Assessing Customer ServiceWritten By: Ron Slee
Article Date: 02-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
A survey of your customers tells a story you need to hear.
We seem to be saying one thing and doing something different. You by now have seen the new Product Support Opportunities Handbook and hopefully are studying what the customers are saying. It is important. In 2002, AED produced the first comprehensive Product Support survey and this latest one in 2007 provides some very interesting information and changes.
We are not alone as a group of people in the association who are interested in what our customers need and want. This has become an epidemic in many industries. Microsoft commissioned a major survey in 2007 as well - Forrester Consulting provided the survey and Triangle Publishing Service did the interpretation. Their conclusion was that the No. 1 business issue was "customer relationships." This is the conclusion of business managers the world over. As Microsoft's study deduced, managers "value innovations that support improvement in customer experience, and they paint a picture of corporate cultures that prioritize customers."
The conclusion also stated, "Why is it that their actions don't support this belief?" This is a similar conclusion that I reach in the 2007 Product Support Opportunities Handbook. When intellectually we know what needs to be done, why is it that we just don't get it done?
This might be a cute comment were it not so serious. The world has clearly changed. Products are much more capable and technology is definitely affecting how they can be used. The cost per operating hour for a machine is now lower than at any time since the era of the hand shovel.
What have you done over the past year to enhance the customer experience in your business? And more important, what are you planning for 2008? My suspicion is that there was nothing last year and that this is not a subject that is included in many companies' annual planning cycle. You know that process don't you? When you set budgets and create forecasts. This planning cycle needs to be focused on the customer experience, not on our profit and loss. Companies that focus inwardly are destined to fail. It is the company that focuses on keeping its customers
happy that will succeed.
Let's look at the top focuses of the companies surveyed in the Microsoft research at right.
It is very clear and very straightforward to me and I am sure to you as well. And within the Product Support Opportunities survey you will see information specific to our industry and to your customers. Don't overlook this important information.
Most forecasts for 2008 point to a sluggish year within our industry. I know the parts and service business opportunity will increase. I also know that you know your opportunity to increase business in the parts and service area is huge. But it is clear that you either don't know what to do or don't want to do it. This is a very difficult position to take. The customer expects us to provide leadership to them. They expect us to provide the support they require for their equipment. The survey data suggests we do a good job for some of our customers. But that leaves a lot of room for improvement.
So do yourself and your customers a favor, and get your copy of the 2007 Product Support Opportunities Handbook. Read it and study it. The customer service section tells you what you need to do. This follows through on the "Balanced Scorecard" business process that was discussed at the Executive Forum in the fall. Find out what your customers want and need - excel in this and you will not struggle with customer satisfaction.
The choice to satisfy your customers is yours.
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