Rock Products

JUL 2019

Rock Products is the aggregates industry's leading source for market analysis and technology solutions, delivering critical content focusing on aggregates-processing equipment; operational efficiencies; management best practices; comprehensive market

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www.rockproducts.com ROCKproducts • July 2019 • 43 MANAGEMENT Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at sschuma@gmail.com. I have done a lot of work with companies over the years help- ing them measure and improve customer service. Customer service has always been an important ingredient of a success- ful company, but it is more important than ever right now. Through consolidation and mergers, a lot of industries are dominated by just a few large companies with a number of smaller ones trying to hang onto a corner of the market. From a product/service, quality, and pricing standpoint there is not a lot of difference between the companies at the top. Custom- ers can, without a lot of trouble, move from one supplier to another if they choose to. One of the only things left to differentiate companies is their ability to provide outstanding customer service. That fact, coupled with customers being able to public rate customers online, making or breaking a company's reputation makes customer service a vital metric that all employees should be thinking about. Even though you may be in operations, engineering, project management or some other staff position you still need to be thinking about how your job affects customer service. I worked with a company not long ago that was trying to get ahead of the competition by improving their customer ser- vice. I interviewed a lot of the employees and asked them who was responsible for customer service. The vast majority of the answers were sales and/or marketing. That may have been the correct answer 20 years ago, but now everyone from the president to the newest employee must be thinking about customer service. Following are some of the reasons. Customers can and will go elsewhere. The only difference between a lot of companies and suppliers these days is their ability to make customers feel appreciated for their busi- ness. If a customer feels like they are not being treated well and they give their business to another company, everyone suffers. A drop-off in customers could mean layoffs, tighter budgets, limited raises, etc. Simply because your company has a good customer base currently and a nice market share does not mean it will be that way tomorrow. Sales may be the face of your company to customers, but they rely on operations and all other staff positions to help keep the customer satisfied. You are one link in the customer service chain. Your com- pany is in the business of serving customers' needs well. Do not lose sight of that and do not let your employees lose sight of it. I have seen various departments in companies get stuck Pay Attention to Customer Service If Your Company Is Not Good at Customer Service, Everyone Feels It. By Steve Schumacher in silos and think that the business begins and ends with them. That is just not correct. Every department adds some- thing to the end product or service that goes to the customer. Your customers are paying you money to meet their needs well. Think about where you are in the customer service chain and what it is you add to the final product that goes to the customer. Then make sure that big of magic that you add is the very best it can be. Customers want transparency. With so much visibility these days into every aspect of businesses, customers have come to expect not only good service, but transparency. They want to know who the staff engineers are, what qualifications the quality control staff has, who is handling environmental issues for your company, etc. My advice to you is to be proac- tive with transparency. Invite customers to your operation, give them tours and introduce them to key employees. Make them feel welcome and show them in person that they matter to all of your employees. Take some of your key employees to visit key customers also. See how your product is used by the customer. See what the issues are that your product may present to your customers. Take the initiative to show your customers that you are willing to be transparent and build relationships that go beyond invoicing and billing. Talk about customer service in meetings. A good friend of mine worked for Honda Motor Co. for a number of years. To most people Honda is known for its quality and reliability. He told me that the very first thing new employees did when they were hired was to have a minimum of a one-hour con- versation with their direct supervisor about quality of work. I am sure there are a lot of reasons why Honda is perceived to have good quality, but I also believe those discussions played a big part in it. Regardless of your department, talk about cus- tomer service regularly. Invite sales people to your meetings for customer updates. What differentiates companies these days is their ability to provide customers with outstanding customer service con- sistently over time. Everyone in your company plays a part in making that happen.

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