Since taking the lead at Rowley Company, Bill Taylor, CEO, and Jeff Denny, COO, have worked—in many cases behind the scenes—to bring about system and process improvements aimed at better serving customers along the company’s traditional core product lines as well as to expand its reach into areas currently under served or unmet.
In a conversation with Draperies & Window Coverings, Taylor explained that through this period of transition from a well-positioned family-run business to one having an even bigger role as an industry leader, the main focus has been on answering this question, “How do we make it easier for customers to do business with Rowley Company?”
“We have a legacy that R.H. Rowley created and we’re honoring that legacy by continuing to focus our business exclusively to the trade,” Taylor said. “We’re honoring the legacy of the values [he] put forth: superior customer service, on-time delivery, product innovation and technical service.
“We felt as a transition—with a new team coming in—that Rowley as a brand or as a brand image needed some investment and needed some new life. We understand that we are in the fashion business and we want to look the part of a leader. We realized that we had to pump up our game related to getting into the fashion outlook, or fashion side of the business. Rowley Company has a lot of direct input with designers and decorators and we wanted to invest in the brand image to speak to all groups,” Taylor said.
“At the end of the day,” he continued, “Rowley Company is a company that has been around for a long time and it has been an innovator and a leader to the trade and we wanted to take a leadership position. As we think about new product innovation and product lines and continuing our role as an industry leader, we understand that customers are looking for ways to add value to their businesses and for making it easier to do business with Rowley,” Taylor said.
These plans come with a caveat: How to improve customer relationships without changing the essential, strong relationship with customers. “I would like to believe that outside some new brand strategy and investments in the brand—which our customers are seeing in our advertisements, our new Web site or other e-mail announcements—customers wouldn’t otherwise have seen or felt a lot of change from Rowley [during this transition].
D&WC: Rowley Company updated its Web site
(www.RowleyCompany.com) in July and it is noticeably
different. Tell us about that.
Taylor: Rowley has always been known for listening to the customer and addressing the customer’s concerns. One of the things that we hadn’t listened to, historically as a company, regarded our Web site. Even though we get high marks for customer satisfaction and services, one of the places that the company was failing was our Web site.
The old Web site was reasonable from the standpoint of basic order processing. It still hadn’t been updated enough to match what our customers were getting used to in a better technology environment. We knew we had to do a couple of things: We needed to make it an easier Web site to use, we needed to make it more secure, we needed to make the navigation more friendly, we needed to make it user friendly from content management as far as customer data, order history and such.
We made huge investments in the Web site and will continue to add content and interest and improve the online shopping experience. We addressed the Web site first, but the Web site is not the only thing we fixed as a communication tool.
Behind the scenes we put in a new phone system that made it easier for our customer service team to handle call volume at peak times. We’re in the process also of investing in an entire new operating system from the standpoint of being able to manage customer order information and process the order and get the orders out even more timely than we do today.
R.H. Rowley changed the paradigm of the industry with same-day shipping. We continue to honor that to the market, but we still want to make sure that we continue to improve that customer experience.
The Web site is what people can see and feel and touch from the outside that’s much different. The things were looking at are ways to add value to our customers—how do we help them in their businesses: the helpful tips and tricks, the how-to solutions and video content. We’re going to add to our inventory on how to use our products more efficiently or how do you troubleshoot some of the products. Also, creative ideas and sharing creative ideas among our customers—we want to make sure the Web site is a repository of ideas not only from our team but from our customers’ teams.
But we’re going to continue to make a lot of investment outside of the public’s eye to make sure that we can service them in an efficient and cost-effective manner as we can because we want to make sure that we can provide value-added pricing to them so they can continue to manage good margins within their own businesses.
D&WC: You’ve mentioned new products and new product lines. What do you have in mind?
Taylor: Rowley Company has been an industry leader in the nuts-and-bolts side of the industry for quite and while. There are natural extensions of that, which our customers have been asking about for a long time. We’ll be launching new product lines in 2009 in areas that customers have been asking for Rowley to do that are related to the industry as we know it today both in what I would call consumable nuts-and-bolts components and some of the more fashion-driven items that relate to our industry.
D&WC: The Rowley family has a long and strong tradition with workrooms. Will that connection remain intact?
Taylor: The key stakeholders from the family who have that experience are still a part of the business. We continue to hire folks—new people with industry experience—but we have 70-some employees here with 500 years combined experience with workrooms and installation. When we answer the phones, if you’ve got a question that needs to be answered we’ve got people with expertise in the house that can get you the answer. And if we don’t have the right one immediately, we’re going to make sure we jot that down and we’re going to get back to you with the answer that you need from somebody with that experience.
One of the things that I’m excited about and happy about is that the employee base that grew from within the company is still here and will always be here. We have a lot of employees who have worked for 20-plus years for the Rowley Company; many, more have been here more than a decade. That part hasn’t changed.
D&WC: Rowley Company has a reputation for customer education and presenting informational seminars. Will that continue?
Taylor: That’s always been a long historic, core value of Rowley and we’ve actually taken that to a greater level than what was done in the past and will continue to do so.
It’s absolutely fundamental to our success as well as our customer’s success, but we’re going to take that one step further than just face-to-face interactions with our customers. As we present seminars we will make sure we record them to add to our Web site. There’s a fair amount of content there, but I would encourage D&WC readers and our customers to always check back there.
D&WC: Some people are concerned about the current business/economic climate. Is this a good time to work on large-scale plans for Rowley?
Taylor: Rowley is a strong company and we’re financially sound and stable. When there’s always volatility in the market and there’s consumer concern that affects the trade, whether it be housing markets or credit market, I’m always cautiously aggressive.
There’s no question that the residential and credit markets in the U.S. are taking a hit right now. I think that in all phases and all parts of the business within our trade there is an economic impact. However, I think this is the perfect time for Rowley, because of our strength and position in the marketplace, to expand our wings a bit and take advantage of our value proposition, our financial stability and strength, and add critical components to our business that in the past were asked of Rowley to do and historically it stayed away from.
The market does concern me in that some aspects have been a bit soft, but we’ve been here for the long haul and will continue to be here for the long haul. We’re going to make prudent investments that help us service our customer into the future.
Five-Year Plan, One Big Thing (Web-Only)