Tag Archive: marketing

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.



Times Square and Marketing Appeal

March 27th, 2017

Recently, when I was in New York, I had the opportunity to walk down Times Square (pictured below). The people, the buzz and the lights are amazing — almost no matter what time you take a stroll. There is a certain appeal of the advertisements. TV shows that you didn’t care about previously look more enticing as they flash by on nearby buildings. Store advertisements seem more appealing than they do in print, on-line or on TV. Do you wonder why? There is a marketing appeal to walking in Times Square. How can we create this with our companies?

marketing appeal

One tip to implement this week:

No matter our job, we are all in the marketing business. Who doesn’t want their product, services, projects or even their own image to be attractive? It is why there are so many marketing resources working to help create the “right” image. It is also why services such as LinkedIn are so popular. What can you do to create the best image?

Start by getting clear on what benefits/outcomes your products, services, projects and people achieve. People do not care about what you want to convey; they care about what is in it for them — of course. So, how can you help them? Or how can you make them feel good? Times Square makes many people feel energized and excited. How can you create that sort of excitement about your product or service? Or, how can you make a potential employer or customer feel like they would be fortunate to do business with you? Simply start by getting clear on 1, 2 or 3 reasons. Then, you can move on to how to convey those reasons in a compelling manner.

 

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…”

 

 



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…”



Why Marketing Shouldn’t be Overlooked with SIOP

November 18th, 2015

supply chainI’ve been partnering with clients to design and implement SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs the last several years as I’ve found them to be a GREAT way to achieve several results simultaneously: 1) Support growth, 2) Improved service levels/quicker turnaround of deliveries (shorter lead times), 3) Improved margins and efficiencies, 4) Accelerated cash flow; and 5) Improved employee morale and teamwork. Although the technical side plays an important role (figuring out future demand and aligning with manufacturing, staffing, suppliers, etc.), the aspect that generates the best results is that it aligns the executives and functions within the organization (and can even go to customers and suppliers).

We’ve achieved significant results in all sorts of industries and company sizes, and Marketing always plays a key role in the process. One of my innovative clients renamed the process SMIOP (with an added M for Marketing) as they wanted to highlight marketing. I thought that was a great idea. If you don’t have your marketing processes in full force, your demand plan will be lacking and you won’t be synced up with your supply side. Thus, I wanted to share the importance with you.

One tip to implement this week:

Many of you probably think you are not responsible for marketing; however, in the best companies, all employees relate to marketing. What is your brand and perception in the marketplace? Each employee can have an impact on that. Also, how well are you engaging your customers? Do they see you as the experts in your industry? If so, they will be more likely to partner with you. From a SIOP perspective, marketing has invaluable input into the demand plan.

Take a step back and think about how you affect your customer (even via internal customers on the way to the customer)? Start there. What ideas and suggestions do you have? Could you read up on industry news and share it with your supply chain team? It could be invaluable insights. One of my aerospace clients had a GURU when it came to knowing the industry. He was extremely valuable in areas that were related to his position but could be overlooked if his manager didn’t value marketing.

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…”

 



ZZ Top & the Power of a Brand

September 14th, 2015

supply chainI saw ZZ Top at the Los Angeles Fair on Saturday night. They were still amazing after 47 years of singing together. Much longer than most marriages – and certainly longer than many in the audience had been alive. They are known for long beards (see below for a long distance picture from the grandstand) except for their drummer whose last name happens to be beard.

I’ve seen the head singer for ZZ Top on Bones, and aside from playing a great character, his beard is recognizable anywhere! Not that I’m suggesting beards; however, the question is – do you have a brand? It certainly can make you stand out from the crowd.  I venture to bet that even people who don’t care about ZZ Top know who they are because of their signature beards. How are you known?

brand

One tip to implement this week:

Start growing a beard!  No, just kidding – think about how you are known. What would other people say about you? If you heard your colleague or best friend describing you, what would they say? You can control that by becoming known for something. Are you always known because you jump in to help? Or are you the numbers guru? Or perhaps you are known for a signature car? It doesn’t really matter what you are known for (assuming it isn’t something awful); what matters is that people can remember you.

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…”