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It’s a Small World & the Customer Experience

September 7th, 2018

A few weeks ago, my brothers and nephew were in town and we did a whirlwind tour of Southern California hot spots.  We went to Universal Studios, Oceanside beach, a day-trip to San Diego for various food hot spots (a few favorites for the Arizona contingent) and to Disneyland/California Adventure.  While there, we went on my favorite ride: It’s a Small World.  What a great job they do at making the total customer experience!

Disney does a fabulous job of creating a complete experience.  In the case of It’s a Small World, you’ll notice their use of color and sound.  Interestingly, if you look at the boat ahead of us, the guests are wearing Mickey Mouse ears.  Other than sporting events, I’m not sure I can think of another place where people proudly wear hats (and certainly not odd ear hats).  As you go through the ride, there is an underwater scene where the song sounds like it is sung underwater.  Disney always goes the extra mile to fill out the customer experience.  On some rides, they add breezes, smells and more.  When walking between rides, you’ll always find people dressed in costume picking up trash so that the park is in great shape. Are you paying as much attention to your customers’ complete experience?


One great way to get started is to “shop your business”.  No matter your position, try experiencing your company as a customer would.  Are you able to call whoever you might need to talk to without annoying phone system automation?  There was a brief period of time when I called my financial advisor where I was consistently lost in a phone system maze and didn’t receive a return call.  It was amazing how such a responsive and service oriented company could turn into a nightmare with a mere phone system transition.  (Thank goodness he threw it out!)

How easy is it to place an order?  Does your customer service representative have to call you back if you have questions about old orders or does he/she seem to have information at his fingertips?  Can you get information on-line if you happen to need status in the middle of the night?  Do you receive product on-time and in-full (OTIF)?  When you receive your product or service, how does it look?  Are you proud of it or do you see room for improvement?

Now, think about it – all of these items are baseline requirements.  Are you going beyond to provide a superior customer experience?  Are you predicting what your customers’ might need and prompting them?  Are you managing inventory for them?

What else are you doing to stand out from the crowd?

 

 



Technologies: Paying Attention to What is Important

September 6th, 2018

There are so many new technologies and combinations of technologies, it is extremely hard to keep up.  How do you know which to pay attention to and which to ignore? Unfortunately, some clients have told us they get overwhelmed by it all and just go back to what they are expert in (running the business) and postpone the technology decision.

As much as we find that technology is NOT #1 to success, achieving scalable, profitable growth without technology is an uphill battle to be sure!  We also find some technology enthusiasts who get so bogged down in technology as the “be all, end all” to success that they actually struggle. Instead of either of these extremes, use a bit of uncommon common sense and determine which technologies are important.  A few points to consider:

  1.  Your Industry:  There is no point being an early adopter if unnecessary in your industry unless it is your competitive advantage.  Where is your industry headed? What would provide a benefit?
  2.  Your Position:  If your competitive edge is being on the forefront of delivering an exceptional customer experience, you better figure out what you need to succeed in this differentiator.  If this is the case, we bet you would need to invest in technology that would enable a superior customer experience. But it is unlikely you’d need other technology advances.
  3.  Return on Investment: As exciting as new technology can be, it pays to ensure you’ll gain an ROI.  Go through the exercise to determine if technology will enable growth, profitability, cash flow or another bottom line benefit.
  4.  Your Current State: A few of our clients have been in a position where they were limited in growth prospects without enabling technology.  Of course, they could grow by brute force with a stellar sales and marketing team; however, to grow in a scalable way, they will need to leverage technology instead of hiring just to ‘keep up’ with growth.
  5.  Your Strengths:  As with most priorities, focus on your strengths.   It can be tempting to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy the latest and greatest technology you think your competition is using.  However, instead of throwing good money after bad, think about your company’s strengths, your teams’ strengths and what makes the most sense to align those strengths with customer requirements.

In today’s Amazon impacted environment, evaluating technology to best support your business objectives is a “must”.  As much as can be accomplished through people and process alone, you will not thrive without at least thinking about technology.  

You want to be aware of what’s coming down the pike in terms of technology before you head over the edge in complete denial with your typewriter in hand.  After all, who would have thought network TV would trend towards becoming obsolete?



