Tag Archive: customers

Why Customer Service Trumps All

September 13th, 2016
customer service

Start with building a customer service culture with your employees to give your clients reason to come back and refer you to others.

Although we work on many topics impacting manufacturers and distributors, we have found that the most popular — and vital — is customer service. Prior to the recession, most companies called for our inventory management expertise and how to understand and manage costs (and therefore strategically price); however, since the recession, almost everyone that calls has some element of the customer in their conversation.

As our passion surrounds customer service which must start with your customers (your employees), we love this development. From a financial point-of-view, the customer has a profound impact on business performance. Clients call for every one of these reasons:

  • Business growth – certainly, you have no hope of growing your business unless you serve your customers well. Specifically, in today’s Amazon-impacted world, it must be an assumption.
  • Delivery performance – unfortunately, there are a vast number of ways companies can get into trouble with delivery performance. There has to be at least 20 different processes that impact whether product and services will be delivered in a timely basis. And, that is before you talk about people and culture…. If you cannot deliver on time, not only will you incur extra costs in expediting but you’ll lose orders (perhaps even ones you don’t know about).
  • Lead Times – every client talks about lead times. Customers are demanding a 50% reduction in lead times. Shortening the cycle translates to money and cash flow.
  • Value-added service – we must stand out from the crowd with exceptional service — forget about growing the business, this is essential to MAINTAIN the business (and to have a decent work life). How are you adding value for your customers? It is not all about price! Do you provide service options? Do you provide value add ideas and options? When my laptop crashed, I was very interested in those companies that would expedite, no matter the fee.
  • Margins & profit – do you look at service with a win-win eye? You better start! No one can afford win-lose propositions any longer. Find a way to increase your customers’ profits while increasing yours.
  • Cash flow – an area tied directly to service is inventory positioning and levels. If you can count on high levels of service, you won’t need to carry as much inventory. Every dollar not tied up in your warehouse is a dollar you can invest into the business, your people and your life.
  • Controlling overhead costs – This might sound strange but it frequently arises. If you need to upgrade your infrastructure as business grows and/or complexity increases, a compelling reason not to ignore this need is customer service. For example, if you have an ERP system that is highly customized and no longer will expand with your business, it will result in customer service challenges. Of course, most clients will attempt to address these issues without impacting customers. Since their business isn’t scalable, they will have to employ people to fill the gap. And, instead of automating these tasks, the manual workload increases errors — impacting service levels.

Clearly, customer service should rise to the top of your list in terms of priorities — assuming you want to maintain and grow your business and/or would like to enjoy your work life. What programs are you pursuing to take your service to an entirely new level? What ideas do you have to take a leap forward?

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

Staples and the Power of Customer Service

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for Growth?


Big Customer Promises

August 25th, 2016

supply chain

Last week, I met with my marketing team on several topics. One of the key areas, stemming from the strategy session with my international advisory board in Sydney is “what is my unique differentiation and value proposition”. I have always been passionate about providing exceptional service which ONLY can occur if you have empowered and engaged employees. Thus, we decided upon “I work with manufacturers and distributors (with deep expertise in aerospace, building products and food industries) to make and KEEP bold customer promises by empowering people with profit-driven strategies. From my point-of-view, the promises and profit have to go hand in hand.

As we developed this statement, my marketing guru asked me about my bold customer promise. I thought that was a great question (and I had never thought about it for me) yet it was easy to answer — my clients will get results.

So, what does this have to do with pancakes?!? The weekend prior I went on a food tour of La Jolla — quite amazing! We went to Richard Walker’s Pancake House on the tour, and returned the next day for a pancake spread. Richard Walker is known for gourmet pancakes, and they refuse to expand beyond the capabilities in San Diego and IL (their flagship store is in Schaumburg, IL, which coincidentally is where I grew up!) because they want to maintain their bold customer promise of high quality gourmet pancakes and breakfasts. Although I am definitely a wheat pancake with nuts, chocolate chips and bananas person, we tried several and this German pancake is simply amazing (see below).

customer promises

One tip to implement this week:

So, what is your bold customer promise? We ALL have customers, whether our customers are other departments within our company, our boss or traditional customers for product and services.

For this week, don’t get too worked up trying to think about your bold customer promise. Start by thinking about your view of your customers. Do you know what they want? A fantastic-sounding bold customer promise does nothing for them if they don’t care about it! If you get to know what your customers want and need to be successful, it will go a long way.

For example, my customers typically want growth, improved customer service levels, increased profit, quicker cash cycles and engaged employees. However, each customer is different. Making these assumptions will be useless if I meet a customer who just wants to improve repute.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

The Importance of Controlled Speed

June 24th, 2016

supply chain

Last week I was in New Zealand, and I went on a wild ride on the Dart River (see below). We went at 100 kph with just 4 inches of water. It was a thrilling ride with amazing scenery in the background, and it got me thinking about the critical importance of speed in today’s workplace. EVERY single one of my clients must grow, improve service levels, reduce lead time, maximize margins, and improve efficiencies — YESTERDAY. Speed of results is of the essence. It has been the focus of my clients since the recession (as cash was the focus during the recession) — in today’s Amazon-impacted workplace, speed will make or break success.

