Excellence in Customer Service

AWS Gives High-end Projects Concierge Service
Ryan Self
October 1, 2008
FEATURE ARTICLE | Strategies & Practices
AWS projects typically entail some of the largest mansions in the state, with some of the most comprehensive window and door packages. The company's concierge service does not end once the windows are installed. Below, Mike Walter repairs a window.

Architectural Window Solutions has been in business for 105 years – a longevity that Ab Taylor IV, vice president of sales with the company, attributes to the air of customer service dedication created and fostered by his three namesakes.

The first Ab Taylor started the company in 1903 with an eye towards differentiating its offering with a new level of service, and today AWS continues that goal in Nashville, Tenn. with its “concierge experience” level of service to super-high-end clients.

“There is a significant amount of money – and celebrities – in Nashville; people who are spending $250,000 to $400,000 on windows and doors alone,” Taylor says. “They need you to stay with them through the whole process.”

“This is quite a different deal than the rest of Tennessee,” says AWS salesman and manager of the Brentwood, Tenn. facility Tav Cooke, who came to the Nashville market after working in Memphis. “These houses take one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years to build. We’re working on a $320,000 project right now in a house that is 26,000 square feet.”

Cooke jokes that people sometimes refer to Tennessee as three states – the west/Memphis, the middle/Nashville, and the east/Knoxville. Coming from Memphis, Cooke was used to a market that more closely mirrored the housing woes in the rest of the nation. In Nashville, he found a market that “isn’t just a matter of selling the windows and the moving on to the next job.”

“There is more emphasis on us,” Cooke says. “We have to make sure everything is perfect; no stone is unturned.”

A NEW LEVEL OF SERVICE
Taylor freely admits that AWS will never be “all things to all customers,” noting that the concierge service level wouldn’t be financially viable to a company handling $20,000 to $40,000 jobs.

“If you’re out there pounding out projects at that level, you couldn’t spend the kind of time that we do one each project,” he notes. “Our customers deserve it for what they spend.”

At any given time, AWS might have only two jobs going, a specialized level of service that requires that each job is given the ultimate level of service. That’s why the company developed the concierge plan, which starts with a dedicated manager assigned to do nothing but handle that job at that time.

“We’ll review a check sheet that can contain 15 or 20 benchmarks for the job, and everyone must sign off on it, from the buyer to our staff,” Taylor, who coyly hints at a list of country music superstars the company has serviced, says. “Some of our quotes are 90 pages long.”

Many times, the company enters the bidding for a project through an architect due to the size and scope of most projects.

“We get in on these jobs way ahead of time – you really have to,” Cooke says. “Many times, the homeowner is not involved at all.”

Every individual part of the order is reviewed, and specialty drawings are generated for any unique components. The order is then delivered and installed, with the job manager at the job site to answer questions and perform an 11-step post-installation inspection. After any remaining parts or pieces are ordered and installed, yet another final inspection is conducted.

“Projects in Nashville are more in depth, more complicated,” Taylor says. “There are points in time that we need to be there, and we need to back that up.”

“You’d think everyone else would be doing this,” Taylor adds. “People love it – there are no issues, and if there are, we are always there.”

STAYING THE COURSE
AWS’ business model and expectations rarely evolve, whether the market is booming or going bust. The only change that the company can be certain of is that those who can afford these homes will always want bigger and better.

Custom designs are the name of the game at AWS. Customers placing orders in the hundreds of thousands of dollars want--and typically get--whatever they can envision.

“There’s talk of a 500,000-square-foot house coming up,” Cooke says. “As I understand it, the homeowner wanted to build the largest house ever in Tennessee.”

Given the high-end nature of the business, the recent housing market downturn has had little effect on the company, Taylor notes. As jobs get larger and more specialized, Taylor adds, the company realizes an even greater advantage as the pool of dealers that can handle such a project dwindles.

Weather Shield Windows & Doors is AWS’s flagship supplier. The company also does some commercial jobs throughout the Southeast through its parent company City Lumber Co.

When it comes to the future of the company, Taylor is resolute that AWS won’t blindly chase the latest trends or dictate the future of the company’s products and services. He speaks of growing the business, but he also stresses how important it is that AWS not take on more than it can handle or grow too quickly.

“What’s next depends on the customer’s needs,” Taylor says. “We think we have everything covered, but as customer needs grow and change, the concierge package will need to grow and change.”

“If I do business any other way, I’m telling my customers how to do business, and that never works,” Taylor adds. “Nobody is reinventing the wheel here – it’s all about customer satisfaction.”

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Reach Ryan Self, managing editor, at rself@glass.org.