By: James Swain (www.jimswain.com)
Question: There are signs all throughout the PAR buildings that say, “Customer Service Is Our Most Important Product.” That’s not just a slogan, is it?
Cathy Smith: No, it’s a way of life here at PAR. The difference between PAR and other companies is our service. PAR employees live and breathe Customer Service.
Bob Smith: I was determined that regular communication with our Customers and outstanding Customer Service would be two qualities that would distinguish PAR from competitors. Excellent Customer Service has long been a core value of the company, from answering the phones with a live person to fulfilling orders on the day of receipt, responding to Customer e-mail inquiries within 24 hours, and providing error-free shipments.
Years ago, a Customer named David Nichols wrote me a letter when a product he’d purchased was delayed in shipping. He said that “… it was not right to promote your products, take Customers’ money, and then not deliver the product… delaying product delivery is not right.” I’ve never forgotten that. And, since David wrote that letter, he and I became good friends and we remain so today.
Question: What does that mean for your Customers?
Cathy Smith: Every year we ship tens of thousands of packages with an amazingly small number of shipping errors. Our distribution staff prides itself on making sure that our Customers receive exactly what they ordered as quickly as possible. We get thank you notes from our Customers all the time, telling us how much they appreciate our Customer Service and outstanding delivery and shipping.
Question: Having once run a business myself, I learned that happy employees lead to a high degree of Customer satisfaction. Do you find the same to be true?
Bob Smith: Yes! We measure Customer satisfaction in many ways. We send comment cards in every order, which all management staff read when they are filled out and returned by the Customer. We also do Customer surveys and talk to our Customers. We also offer an excellent return policy. If a Customer is not satisfied with a purchase, we will accept the return of any item—no questions asked.
Question: Three of your competitors recently merged. How do you see that affecting your business?
Bob Smith: The merger has helped us differentiate ourselves from our competition, and enabled us to be responsive to Customer needs by continuing to deliver outstanding Customer Service and innovative new products to our Customers.
Question: PAR has come a long way since 1978. What do you see the future holding?
Bob Smith: We will continue to innovate, grow, and evolve, and we will continue to take care of our Customers. Our company is not for sale, and PAR will remain family owned.
Question: I first became aware of you and Cathy through your philanthropic work in the Tampa area. Can you tell me more about the causes you’re involved in, and why you feel it’s important to give back to the community?
Cathy Smith: Twenty years ago, Bob and I decided that it was our corporate responsibility to give back to the community in which we lived. Over the years, that commitment has grown, and last year we donated to more than 80 organizations in the Tampa Bay area, including the Humane Society, Meals on Wheels, United Way, and a scholarship program at the University of South Florida, to name just a few. We also encourage our staff to participate in community activities and to support local charities.
Question: One final question. You recently adopted a new slogan. Why?
Bob Smith: We shortened our name from Psychological Assessment Resources to PAR, because that’s what our Customers called us. We changed our slogan to “Creating Connections. Changing Lives.” It sums up not only what we do every day, but it captures what we aspire to do as well.