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Exceeding My Expectations

Here is a close-up of the precision machined parts floating in the barrel of a pen.

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Here is a close-up of the precision machined parts floating in the barrel of a pen.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to wear a new hat—that of a customer needing some work done by a precision machined parts maker. The company I chose to contact was Barry Podmore, Inc., a family-owned shop located in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. (Read a story I wrote about the company here.)

The company’s specialty is production of small, complex parts, some with major diameters of 0.010 inch, for the test and measurement and electronics industries.

I came to be a customer by default because of a promotion for the magazine that our marketing department dreamed up. The staff thought it would be a good idea to make “floaty” pens with our magazine logo and a selection of precision machined parts floating in the barrel of the pen.

This is where it gets good. I called Barry Podmore with my request for a selection of ten different parts, small enough to fit into a pen. I asked for several different materials: steel, aluminum, brass and copper. Since we planned to order 2,000 of these pens, I needed 20,000 pieces. The answer came back: “No problem.”

I called Barry on a Friday, and being new to the role of customer (and because he was doing me a favor), I asked if he could get me the parts in three weeks or so. He laughed and said I’d have them by Wednesday of the following week. Sure enough on Tuesday, a box arrived for me with exactly the selection of parts, materials and quantity I asked for with each group of parts individually packaged. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “Now that is customer service.”

If my experience is typical, and I think it very well may be, then I am quite confident that Barry Podmore will continue to be a successful and growing company. Moreover, if many of the rest of our industry’s shops are as responsive to customer needs, and I am equally confident they are, then I harbor no fears for the continued viability of our industry. Exceeding customer expectations is a unique competitive advantage.