2,000 or 3,000 employees,” he said. “At that point, it becomes very hard to create personal relationships.”

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Lifelong Friendships with Customers

Cloud said that many of the employees have worked with their customers so long, they have become close personal friends.

“Next to my family, the most important people in my life are our employees, customers, and suppliers,” Cloud said, who just celebrated 42 full-time years at IBT. “I come to IBT every day and get to see lifelong friends. I’ve worked side-by-side with some of these folks for 40 years.”

Cloud started out working summers at IBT in the warehouse, where he learned the value of customer service.

“My dad handed me a broom and rag and said, ‘The first thing you do every morning when you arrive is sweep the entire warehouse, then wipe the dust off the bearings, so they are clean when delivered to customers,’” Cloud said. “That taught me the importance of putting customers first.”

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