Durkin’s Inc. brings clients’ dreams to life by focusing on how they’ll feel when the event is over.
A fifth-generation family business, Durkin’s Inc. in Danbury, Conn., has learned a thing or two about how to give clients what they want. Founded in a barn in 1904 by the great-grandparents of current owner Tom Ginty, the company began making supplies for the hatting industry. Soon after, founder Patrick Durkin recognized the need for shading products, and the company changed its focus to manufacturing custom fabric products, shade systems and tent rentals. Although the company currently provides tenting for all types of events, its specialty is the wedding industry.
At the time of the company’s origin, customer satisfaction spread largely by word of mouth. Now the company’s reputation is communicated virtually—and Durkin’s recognizes the power of online reviews. From the moment clients make contact, Durkin’s does everything it can to make sure those reviews are heartfelt and favorable. “Studies show that more than 90 percent of couples’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews,” says Jeff Ginty, Patrick Durkin’s great great-grandson and the company’s tent division manager. “With this strategic approach as our focus, we’ve grown remarkably over the years and it has driven us to become even stronger.”
Response times matter
The foundation of Durkin’s’ customer-service strategy is to respond to inquiries immediately, regardless of whether the calls or emails come during business hours. “Via phone or email, we reply with a sense of urgency and make their event a priority,” Jeff Ginty says. “We apply enough persistence to make people understand that our communication lines are always open, from the first communication to the day after their special event.”
Even if the client hasn’t booked yet, Durkin’s maintains a biweekly follow-up via phone call or email. “Planning events is what we do for a living, but for many of our clients it’s their first time,” Jeff Ginty says. “We find that prospective clients book with us even though we may be higher in price simply because we offer peace of mind.”
Ginty’s business model is based on focusing on the day after the event. “This is the time when the bride and groom have a minute to reflect on how perfect their special day was,” he says. “I build a friendship with every client, follow up on every event to get feedback and encourage customers to leave us an online review. In my opinion there is nothing more powerful than a strong referral and heartfelt review from a client.”
Backyard bread and butter
Every year, Durkin’s organizes a raffle for a small tented backyard event to raise awareness for nonprofit organizations. Its 2014 event helped the ALS Hope Foundation. Durkin’s asked all recipients who had accepted the ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge to submit their best videos, and the winner received a small tent package. The winner used the tent package to host a backyard baby shower, and Durkin’s doubled the client’s donation with a $200 contribution. “We enjoy getting people to interact with our company, while helping raise awareness for a good cause,” Jeff Ginty says.
No matter whether the event is a wedding or nonprofit event, behind Durkin’s’ customer service is the desire to build strong relationships, part of which is developing a powerful online presence, utilizing social media outlets and delivering the right content. “People want to see professional pictures, creative videos and engaging materials to allow them to visualize a positive experience,” Jeff Ginty says. “There is only so much room on the playing field, so if you’re not taking advantage of every opportunity, the next guy will.”