When is it the ‘Right’ Time for a Supply Chain Network Assessment?

September 4th, 2018

Supply Chain networks that are not set up to support scalable, profitable growth have a high likelihood of negatively impacting your customers, impeding your growth and consuming far more resources than they were ever imagined to sustain.  What is ideally mapped out one year is likely to change the next in today’s Amazonian marketplace. Thus, assessing your supply chain network from your suppliers’ suppliers through your manufacturing and logistics networks to your customers’ customers with an eye to customers, cost and cash will undoubtedly yield results.  

What are some hints to know when it’s the ‘right’ time?

  1.  Renew your lease, buy or move? – As your lease comes due, it is a natural time to re-evaluate your supply chain network to make sure you are positioned ideally to support your customer base at maximum value for your customers and your organization.
  2.  Cost considerations – As you think about how to reduce your cost base, re-evaluating your supply chain network is a ‘must’.  Most likely, you can save a few pennies here or there.  But, for substantial savings, you may need to review your infrastructure.
  3.  Customer demands – In today’s Amazonian environment, customer demands are ever-increasing.  Is your supply chain network positioned to support your customers’ needs, delivery points and sales growth expectations?
  4.  Space constraints – As you start to think about space, it might be an opportune time to re-evaluate your supply chain network.  First, do you know how much space is needed to support your growth plans (and where)? Do you have the opportunity to maximize space?  Or should you re-position?
  5.  Insourcing/ outsourcing– As you think about whether you should insource, outsource (ex. 3PL) or utilize a combination of both, it is definitely an opportune time to evaluate your supply chain network and logistics infrastructure.
  6.  Supply chain partners – If you are re-evaluating key supply chain partners, it is likely a good time to do a quick assessment of your supply chain network.   

We have found that a supply chain network assessment can be valuable even if you decide not to change a thing.  Performing a quick review of customers, suppliers, operations and logistics infrastructure from a customer, cost and cash flow viewpoint can provide substantial benefit every so often.  Contact us if you’d like to talk further.



Keeping an Eye on Global Markets

September 1st, 2018

If there ever was a strategic topic of critical importance no matter your position in the supply chain, it is keeping an eye on global markets.  We’ve worked with clients who ONLY source materials, components and products from U.S.-based suppliers.  Yet, even they must pay attention to global markets to thrive.  Are you making this a priority?

There are countless reasons to stay informed of global markets.  First and foremost, we live in a global society. It isn’t practical to go through a day without coming into contact with products, services, people, currencies and more from around the world.

A few additional reasons to keep an eye on global markets:

  • Interconnected world – We live in an interconnected world.  A political risk in Asia can impact the price of your materials.  Or, a shortage of oil or gas (as an example) in one country can impact the price and availability elsewhere.
  • Economy & currencies – Currency exchange rates will have an impact somewhere in your supply chain whether or not it touches your product or service.
  • Tariffs & trade – Tariffs certainly can have an impact.  The impact can be far reaching and can be from areas that don’t directly touch your organization. In this case, you might have short-term pricing impacts or long-term strategic impacts of where to locate manufacturing or which countries and markets to pursue.  Hopefully, you are considering both.
  • Global customers – There might be unique opportunities in one part of the world to utilize your product or service with a greater benefit realized than in another part of the world.  Are you considering your options and expanding your mind to the possibilities?
  • Risk – There’s no doubt that mitigating risk alone is reason to keep track of global markets.  For example, earlier in my career when there were issues getting materials out of Brazil, we wouldn’t have been able to service customers if we hadn’t planned for a backup supply elsewhere in the world.  Similarly, we would have gone out of business if we relied on only local suppliers when a major hurricane hit our manufacturing plant.  Every local business was under water except us and even with a plan we were affected – were shut down for a short period of time because our employees could not get in or out of our facility.

Keeping an eye on global markets can become a full-time job. Clearly, few, if any, clients can afford that.  Thus, pursue ways to collaborate with customers, suppliers, trade associations and more to leverage insights. Minimally, put aside some time on a daily basis to watch for key trends.