Sales were strong in October, caused by an overall high demand as well as a mad-scramble to obtain fast-delivery lumber. The trucking shortage lead to unexpected outages for many dealers as buyers (many of whom had been working off high volume and cost inventories that were remnants from the spring rush) did little buying ahead of their needs, lulled in to thinking that, since the lumber market correction, they could get what they wanted when they wanted it. However, seemingly overnight the reality of how bad the trucking situation is came to light as one week late turned in to two, then three and more. As buyers realized what they were dealing with for lead times and acted in haste to promptly fill voids in their inventories, the situation was further exacerbated by an influx of new orders which, many surmise, included reactivated orders that were put on hiatus during the market peak. In a quick turn, the loads that buyers were once OK waiting for now became urgent and efforts to pressure suppliers to ship them out promptly were fruitless as, in most cases, material had been ready to go for some time but mills just had no way of securing a driver and rig to ship it out. Lumber pricing escalated in sympathy to the ire and stress levels of buyers, ratcheting upward for eight consecutive weeks, with the latter half in double-digits. Nonetheless, this latest rally has been a far cry from what we have recently experienced and the same can be said about the escalating prices, which are not as low as when the rally of all rallies started but considerably lower from where it ended. As of print, the market is still active but buying appears to have settled down somewhat as lumber loads hit their target. For November, we anticipate that prices will continue to be strong early on, but will stall and firm as we progress through the month.
The chronic and frustrating lack of transportation continues to plague every facet of commerce, and it’s hitting a fever pitch as most quoted arrival dates for directs and factory orders can’t be counted on. In some cases, suppliers aren’t even quoting an arrival date until the material has left their facility, generally 3-5 days before it arrives to ours. Without the ability to rely upon accurate arrival dates, it makes it almost impossible to plan ahead. The power of communication (and a little courtesy) cannot be understated when it comes to these types of situations, as a simple phone call, text or e-mail from the supplier to the customer about the delay as soon as it’s learned could quell or prevent altogether a lot of disappointment and general customer dissatisfaction that a late delivery can cause. Conversely, the time spent on the customer’s behalf in chasing down their own orders is time consuming and frustrating and certainly doesn’t instill confidence that the supplier is managing their business well. Since the pandemic began (and with both the labor and transportation issues it’s caused), “Customer Service” has taken on a new definition as peoples’ expectations have been forcibly lowered. Certainly the fatigued state of most Americans who are working shorthanded, under pressure and dealing with a generally frustrated public has sapped much of the energy that used to go towards keeping customers up to date on their orders. However, it cannot be disregarded as it’s a major part of a supplier’s job to bring value to the products they are selling and that includes the value of keeping customers current on the status of their orders.
Bringing value to our products through exceptional customer service is something that we take extremely seriously at Shepley.
Bringing value to our products through exceptional customer service is something that we take extremely seriously at Shepley. We know that you are counting on us to come through with the orders that you have graciously awarded us. It’s trying times like these that separate the wheat from the chaff, and we acknowledge that we have an obligation to our valued customers to deliver solutions and provide alternatives rather than dead ends. We understand this all too well, as many of our own suppliers have become calloused with the state of business and will often throw out a “yes, you can’t” without thinking twice about it. Admittedly, there are some things that you just can’t fully replace with a “like” substitute (white cedar shingles, for instance), but that doesn’t mean that options shouldn’t be floated by you or, at the very least, for us to provide you with frequent and as accurate as possible updates on your orders. With predictions of shortages lasting well into late 2022 of everything from adhesives to shingles, we have a long way to go in dealing with our situation, but we can make the best of it by talking about substitutes and timelines, and staying positive about what can possibly work that is available rather than focusing on what we can’t obtain. Our sales agents have been trained to offer alternative suggestions (without you first having to ask the question) and for following up on your orders before you have to. Our good customer service shows that we are engaged in finding solutions and it comes down to having the right attitude, being a positive one. After all, our motto that “Attitude is Everything” comes from our desire to excel at our jobs, knowing that a positive attitude and the will to push a little harder is what gets the job done. To quote Winston Churchill “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” and with all of the adversity that we have to contend with today, the biggest difference we want to make is a positive one.
We didn’t become successful by saying “no” and don’t plan on changing that fact. However, as we continue to struggle with supply lines, it’s our responsibility to offer up alternatives and provide exceptional customer service by providing current updates to your orders so that you can carry on with your own job with as little interruption as possible. Most sincerely, we are extremely grateful to be your supplier during such a robust economic cycle and understand the stress that many of you are operating under. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any questions or concerns you may have with your job: we are here to help. Thank you for your business!