There has never been a better time to create a customer service edge! Gone are the days of picking up the phone with easy orders on the other end! Although we’ve emerged from the recession and are typically profitable, growth is still a challenge. As baby boomers retire, there is less consumption, and with less consumption, demand is stagnated.
Not only is growth harder to come by but service expectations are elevated due to the Amazon effect. Mega-distributors like Amazon have had a significant effect – consumers certainly expect rapid delivery, Sunday deliveries etc. Even manufacturers and distributors are seeing lead times squeezed if they wish to remain in the game.
In my 20+ years of experience as both a former VP of Operations of a mid-market manufacturer and as a business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve found that those companies who leverage these types of hidden opportunities leapfrog the competition.How can you stand out from the crowd and provide loyalty-endearing service with rapid turnaround times? Create a customer service edge.
How do you create a customer service edge? 1) Engage employees. 2) Involve your supply chain. 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. 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?
You’d be amazed as to how the most unlikely employee can contribute to creating a customer service edge if included in the process. In my experience, 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. How important is service to you?
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?
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 – utilizing 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. 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, every company is searching for the “magic formula” of sales growth. Don’t follow the pack; instead, stand out from the crowd with a customer service edge, and leverage the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.
Join the conversation on variables affecting customer service by participating in the Amazon Effect Survey. I’m looking for your input on trends in online ordering, customer expectations and changes to the supply line.