Tag Archive: customer service

Value Based Pricing

October 21st, 2019

calm leadershipAn overarching theme from our pricing and profits presentation relates to value based pricing. It was unanimous – every CEO believed that value based pricing was the best direction to go.  Yet, it became muddier in figuring out how to move towards value based pricing in his/her particular situation.

Let’s start by defining value based pricing. Simply stated: prices are based on the value the customer receives.

Everyone wins. The customer gains more value and you gain a higher price. Of course, that higher price should carry a higher margin.  It isn’t set up so that you win at the expense of your customer. Instead, both parties win with extra value and margin. So, if everyone wins, why don’t more of us utilize value based pricing? According to the CEOs, it isn’t simple. Yet we all agreed it is worth it.

Perhaps we’ll be talking about this for months and years to come as it can do something far more important than increase margins. It enhances customer value which can lead to customer engagement and loyalty. There are lots of statistics.  Suffice it to say, we will be much happier and are willing to spend more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service. And, more engaged and happy customers are dramatically more profitable.

After all, it can be 2 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one.

Start by figuring out the value of your product or service. Don’t listen solely to your R&D department, sales resources or anyone else while trying to understand value. Don’t even listen to your customers. Instead, think about your target customers and probe the value to these customers. Ask. Listen. Observe. When you ask questions, listen to what else they say. What would improve your customers’ situation? The value will emerge.

 



Customer Care 1.01 & The SLURPY Method by Guest Blogger, Steve Weimar

October 1st, 2019

When we think of who’s responsible for developing and retaining the customer relationship business owners and CEO’s too often feel this is solely the role and responsibility of the Business Development or Sales team. I’m here to tell you that mindset is narrow-minded and can lead to a parade of lost business, sometimes in a very short time. Everyone in the company plays a role in customer retention!

When we think of why a customer buys from us and how to retain them we need to look at every aspect of our business, who adds value and who are the Contact Points or CP’s. We also need to adopt a simple company operating philosophy I call SLURPY, not the drink at 7-11, but a set of 6 basic principles that are critical to both customer and inter-departmental relationships.

 

S     Smile into the phone or in a meeting – it’s hard to communicate negatively when you smile

L     Leave your personal issues at home – distractions at work or in a meeting can derail your ability to concentrate and perform in a professional manner towards customers

U    Understand that the customers purchases are funding your compensation and benefits – no customer purchases, no job, no money

R    Respect your customer – business is people working with people. That means all types of people!

P     Problem Solving can be some of the most important customer and inter-departmental building and retention experiences – if handled improperly they can derail the relationship. Remember, in every problem lies the solution.

Y     You treat customers and your colleagues as you would want to be treated – think about the times you’ve had poor service. Is that what you want for your customer or colleague?

Now that we understand SLURPY, let’s see how understanding your company’s many CP’s are an extension of SLURPY and can make or break a company and customer retention.

CP1

Receptionist or Automated Attendant is usually the most common touch point in an on-going relationship but can be the first contact point ever for that prospect. This is where I see successful companies shine while others fail miserably. If this is the first CP at the company this position needs to be taken seriously and not considered an entry-level hire.

  • Live Attendants must come across as happy and cheerful on the phone and if they are really at the top of their game will be able to recognize those callers who regularly call the company and acknowledge them with either a “Hi (first name of caller) who would you like to talk to?” If they call for the same person or persons each time you should add that to your response such as “Hi (first name of caller), Sue is on a call right now, would you like to leave a voice mail or would you like to speak with someone else?” Invest in this position versus feeling this is an entry-level position in your company.
  • Automated Attendants can be a valuable tool or the kiss of death. What you want to have is a quick and easy means for inbound calls to reach their destination. This is accomplished by first recording a short but cheerful message with department code options and a method to enter extension numbers and/or a Directory (EXAMPL:E: Dial 1 for Customer Service, 2 for Sales, 3 for Accounts Receivable or 4 for the Company Directory). They should also have an option to reach a live person at any time to prevent customer frustration. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of Automated Attendants as many take too long to reach a live person. My recommendations if you have an Automated Attendant are…don’t go into a long-winded sales pitch or history lesson about the company on your recorded message. Use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method and help your customers reach their desired party quickly, just like you would want to be treated when you’re the caller.

