It’s a Self-Serving WorldWritten By: Ron Slee
Article Date: 09-03-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
And it's time we responded to the call for ‘responsiveness.'
One of the most amazing features of the American economy is the number of unpaid employees that are at work in so many companies.
That's right - think about it for a moment. You and I work for the oil and gas companies, the banks, the hotel industry, the airlines, the leisure industry, the grocery industry and several more.
Have you figured it out yet? We are the sales clerks at all these companies and industries. We "swipe" our credit card and go about entering the part numbers or making selections of what it is we want - and in essence close the jobs and get our own packing slip or receipt. Imagine that: We are the largest unpaid workforce in the world!
It seems that someone has figured out what good service entails. Of course, this all involves technology to make it happen, but we can cover that one later on.
What people want above most other things is responsiveness in their transactions with "suppliers." Isn't that one of the items that ranks high on the list from our customers? In the Product Support Opportunities Handbook from 2002, responsiveness ranked No. 2 on everyone's list. In service it lagged only behind price, and in parts it was second only to availability.
Many other companies - from grocery stores to airlines to banks - heard what their customers were saying, and they satisfied the need. But where are we? Why don't we respond to what our customers are saying they want and need from us?
In Chicago this month the AED/QUALCOMM Executive Forum features one of the founders of the Balanced Scorecard movement, David Norton. The Balanced Scorecard points to four key elements as headlines in managing and leading your business.
It all starts with what the customer needs and wants and moves on from there. It seems pretty straight forward to me. If customers tell you what they want and they tell you what they need, you should pay attention and give it to them - if you want to stay in business.
This is also the principle behind the Balanced Scorecard's second headline, Internal. The Internal headline asks the question, "What do we need to excel at in order to satisfy the needs and wants of the customer?"
It still seems pretty straight forward, doesn't it?
Then the question is: Why don't we do something about it? This is an important point and one that nags at me often in my work. We know what we need to do, but something always seems to get in the way.
Here are the hard questions we must ask ourselves:
I think the answer to all of these questions and many more is a loud and clear "Yes!"
- Should we have a self-service terminal in the parts department and the service department?
- Should our customers be able to get price and availability information online by themselves?
- Should our customers be able to place an order online?
- Should our customers be able to check backorder status online?
- Should our customers be able to schedule a mechanic for a repair?
- Should our customers be able to look at their open account information?
- Should our customers be able to maintain their machine population information?
- Should our customers be able to find part numbers they need by going online?
- Should our customers be able to see maintenance specifications online?
So why don't we give it to them?
I know - believe me, I know - that many of you are already doing this, and to you I offer my sincere congratulations and gratitude. You are making a difference to your customers and setting a wonderful example to the other dealers in this industry.
Now where do we need to go from here? How about reaffirming with your customers that responsiveness is indeed what they consider to be one of the most important attributes of a good distributor/supplier? And if it is, then start determining what you need to do in your business to satisfy that need.
Check with your software supplier, if need be, and have them give you the tools that you need. This is actually what's covered in the third headline of the Balanced Scorecard: Innovation. The message is: Get the tools in place and train your employees so they can help customers use the new tools. Offer training sessions in the evening or on the weekend so that your customer will know how to take advantage of the new customer services you are offering them the very things that will make you the best distributor/supplier in your market.
Isn't that what you want to do? Well, the time is now. Let's get it done.
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