Our 2018 class of ProSales Excellence Awards winners is a geographically diverse lineup, each of the six honorees its own classic case study in far-above-ordinary attention to detail and best-of-breed practice in a variety of skill sets. Among them, we saluted extraordinary facility layout, planning and logistics, team member safety, training and education as a service, epic partnership through a digital network of experts, and two cases of design's ability to solve challenges for space and drive value.

All of them share one common theme: a fanatical customer-centric focus. And when it comes to reaching and sustaining excellence in our businesses today, the bar of expectations around customer care and focus is higher than ever, and it keeps going up.

It used to be, not so long ago, that dependably having products and materials that matched your customers' needs and price ranges was enough to make a pretty good go of it in business. Then, suddenly, service became a non-negotiable, and only firms whose operations and cultures elevated service-back transactions and interactions were the ones likely to thrive.

Today, especially in an environment of capacity constraint—skilled and unskilled labor, materials availability and pricing, the time it takes to permit new-construction project, you name it—expectations are up once again. Add one more must-have to standard practice in your vital role in construction's value stream: customer experience. You can have products at the right pricing, and customer service that knocks it out of the park, but nowadays, our customers value their experience right up there with any other priority. Why?

Well, a greater and greater percentage of our digital experience as consumers takes place without friction—or else. We "click to add to cart" and when we're done we click on one of five stars to express how we experienced the transaction as consumers. That's very different from a lot of processes in today's LBM channel. But it doesn't mean that's not where things are headed, fast. Central issues for businesses whose sustaining lifeblood is their customers' experience of value are two sides of the same coin. On one side, it's how technology and access to data are transforming our customers' lives, both at work and outside of the job. On the other, it's how those same customers interact with and transform technology and data in real time.

Here's a big salute to six players whose operations, business cultures, and executional outcomes reflect big strides forward in our business community's embrace of experience, the new measure of excellence!