A Chat with Arnie Zaslow, executive vice president, ATD American Co.
CS: What made you realize your customers would be using the Web?
AZ: We started to speak with customers, as we always do. We have a squad that contacts customers to ask questions, survey-type questions, asking them what they want. We started getting responses with increasing frequency that they would like to see a Web site where they could check out all of our product and prices without having to go through a print catalog, although I’m a strong proponent of the idea that the catalog and Web site work hand-in-hand. The print catalog generates interest on the Web site, and I think the Web site generates interest in the catalog. The customer wants to have a hard copy as well. And we’ve increased the size of our catalogs to a point where they have much greater retention value than they used to. I can remember not too long ago when we would send out 64-page, saddle-stitched catalogs. Today we send out 200-page, perfect-bound catalogs. So the retention value of those book is much greater than it used to be.
CS: What sets your company apart from others?
AZ: The only problem I have with this is when I tell you, you’ll think that it’s just the same old story everyone gives. But what sets us apart is our people. We’re very fortunate. Our people care about the company, the customer, but above all, they have fun. I’ve often said to young people that come in for interviews, “If you’re not having fun, then you’re doing the wrong thing for a living.” You should have fun. I will quote some numbers because I keep these handy in my office. It’s hanging on my wall actually. Out of our 200 or so employees, 94 have been with us for more than five years. Forty-nine have been with us for more than 10 years. Thirty-seven have been with us for more than 15 years. And 23 have been with us for more than 20 years. To put it another way, the 10 associates who’ve been here the longest have a total of 387 years of service, or an average length of service of almost 39 years per person. That’s highly unusual today, because people have a lot of mobility in their jobs. They don’t stick to one company. They jump around. But when you have this kind solidarity in your staff, they treat the customer that much better because they understand the customer is king. The realize the customer pays their salaries, and without the customer, you have nothing. But I would say our awareness of the needs of our customers, and the awareness of the needs of our staff are the two things that set us apart from many companies today.