If you haven’t noticed already, Paragon Plastics is in a very niche industry. It isn’t typical for the average person to say “what I really need to get is the quarter-inch instead of the half-inch sheet for more flexibility.”
I knew next to nothing about plastics before Paragon took me in and it’s possible you’re reading these articles because you know only a handful of things about this industry.
Paragon isn’t simply a storefront placed to sell products to the consumer. We’re here to carry out frequent custom orders, and more importantly, help customers out with their projects. That means we have plenty of interactions with people every day.
I’m hoping to provide you with some insight on how our representatives work and how they view their experience with customers. I sat down with Jose at Paragon to get his take on serving the customers that come into the store.
Chris: How long have you been working with plastics? How long have you been at Paragon?
Jose: About 17 years with plastics, total, and almost 9 years at Paragon.
Chris: What’s your “creed” at Paragon Plastics?
Jose: Give the customer the best service I can. It’s what we all do! We’re very attentive to the customer’s needs, whether that’s answering a question, providing tips or even assisting with carrying their products to their cars and trucks.
C: What’s your typical experience with customers who are well-versed in the world of plastics?
J: More often than not, those customers will come in while it’s busy and wait patiently at the opposite end of the store. They browse around until the other customers finish up and leave, then come up to me and ask questions. I’m very appreciative of this as it takes a little pressure off and allows me to focus on the customer in front of me. Generally, they get straight to the point of asking for a specific type of plastic with predetermined dimensions and finish.
C: What’s your typical experience with customers who are new to the plastics scene?
J: It’s good, because they’ll usually ask a lot of questions. I tend to point them towards tutorials that can be found all over the web. Then I’ll sometimes hand them a small rem piece from the bin for free so they can go home and test them out. Sometimes they’ll mention they want to do some gluing, which they can buy Weld-On products here. I often remind them that bonding pieces should only happen after a piece is cut with a saw or router. It’s really important to keep in mind that laser cutters leave a polished edge, which is very difficult to bond and can lead to spider cracks (see below).
C: What’s a common mistake customers regularly encounter?
J: We get a lot of customers, usually students, that will come back into the store with complaints about their final product. What I see, for example, is the side pieces bonded to the underside of an end piece to form a 1/8″ thick box. To allow more room, the side pieces should be bonded to the 1/8″ sides of the end piece. I can’t recommend enough that the customer fill me in with what they’re trying to build so I can point them in the right direction. This way, they wouldn’t need to buy all of the supplies again. Also, always measure at least twice for an accurate set of dimensions.
C: How do you handle moments when there are a lot of customers in the store at once?
J: We do encounter times when a lot of customers come in around the same time and I’m unable to help them all within a short period of time. The best thing to do in that situation is to acknowledge them and ensure that someone will help them as soon as possible. More often than not, they’re very patient, which is all I can ask for. Sometimes I’ll get someone in the warehouse or a manager to come up and give me a hand. We want to give every person the quality of service they deserve. We’re grateful that they’ve come to Paragon in the first place, so why not give them the help they need when they need it?
C: What do you think draws people into Paragon?
J: Scrap bins. Local customers, especially new ones, are drawn to it because the scraps are inexpensive. They can take the pieces home and tool around with them until they’re confident to come in and buy a bigger piece.
C: What would you like to see or do more of around the shop in the future?
J: In a perfect world, I’d like to promise same-day turnarounds on orders. We get a lot of customers hoping for that and it’s a real challenge for us. We have free coffee and popcorn for those that can wait, but maybe we could have a better waiting area with free soft drinks and snacks or other items that could make their life easier.