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TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS…OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL

Jul 1, 2013 12:00 AM


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BY SID CHADWICK

A business development director recently shared the following report: “We just won a major piece of additional business from a current customer—more than three quarters of a million direct mail pieces—because of late and inaccurate invoices from their other supplier—and I think more is being prepared to follow.”

The director and his servicing sales rep for the major account were thrilled—partly because they see this in the broader picture of that account consolidating suppliers, and this example was but one of several differentiating qualities that were costing the buyer’s personnel extra time and repeat aggravation.

Interestingly, he shared that “the other ex-supplier” still possibly had no understanding as to why the account had finally said “No more.”

BUYERS’ REGRETS

I asked if there were other disappointing issues from that supplier that the buyer had shared. Not surprisingly, he said, “Yes—you wouldn’t believe how angry the buyer was, as one issue after another had built up.” Here are a few examples:

  1. Changes in the supplier’s servicing CSR for the account had occurred without discussion with the buyer in advance. From the buyer’s perspective, the new CSR had been given no warm-up personal introduction, orientation, or review of how the buyer’s needs were expected to be serviced. These omissions led to frequent misunderstandings and to late information being supplied.
  2. Invoices were frequently late, delaying the buyer’s paperwork and sometimes delaying her organization’s cash flow through a delayed rebilling process.
  3. Invoices sometimes had additional charges, without explanation, that had not been agreed to or even discussed.
  4. Inventories at the other supplier were inconsistently reported.
  5. Product ordered by the buyer’s field reps was sometimes backordered (and not reported to be on backorder) or not shipped within terms.
  6. Recent requests for information seemed to have been delegated to support staff personnel, who were reportedly also overloaded with work. Frequently, a request for information had to be repeated.
  7. The buyer’s requests for written explanations as to why miscues had occurred seemed to be ignored or forgotten.
  8. Sales reps occasionally used the term “they” when offering an explanation for non-performance by their company. The buyer began to eventually realize that she was really dealing with two organizations.

Essentially, the buyer felt her business had become unimportant, that she and her company were being taken for granted—and that these conditions were costing her performance.

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

I once heard a highly regarded participant at a CEO Peer Group share what he’d just learned during a periodic business review with a major customer: “The purchasing director told me and my sales rep that his company only works with us when it doesn’t have any other sources. When asked why, the customer responded, ‘We don’t have the time to wait two or three weeks for your paperwork to get to us.’”

My CEO friend took swift action: “I went back and changed our invoicing system that very afternoon,” he told the group.

Customers of all stripes are consolidating suppliers—out of the recognized benefit of improved value/cost received. Using fewer suppliers streamlines procurement processes—and consistency and coordination of performance will certainly set suppliers apart.

REMEMBER THOSE ANNUAL REVIEWS

My recommendation to the business development director: “Take this case study you’ve just experienced, and, at least twice a year, review it with your entire business development team. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably also become one of the statistics that buyers regret experiencing.”

Sid Chadwick is president of Chadwick Consulting.