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1998 BBB National Torch Award For Marketplace Ethics Honorable Mention Award Winner

Abt Electronics & Appliance
Morton Grove, Illinois
Robert Abt, President

What began more than 63 years ago with an $800 investment has blossomed into a multi-million dollar family-owned retail operation with more than 550 employees and an astounding array of products in stock. Amazing growth in a tough business characterizes Abt Electronics & Appliance, and its success is due in large part to its strong commitment to high marketplace ethics. The primary beneficiaries to such practices have been Abt's many satisfied customers.

Few businesses, in any industry, can claim to have built such a loyal customer base. Not only are Abt customers loyal, they're outspoken. Judges for the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois' local Torch Award competition examined nearly 100 accolade letters sent by Abt customers over the past year (in addition to the stack of similar letters from other businesses and suppliers). Time and time again, these letters praise the sales and service associates who helped them. It's no wonder that Abt was selected as winner of the Chicago BBB's first Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

If it seems that all Abt employees must have memorized an entire customer service handbook, that's probably an accurate assessment. Abt's one-page Customer Service Policy Handbook reads, "The Answer is Always Yes to Any Reasonable Request." Apparently, a secondary benefit to the renowned customer service is that Abt can easily rely on word of mouth advertising for new business. Because 92% of its business is repeat or referred customers, the company is able to minimize its advertising budget. (Less than one percent of sales currently is devoted to advertising.) Besides the outstanding service, the policies that fuel these referrals include offering free instructional classes for camcorder and VCR operation, and a standing offer to upgrade any out-of-stock item at the current price.

Abt employees can expect similar treatment. Wages and benefits are competitive, and incentive bonuses reward outstanding performance. Turn-over is minimal, and the company is proud to have never reduced its workforce in its 62-year history. Because Abt employees also service everything they sell, they must undergo considerable (and continual) training from Abt and manufacturers alike.

All of these practices are continually reinforced by the Abt family members who keep involved in every aspect of the business and remain in touch with customers. Company president Bob Abt often personally follows up on customer service calls. The Abt family also serves the community through the Abt Family Foundation, which is dedicated to active and generous support of numerous civic and community functions, charitable organizations and foundations. For six years, the company has been deeply involved with the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation, and for three years, Bob Abt has co-chaired a golf outing that raises $100,000 annually. Mr. Abt has served on the board of directors of the Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau for four years, and in two recent years, the company was named a semi-finalist in the Illinois Family Business of the Year competition. As their motto proclaims, Abt is truly "The House that Service Built."

For outstanding commitment to customer service; for building an unprecedented number of loyal customers; for demonstrating true commitment to employees; and for adhering to the highest ethical sales and service practices in a tough industry, Abt Electronics & Appliance has been selected as a 1998 Better Business Bureau National Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics Honorable Mention winner.

Abt Electronics is a member of the Better Business Bureau in the state of Illinois.