However, if you are going at 100 kph in an uncontrolled fashion, you will end up smashed directly into a boulder in the Dart River. In business, it is no different — you must maintain CONTROL while moving rapidly or success will not follow. This is one of the tenets of my proprietary process for driving supply chain performance TST. Having speed and torque with no traction leads to spinning your wheels. It is often the reason I’m called into a client.



One tip to implement this week:

I’ve found the first step is to understand and create urgency around your priorities. Most likely you are doing a task because you want to serve a customer as almost everything we do at work can be traced back to serving customers; no matter the task — if you don’t think what you are doing ties to a customer, contact me. I bet we can tie it to a customer or drop it from your priority list. These customer-centric tasks are critical. This doesn’t mean you have to serve customers blindly but to serve them well while achieving a win-win profit and business growth requires you to work with controlled speed.

Start by finding the why behind your tasks this week. If there isn’t a compelling why, remove the item from your list. Focus only on those with an important why. Explain the why to your team or your manager. Create urgency. Think about the last service you received that not only provided great service but was speedy — wouldn’t you like to repeat that for your customers?

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


Vivid Sydney is Spectacular

June 8th, 2016


This past weekend, I was in Sydney for a strategy/mentor advisory meeting. Sydney happened to have Vivid Sydney (a color light show throughout the city with entertainment, etc.) in full force for the first two weeks of June — what a great way to spur excitement at the start to the winter season! Of course the iconic Opera House is truly amazing (see one of MANY, continually rotating color displays below):

Vivid Sydney

Similarly, what are you doing to attract new customers, employees and other partners during your low season? Or when everyone else is worrying about oil prices, the economy or something else? Or, what are you doing to generate excitement over what you already have (current products, services)? The Opera House isn’t new! One of my best clients hired top talent at the bottom of the recession when he didn’t have specific work ready. It has come back to him in spades!

One tip to implement this week:

Think about what you could do this week to rejuvenate one of your classic products or how you could get your customers excited about a new twist or view of what they’ve been receiving for quite a while. Ask your colleagues. Often, the best ideas come from where you least expect it. You could also simply get them together to share ideas and best practices — who doesn’t want to hear more on that topic? I still laugh when I remember what James said (a Planning Manager who reported to me when I was a VP of Operations of PaperPak) — referring to forecasting models in a software we used, he said, “Why would we ever choose a forecast method other than the one called ‘best’?”

It doesn’t have to be as extravagant as Vivid Sydney (as that is not doable in a week anyway). What small step could you take that might be a new way of looking at your product, service or customer experience? Vivid Sydney had to start with one lighting design or idea.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


Should You Upgrade Your ERP System?

February 16th, 2016
enterprise resource planning

Although upgrading and implementing an ERP system is challenging, you need to see across your facilities to accurately assess whether you are getting bogged down by your own infrastructure.

Since I’ve been working on several ERP selection and design projects lately, it has reminded me of how challenging these projects can be. It is no wonder 80% of them fail! There are countless details, complex designs, cross-functional and cross-organizational collaboration required and varying skills and leadership styles required to survive, let alone thrive.

Thus, it made me think about ERP system goals. When should you upgrade/implement an ERP system?

  • Support growth: No matter how lovely QuickBooks reports look and how easy it is to use, it will not support profitable and rapid growth in manufacturing over the long haul. QuickBooks is not alone; there are many examples of other ERP systems with limiting factors that will no longer support growth. If you aren’t growing, you are declining. Thus, you must think about the infrastructure required to support growth before the decision is made for you.
  • High levels of customization: Unfortunately, the more you customize with older systems, the harder it will become to upgrade yet the more important it will become to upgrade. The sooner you tear off the bandage, the better. Otherwise you could wind up super glued to an anchor weight on a sinking ship. Who wants that?
  • M&A: If your company is running multiple systems due to mergers and acquisitions (or for other reasons), it is time to consider an upgrade. In order to grow and to prosper, you’ll need to be able to see across your facilities, companies and the like.
  • For the Customer: Customers are requesting higher and higher levels of service. Business models are changing. For example, in some industries, e-commerce functionality has become a must. In other cases, large customers are dictating programs and requirements which bring the need for upgraded systems. Are you thinking about where your customers are headed?
  • Leverage: One of the keys to success in any business is leverage. Can you deliver faster? Can you turn a 10-person job into a 1-person job? Can you grow quicker than your competition while providing exceptional customer service? You’ll need leverage.

For as challenging as upgrading and implementing a new system can be, you should be crystal clear on your reasons WHY. However, once you have your reasons identified, do not delay. Throw out the idea unless it’s compelling. However, if your reason is compelling, MOVE! It can be overwhelming to think about a new system; however, it is also easy to get passed up by your competitors who aren’t bogged down with outdated infrastructure.

There is no “right time”; unfortunately upgrading your systems infrastructure is always painful; the question is whether you spend a lot of money, resources and time when it’s too late to turn it into an advantage. In essence don’t wait for it to become a survival project; move when it is still a project that will accelerate your success.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on this topic:

Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

Why Upgrade Your ERP System  

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