CP2   

Customer Service typically has more CP’s with the customer than the Biz Dev or Sales Mgr. Customer Service can, and in many cases is, the most important CP in the customer relationship. A single call from a customer to an unhappy or rude Customer Service Rep can dismantle months and even years of customer relationship building. Ways to improve your customer relationship through Customer Service:

    Make sure to communicate back and confirm tasks, questions and order details before ending the call.

    • Follow up the call with a quick email detailing the topics and/or order details
  • Go the extra mile. EXAMPLE: An order is placed 30 minutes after shipping cut off. Don’t promise it will ship but work with Operations to see if this is possible then communicate to the customer. I’ve even seen the Customer Service Rep take the package to FedEx or UPS to make sure the customer is taken care of. Little things make a difference.
  • Make every attempt to diffuse friction and issues within reason. Remember, these are sometimes the most important calls and gives the Customer Service Rep and the company a chance to solve the problem and make it go away for the customer.
    • Advise the appropriate Sales Rep/Biz Dev person of any issues brought up during the call and what you plan of action you are undertaking

CP3       

Sales/Business Development is typically responsible for initiating and maintaining the on-going customer direct relationship but they also have some critical obligations and tasks to keep the customer happy, engaged and continuing to buy the company’s products or services.

  • The adage of Under Promise and Over Deliver is in some cases hard for the Sales/Biz Dev teams to adhere to. By being too optimistic and over promising you’ve established unrealistic expectations for the customer which can lead to loss of trust and a damaged customer relationship. In addition, it causes internal conflict between many departments within the company who are left with trying to pick up the pieces when the promise is not met.
  • Written confirmations of the offer, the company’s defined policies and procedures, product performance capabilities, shipping schedules, pricing, delays, product issues and more are ways to create and maintain a solid, trusting and long-term customer relationship. By sharing these with other departments you can make others feel included and informed.
  • Whenever possible, customers need to be pre-qualified to see if they are a fit with the company. Strange as this may seem to some readers not all prospects should be customers. For instance, a company known in the industry for violating MAP (Minimum Advertised Pricing) policies may do more harm than good to the company and its other customers. Same is true for prospects or customers who cause so much turmoil in other departments that they undermine the cohesive synergy of the company and its employees. You have to be willing to turn down or lose the customer if they aren’t a fit for the company.
  • Build on your customer relationships with regular contacts and meetings, meal events away from the office as customers are more relaxed and open in their discussions. Build relationships where possible that are long-term and go beyond business as those are harder to lose and typically less vulnerable to pirating by a competitor. But…don’t let down your guard.

CP4

Accounting, and specifically Accounts Receivable, plays a key role in a company’s success or lack thereof as cash flow is a critical component of survival. Sales and Biz Dev staff typically want to distance themselves as far away as possible from the role of collecting payments from customers and fail to realize the difficulty of this job. An over zealous and aggressive AR Rep or Manager can undermine the customer relationship. Some ways to improve this customer interface are:

  • The AR and Sales/Biz Dev teams have regular calls or face to face meetings to review problem accounts and work together to resolve the issues. Define a plan to improve.
  • Sales/Biz Dev can make sure AR is aware of extended terms and or pricing, disputes, customer cash flow issues, problems or anything that could stall on-time payments.
  • Get the Sales/Biz Dev person involved if AR is unsuccessful in collecting payment.

CP5

Operations is another opportunity to positively impact the customer relationship and the value to its customers. Additionally, Operations can add relationship value many ways:

  • Produce a quality product, package it properly to prevent shipping damage, ship the product on time and communicate any delays or issues to Sales and Customer Service.
  • Have some level of controlled flexibility in shipping lead times and order cut-off times.
  • Work as a team player with Sales and Customer Service to satisfy the customer.
  • If you deliver products to your customers in company owned trucks make sure the trucks are clean and the drivers are well groomed and courteous as they are representatives of the company. They should report back to the appropriate department whenever they hear of an issue with a customer or the delivery.
  • Meet regularly with Sales and Customer Service to discuss customer feedback, conflicts and issues and define a plan to improve.

