By Sid Chadwick
“Their Keynote Speakers spoke emphatically on the importance of C.I. for the Customer, but to your point, “No…, they didn’t offer any tools or processes or sessions for one-to-one Customer Improvements…the Program was mostly about lowering production costs…. which was helpful….”….Volunteered by V.P. of Mfg Attendee to Recent Continuous Improvement Program
Like “Health Care”, “Our industry is a Custom-Made product and service industry”.
Each customer is somewhat different and should be recognized to be different.
And last time I checked, “Customers were still primarily --- the only ones deciding who stays in business.”
As I reflect on a “memory”, an attendee to an afternoon program on “Continuous Improvement --- for Customers” --- had just “bragged” --- in “open session” --- about how his company --- called every new customer --- to learn what could be improved --- after --- each of their first three orders.
I had to ask, “Why only the first three orders?”
His response, “We’ve learned there’s nothing else to improve --- after the first three orders”.
My retort: “We’re getting ready to take a short break --- would you please write down the names of your Top 20 Customers --- for the other 30+ companies in the room…. Since there’s nothing that can be improved at those Customers --- I’d like to make copies of that list --- for everyone attending.”
(Yes, we do sometimes have a dry…sense of humor.)
A Few Opportunities For --- Continuous Improvement --- for Customers:
1. Sales Reps should visit Customers --- after an order is delivered --- to discuss:
- What would the customer like to see improved?
- What manufacturing saw, and learned --- that should be better --- next time.
Buyers don’t like to be” taken for granted”, and it’s the rare supplier who continuously, predictably --- discusses --- those two issues.
2. Other opportunities for Continuous Improvement for Customers --- include:
- How would the Customer like to see her/his Invoices improved (more detail, less detail, more and different information --- questions almost never asked, but for which there’s often a Customer response…).
- Would the Customer like to be informed, before delivery - when to expect delivery?
- Would the Customer like to be informed of ‘Who signed for delivery, and when..? -- within 15 minutes of delivery…?’
- Would the Customer like to be informed --- in advance --- when to expect the Proof?
- Would the Customer like the opportunity to be called --- when there are “overs” – to potentially be bought, before they are destroyed…?
- Would the Customer like the opportunity to visit and Tour your Plant, and be introduced to key personnel --- and processes…? (With Buyer Turnover, a significant % of Buyers --- have not visited --- personally --- their supplier’s plant(s)).
- Sales Reps, CSR’s, and supplier newsletters should always be prepared to discuss, what’s new, what’s improved, and how the Customer can benefit. (Role Playing is a great way to develop comfort in how to explain an improvement --- that benefits your Customer.)
There’s a major challenge facing most organizations. And it’s not how to cut costs…..again…... The challenge is, “How to increase revenues…?”
Too many returned client Customer Surveys we open-up show Customers who want:
- To see Supplier Reps --- more often.
- Their Supplier Reps --- to make the Sales Call visit --- more meaningful --- that means, “Bring us --- Useful Information…!”
Sometimes I reflect --- that if we poured half into educating and training our Sales Reps, CSR’s, and Customers --- what we pour into technology and equipment --- there would be no shortage of demand in our great industry.
As an industry pattern, our industry offers up “Continuous Improvement Conferences --- asks “Keynote Speakers to offer-up Platitudes on Continuous Improvement for Customers” --- and then commits nearly “0” to that focus --- in program content.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”…………Winston Churchill