Originally published on PR Newswire on October 18, 2011

Business managers and entrepreneurs can thrive in today’s new normal business environment with increased profitability and customer loyalty with already existing assets by creating a customer service edge, according to Lisa Anderson founder and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc.

Strategies to Create a Customer Service Edge

Today’s new normal is characterized by lackluster sales growth, strained liquidity, and rising commodity and material costs yet customer’s expectations are also rising.

“In essence, customers want more for less too; however, the resources required to deliver more for less remain scarce. Thus, those companies who find a way to create a customer service edge will stand out in the crowd and leapfrog their competition,” said Anderson, who consults on strategic operations topics and who speaks to supply chain and business executive groups.

The top 3 strategies to create a customer service edge include: (1) Engage employees (2) Involve your supply chain and (3) Provide tools & support.

1. Engage Employees

“Have you ever seen unhappy employees with happy customers? Me either! You have to start with your employees,” said Anderson. Have you provided them with a compelling vision? Do they feel that they are involved with a company that is making a difference in some way? Do they know how they contribute to the vision? How do they add value? Are you providing feedback? Appreciating progress? Engaging them in key projects and ensuring they feel they are a core part of the team?”

According to Anderson, “It is amazing how the most unlikely employee can contribute to creating a customer service edge when included in the process. As a former VP of Operations of a mid-market manufacturer and as a business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve seen engineers close a sale, I.T. leaders create customer intimacy, and supply chain employees create a customer service edge. The common ingredient is engaged employees.”

2. Involve Your Supply Chain

“Now that your employees are on board, you cannot afford to stop there. A customer service edge can only be created by involving your entire supply chain — after all, how will you shorten lead times and improve on time delivery if your customers consistently change their mind at the last minute and your suppliers provide an unreliable delivery lead time?” said Anderson.

“For example, in one company, we implemented a vendor managed inventory program with our #1 customer, and we went from unreliable service levels to winning the coveted supplier of the year award. We involved the entire supply chain in that we determined how to fulfill our customer’s distribution centers to ensure 98-99% service levels by becoming more intimately involved in the complete supply chain — incorporating in our customer’s customers’ demand data, involving our carriers as partners to ensure delivery performance within shipping lanes, and partnering with suppliers through a collaborative forecasting process.”

3. Provide Tools And Support

“Last but not least, the best strategies fail in execution; thus, what can we do to ensure we beat the odds and create a customer service edge? Focus on execution — blocking and tackling,” said Anderson. Don’t just dictate a customer service priority. Explain its importance. Provide coaching. Support the process with systems. Build customer service into the performance management process. Celebrate success. With a clear strategy and the appropriate support, customer service will thrive.”

In today’s new normal business environment, everyone is struggling to survive and grow by a few percentage points. Don’t follow the pack; instead, stand out from the crowd with a customer service edge, and leverage the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

About Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson is founder and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. and has been a VP of Operations for a leading absorbent products manufacturer. She partners with her clients to rapidly identify, prioritize and execute plans to increase profitability.

She has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Industry Week, and ABC News, and has published articles for the American Management Association’s MWorld, Industry Week and Corp! Magazine. She has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Entrepreneurial Studies Program and has been a featured speaker at The Association of Operations Management (APICS) International Conference, the Global Supply Chain & Logistics Summit Conference and U Connect Conference.

Lisa is Board approved in Supply Chain strategy by the Society for Advancement in Consulting, an advisory board member for the Advanced Supply Chain Certification program at California State University Fullerton’s Extended Education and President of the Inland Empire Chapter of APICS. For more information, go to https://www.lma-consultinggroup.com and to sign up for her newsletter with articles and tips on achieving profit through people, go to https://www.lma-consultinggroup.com/newsletter.php.