CP6       

Marketing delivers your company’s messages to the world and strategically positions the company for success. They communicate the company’s value proposition and product or service differentiation in a consistent and strategic manner. Additionally, they should communicate your We Care customer philosophy as part of the many messages they deliver. Some added elements to support customer retention are:

  • They should have a direct connection to the company’s customers for research and feedback about the company, market channel, products, competitors, etc.
  • Be included in key customer and/or prospect meetings as needed to gain more direct input
  • Communicate their plans to the team in advance of launch
  • Track KPI’s for the various marketing programs and share them with the Team
  • Meet regularly with Sales and Biz Dev to discuss their marketing plans and programs

CP7

Technical / Warranty Support is your company’s 911 call center. They are either fielding problem calls or delivering answers regarding products. Your staff needs to be problem solvers and trained to diffuse conflicts. In addition, they should have in depth knowledge of all the company’s products and a general knowledge of competitive products and how they compare to yours.  Customers want quick answers and solutions but also want to feel you care. Some ways to go the extra mile are:

  • A quick follow-up email and/or phone call later in the day or the next day to see if the problem was resolved or to advise that a warranty replacement part or unit was shipped. You can add another layer of follow-up in 30 or 60 days, if warranted, to make sure all if well.
  • Advise the customers Sales Rep of any problems so they are in the loop.
  • Track technical and warranty support calls to create KPI’s that can be shared with the Team.

CP8

Engineering and Product Development are directly responsible for developing products of high quality that do what they say they will do as a bad product can damage, and in some cases ruin, the company’s reputation and damage customer relationships.

They also need to provide a solution to the customer’s needs and/or desires. In many successful companies the end-user and the target channel, or customer base, are included in pre-product planning and research. This allows companies to design what the customer needs and/or wants which leads to success.

Bottom line, every department and employee in the company is responsible for the company’s success. By harnessing the talent of the TEAM and creating a collaborative working environment, long term customer retention becomes part of the company’s DNA and operating personality.  This will be obvious to customers as they interact with the various departments and a sense of WE, not I, will permeate in every aspect of your business. I recommend developing KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to track major focus points and use those as a scorecard of your company’s performance. One additional method of grading your company’s performance can be gained through annual customer satisfaction surveys. If done correctly these can be quite eye-opening and a valuable self-improvement tool.

By: Steve Weimar STI Enterprises, Inc.



Manufacturing & Supply Chain Expert Lisa Anderson Predicts Resilient Supply Chain Key to 2019 Manufacturing Success

January 22nd, 2019

Originally published on PR Newswire on January 17, 2019

CLAREMONT, Calif.Jan. 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Manufacturing and Supply Chain Expert Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc., predicts that manufacturing will be a top economic force in 2019. Key to the success will be creating a resilient supply chain

“Economic volatility and uncertainty are the new normal. Instead of lamenting, clients should take advantage of the opportunity. There has never been a better time to stand out from the crowd with a superior customer experience amidst the chaos,” Ms. Anderson commented. LMA Consulting Group works with clients on manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation that maximizes the customer experience and enables profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. The firm also conducts research to help clients predict future trends and embrace key priorities to succeed.

“Not only has the Amazon Effect driven customers to expect customized product and service offerings with rapid response, creating a greater demand for local manufacturing, it has also made innovation a cultural norm. Drones, robotics, IOT, artificial Intelligence, big data predictive analytics and additive manufacturing are transforming entire industries while providing the tools to create a customer-centric, resilient supply chain,” she said. LMA predicts that creating a resilient supply chain that navigates disruptions and provides a superior customer experience will be key to achieving peak performance.

Based on client engagements and research, LMA has identified 5 areas that manufacturers must address to be successful in 2019. It starts with superior customer service, and continues by taking a holistic, full circle view of the business. Understanding and preparing for volatility as the new normal will become foundational, whereas leveraging the collective power of the end-to-end supply chain and manufacturing capabilities will emerge as a critical priority, culminating in the need to create a resilient supply chain to be agile in these tumultuous yet exciting times that are ripe with opportunity.

