Tag Archive: value-added service

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

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Repeat Customers Come Back for Service

July 29th, 2014
customer service

Implementing sound customer service practices not only ‘wow’ your customers, but keep them coming back and referring you to others.

In today’s world, quality must be an assumption; thus, the key is to stand out in the crowd with service.

A recent example pops to mind. I was driving on the 57 south (freeway in Los Angeles) in the fast lane on my way to a client to lead a Kaizen workshop, and my car broke down. For those of you who don’t know, I love my car – a maroon Chrysler Sebring convertible. I have 235,000 miles on it and am going for 300,000. It has a year-old refurbished engine, and I have planned to use it as long as possible as I am just not too excited about any of the cars available for purchase today. In L.A., you spend a LOT of time in the car so you better love it.

The good news is that I was in stop-and-go traffic – who knew there would be an advantage to stop-and-go traffic!  While talking on my blue tooth, I stopped for the car ahead of me, and just so happened to look down and thought, “I think my car isn’t on.”  I tried to re-start the car – many times to no avail.  I got off the phone and put my emergency flashers on. People started going around me in the shoulder next to the fast lane. Of course, it just so happens to be the day I forgot my license and credit cards on my desk at home but I had my AAA card.  I called and they were very reassuring as they put an ‘expedite’ on the service since I was stuck in the fast lane. They also said they’d call the highway patrol and offered to stay on the phone with me until one of them got there. I didn’t take him up on it but I could see the value of that if I was panicked. I know something like that would be really beneficial for my Mom as she doesn’t even like to drive in the first place, let alone get stuck in a dangerous spot.

Next I called George, the owner of the Shell station who I’ve known and used since 1995. I knew he probably wouldn’t be in yet; however, the mechanics who work for him would probably be there. One of them answered. He was alarmed and started asking questions to make sure a tow truck was on its way, etc.  One other time, I borrowed my friend’s car, and it broke down on the freeway (you know how luck goes sometimes), and they sent someone ASAP to get me.  He said they would jump on it as soon as I got there, and they’d see what cars they have available for me to drive.

Unfortunately, the stop-and-go traffic started to speed up. A few more minutes went by, and a car who just passed by stopped and pulled off to the side. He backed up directly INTO all the people going around me on the shoulder and didn’t stop until he was parallel with my car. He got out of the car and came over to talk with me. He asked me to put my car in neutral and said he’d push me to the side which is what he did. I thanked him, and he took off. A good Samaritan!

A few minutes later, the tow truck arrived – quicker than the CHP which proves that AAA takes stranded people seriously. He took me and my car to my mechanic. Of course, the mechanic who answered the phone got in and turned the ignition, and it started. What?!?! Of course they still had to keep it to figure out what the issue was.

He was quite concerned because George always lends me a car (and many times, his personal car) but they had just sold all their cars, and George was in an all-day meeting. They would arrange for a good rate with Enterprise and take me there; however, I knew that would take a while, and I was going to be late for my meeting. Thus, they offered to take me to the house because I thought I could borrow my good friend’s car which was at the train station.

George called while we were on the way to the house. He said he would make sure I had a loaner in the next day or two and would look into the car.  When we got there, I looked around and couldn’t find the keys, and so I called Ryan (my friend’s son) to ask him where they were.  He was at work but I caught him on a break, and so he answered. He said, “Yes, they are in my car.” Great spot for them :-); however, I was just happy he knew where they were. So, the mechanic drove me to Ryan’s work so that I could get the keys, and then he drove me to the train station to retrieve the car. I took off and managed to be less than an hour late to the Kaizen, thanks to the exceptional service of my mechanic.

Who do you think I’ll call next time I am stuck?  AAA and George, of course!  They made a trying situation relatively easy and non-stressful.  How are you treating your customers?  Are you merely friendly or do you go the extra mile to make sure their needs are met and they’ll become a customer for life? I find this is true in manufacturing and distribution just as much as it is true in our personal lives. Take a step back and take stock as to whether you are going the extra mile for your customers.  It doesn’t have to cost money; you just need to pay attention to what would add value. In my car situation, offering to stay on the phone (AAA) and a little gas and time (to drive me around) cost barely anything; however, it made a HUGE difference to my experience.

One of the reasons I got the Premier membership with AAA was so that if I had an issue, I could tow my car 200 miles if need be to George’s station. I know many of their customers feel the same as they are busy with cars everywhere on their lot when the competition is available and waiting for customers. Are your customers willing to wait or pay more for your value-add?

P.S. I still do not know what is wrong with my car; however, they were able to repeat the problem. They’ve taken it to the engine folks they coordinated with for my new engine so we’ll see…

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Creating a Customer Service Edge