You expected a package to arrive two days ago. It’s still not in your hands. Irritated, you call the vendor. Not even bothering with customer service, you ask for the manager. Reluctantly customer service patches you through.
Muffling the anger, after all you still need the package and don’t want to tick anyone off…you explain to the manager how the product is now well past due. You even put on a show about the problems you’re experiencing as a result. You’ve had it.
The contact on the other end says, “I’m doing a trace right now.” Ah, the old trace routine. You ask for the numbers only to be one digit short or “no information available” appears on your own trace. Meaning the package was just packaged and has never left the building.
You grunt in disbelief, because this seems to be happening more and more lately. Is everyone incompetent or have people in business just become accustomed to making empty promises? We’ve all been on the receiving, or NON-receiving end of a promise never fulfilled. And we all know the frustration…
But is your business a source of frustration to your customers? Do you deliver on your promises, even when the delays or errors are due to other suppliers?
Probably you’re doing business well and most of your buyers are happy. But are your sales the result of delivering on your promises each and every time or something else? Sometimes growth occurs due to:
Ø A lack of alternatives for the buyers, ie little or no competition, rather than outstanding products and services.
Ø A central location that drives people to purchase out of need rather than desire.
Ø Licensing or contract restrictions where the seller holds the sole rights to a product in a territory (and where the supplier does a great job of finding leads for the product rep).
Ø The fact that one firm is just less Incompetent than another.
So how do you assess your level of customer service based on promises made and expectations fulfilled? The best measure of whether you’re actually fulfilling promises is to take a look at two sources: customer retention figures and referral business numbers. Imagine what your firm’s bottom line would look like if you never lost a customer. Then do whatever it takes to make that a reality.
Consider this. In two weeks either we, or executives we know in other businesses, have suffered the following from various vendors who broke their promises:
Ø A software firm in the Netherlands is 4 months behind on a 9 month project and they won’t meet the necessary deadline.
Ø A major retailer screwed up shipping a $350 item 4 times. They then mis-billed, shipped to the wrong address, and shipped the same item twice.
Ø An upscale hotel double booked a conference room, then ended up having to offer a suite that was $400 more per day. (They at least gave the room for free.)
Ø An employee at a production house in NYC started a project late—the goods still haven’t arrived, failed to record their quoted pricing—resulting in a 20% overcharge, then forgot to ship the goods—and expected the customer to pay for overnite Saturday delivery. To add insult to injury, the package wasn’t marked for Saturday, and it arrived on the following Tuesday.
Ø A real estate firm forgot to get a signature, eventually losing a retail space for a client.
Ø A marketing firm picked up a big client and missed a direct-mail date. This pushed the client’s entire marketing program back at least a month, where some business will never be recovered, because the lost incoming sales were seasonal.
To meet promises, ask two questions: what are your promises, and what are the systems you have in place to insure accuracy.
Here’s a strategy for both challenges:
This may appear to be a quick fix but most of the problems encountered above were complex in nature. The overbooking came from the COO. The marketing firm’s challenge was that it was growing too fast and the staff did not know how to say no or to manage the growth. The major retailer who sold the $350 item does over $1 billion in sales, yet it did not have an integrate accounting and customer service program--when an order is placed, all credit cards have to be keypunched by the order taker and again by the accounting staff, slowing the process.
Remember that the profits that firms sink into fixing “screw ups” are the same dollars that make cash flow tight all year long. Managers who can even out the equation, Customer=Promise, will quickly reap financial benefits from those who need and want their services.
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