“Manufacturing is on the forefront of breakthroughs every day.  From making the latest medication to cure cancer to customizing an engine part that will transform space exploration, manufacturing is uniquely positioned to have a lasting impact on our economy and our lives. For those who embrace the opportunity, the rewards will be tremendous,” Ms. Anderson concluded.

About LMA Consulting Group – Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD
Lisa Anderson is the founder and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation.  She focuses on maximizing the customer experience and enabling profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth Ms. Anderson has been named a Top 40 B2B Tech Influencer by arketi group, a 50 ERP Influencer by Washington-Frank,ranked in the top 46 most influential in Supply Chain by SAP and named a top woman influencer by Solutions Review. She recently published, I’ve Been Thinking, an inspiring collection of 101 strategies for creating bold customer promises and profits. A regular content contributor on topics including providing a superior customer experience with SIOP, advancing innovation and making the supply chain resilient, Ms. Anderson is regularly interviewed and quoted by publications such as Industry Week, tED magazine and the Wall Street Journal.  For information, to sign up for her Profit Through PeopleTM Newsletter or for a copy of her book, visit LMA-ConsultingGroup.com.

Media Contact                                                             
Kathleen McEntee | Kathleen McEntee & Associates, Ltd. | p. (760) 262 – 4080 | 207843@email4pr.com



The Resilient Supply Chain: Are You Resilient?

December 31st, 2018

I was carpooling across town for an event tour (that had been postponed once) in rainy weather in rush hour in Southern California.  If this situation doesn’t call for resilience, I don’t know what does!  Of course, something is bound to go awry, starting with traffic jams galore.

We both had to be home at an early hour to get to key events that evening and we hadn’t had the best of days.  Not only did we miss key meetings to attend the postponed event, but the most important part of the day was cancelled due to delays, and several things weren’t coordinated too well.  Already a little frustrated, we headed home.

My carpool partner was already concerned about driving through large puddles with her small car because she didn’t want it to stall out.  Prior to the tour, we made several trips around the parking lot.  We decided to move to higher ground or we’d be up to our knees in water when we returned.  After the tour, while making our way to the exit, we had to drive through big puddles. On the last big puddle before exiting the lot, the car started making a loud noise.  Not good!

After we pushed through and pulled off to the side, it was apparent that the undercarriage cover came off.  Clearly the water didn’t make it fall off, but there must have been something in the water that caused it to separate.  We were at a male dominated facility with at least 4 guys at the exit. They came over but couldn’t define the problem.  My carpool partner was no expert at cars but saw that it was the undercarriage.  So we decided to back up so that we could see it and weren’t dragging it along.  She asked them for ideas or recommendations for a shop nearby. No one had any idea and just pointed out that the undercarriage was dragging below the car. My carpool partner was becoming frustrated.
After a few more minutes with no help from “the guys”, she decided we could tie the undercarriage up so that it would stay for the ride home – BUT, we needed rope.  Of course, no one had a clue. Luckily, she found rope in the backseat (which, I admit, would never be found in my backseat…until this experience). Next she tied it up herself as one or two of the bystanders watched.  We needed a scissors to tie it up. What do you think happened next? Of course – no one knew. I went over to the guard shack and borrowed a pair. She cut the rope and we drove back in the rain for about 2 hours in heavy traffic.

Since she is new to the area and didn’t want to leave the temporary rope option too long, it occurred to me that my mechanic is amazing at customer service and would probably help us out.  I texted him, told him the story and said we’d drop by in 20 minutes. When we showed up, he took us immediately, offered us coffee and conversation while they assessed the issue. He returned with a temporary solution and showed us why she would have to purchase a new undercarriage cover.  Less than 30 minutes later, we left with the car intact and safe to drive until the dealer could order a cover that he offered to put on for her. My mechanic didn’t charge us for this service and left us thanking him profusely. My carpool partner even left with a tip on how to buy a new truck for her husband who was moving out the next day.  Who doesn’t value relationships!?!

In this situation, we could have become seriously delayed (missing our evening events or taking Uber on a lengthy drive), stuck, angry and more.  Instead, my carpool partner took control of the situation, got us going and then we leveraged fabulous connections to ensure the temporary solution would “stick”.  Resilience and perseverance won out in the end!

What would you have done?

 

 



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?