Archives for posts with tag: customer satisfaction

I recently came across this article and was quite surprised. Not surprised that Wal-Mart is pushing suppliers to improve performance, but surprised that this is a new initiative.  The supply chain group at American Airlines, one of the best I have come across, was forcing their suppliers to improve in the areas of On Time Delivery, Early Deliveries, and On Time In Full back in 1999 / 2000.  As a supplier at the time to American, we learned a lot, and improved quite a bit.  If you happen to be a supplier to Wal-Mart, do not despair.  Improving these metrics in short order is very much achievable, without breaking the bank.

Source: Wal-Mart Will Punish Its Suppliers for Delivering Early – Bloomberg

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart 

 

On a recent excursion for groceries with my 12 year old, I was reminded that: 1. Kids observe the most interesting things and 2. Employee hiring, management, and engagement practices do positively impact the bottom line.

In need of groceries for la familia, the 12 year old and I jumped into the car for what is inevitably a long trip because for one reason or another, I can never find everything I am looking for in one grocery store.  On this particular weekend day, we find ourselves visiting three different stores.  The first store was a disaster because many of the shelves were barren. Additionally, as a fruit fanatic I was disgusted (once again) by the fruit flies hovering in the fruit section. (Side note, I have previously spoken to the store manager about the fruit fly issue and pointed out to him that his competitor – literally across the street no less – does not have this issue.  Said manager didn’t seem all that concerned with my feedback).  This particular store (whose name rhymes with toga) is a national chain, not a small mom and pop place.  After not finding many of the national items I was in search of, I decided it was time for us to leave (without purchasing anything at all).

We then headed to the competitor across the street.  This particular grocer (also national  – actually global – in scale), that takes pride in offering low prices was better in terms of stocked shelves.  I believe (but I could be wrong) that because of this company’s focus on keeping costs low, they are always low on staff.  They must have 8-10 registers that are meant to be staffed by humans and no more than 2-3 are ever staffed.  Also, you don’t see many employees walking around the store that you can ask for assistance.  The lack of employees on registers does not seem to be a big issue because it rarely takes long to check out as not many other customers ever seem to shop at this store.  I’m not quite sure how this particular location stays open.

We then proceeded onto the third store  – Trader Joe’s – for what always turns out to be somewhat specialty items you tend not to find anywhere else.  As usual, Trader Joe’s has lots of traffic and yes the shelves are always stocked.  Even though the store was busy we were able to check out quickly.  We probably spent no more than 30 minutes in the store.  Upon exiting the store, my 12 year old informs me that Trader Joe’s (I believe this is the first time I have taken her to Trader Joe’s) is her favorite grocery store.  I asked her why and she made what I found to be a very interesting observation (so interesting I decided to write a post about, want to read it?) Her comments were along the lines that everyone in Trader Joe’s seemed happy and were nice.  They seemed to enjoy their jobs and everyone had a smile on their face and greeted you with a smile.  I have previously written a post on  said subject: https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/customer-facing-employees-with-the-right-attitude/  I am not sure of what Trader Joe’s does differently (employee selection, pay, training, or some combination thereof) but it works.  Upon further discussion with my daughter she was spot on; the employees at Trader Joe’s did seem much happier, they did smile, and that was radically different from the other stores we visited that day.  When my daughter starts shopping on her own, I suspect she will make a beeline for Trader Joe’s.  The lesson?  Probably many based on your perspective, but for me a great reminder that customers appreciate doing business with others who are pleasant to deal with and who seem to genuinely enjoy their job.  Customers can tell, especially 12 year old kids.

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart

https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/

I’ll cut to the chase on this post.  Recruiting customer facing employees with the “Right Attitude” drives customer satisfaction and increased spend.  The genesis of this post is based on my grocery shopping experiences.  I frequent a number of grocery stores on a regular basis.  There are several, though, that I am going to comment on in this post.  I am always impressed when I interact with employees from the following grocery stores: Market Street, Whole Foods, and Central Market.  In my experience, these stores generally have higher prices and in some cases less selection than other grocery stores I frequent.  Even with higher prices and less selection of the foodstuffs that interest me, I continue to frequent these stores.  Why?  The employees.  When I interact with employees from these stores, I am always impressed with their customer facing skills.  The employees  exhibit a number of traits that I do not find in other grocery store employees.  These traits are as follow:

  • A positive attitude
  • Knowledge about the products in their store
  • Willingness to assist
  • Provide customer service with a smile

I have a recruited a number of employees in the past and while you can teach employees technical skills, I am not sure you can teach them the traits outlined above.  What I find interesting is that the majority of the employees I come across in said stores seem to all have the same type of positive attitude.  Hats off to the leaders of these stores for recruiting front line employees with the “right attitude”.  I suspect employee pay at these grocery stores is higher than at others.  If so, this is a great example of why paying more to recruit talented employees is worth it.  I am sure there are many other factors at play beyond salary.  Whatever they are, there is something to be learned from these companies and their recruiting policies.  People often talk about the great service provided by Nordstrom.  I believe employees at Central Market, Whole Foods, and Market Street are another example of how recruiting employees with the right attitude can positively impact financials.  Because of these employees, I gladly drive out of my way and spend more than I typically would on groceries.  I think the image I found below drives home the point.  Your thoughts?

 

Regards,

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart
https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/

and instead start talking with them.  When I make presentations I always remind myself (and others) not to talk to the crowd, but instead talk with them.  Engage them in the presentation and you might find yourself participating in a robust discussion instead of another ho-hum presentation.  I know, easier said than done.

The same holds true in interacting with your customers.  The more you talk with them, the more engaged they are,  and the more likely they will be to share your product / service with others.  I recently read a couple of books that prompted this post.  They are “Contagious” by Jonah Berger who teaches at Wharton and “Highly Recommended” by Paul Rand.  A quick side note, the book written by the professor (Berger) is well done and does not come across in a professorial manner.  Reads more like a general strategy book.  On the other hand, the non-professor’s book (Rand) definitely reads like a professorial tome.  Somewhat didactic in nature as well.  But I digress.  In general, both of these books are good and focus on the same end goal, which is how products and services catch on with the masses.  They are also both somewhat critical of Gladwell’s Tipping Point and I must admit more insightful.

I am not going to bore you with passages from each book, but focus on what I think is the most important aspect, which also happens to jibe with my experience.  There are clearly a number of offline and online methods (Berger and Rand do a good job of describing) that a company can use to facilitate customer interaction.  Whether you are soliciting ideas from customers or engaging them in contests of some sort, you may find yourself 2-3 steps ahead of the competition.  Many companies have facebook pages, twitter accounts, etc.  Many companies do a fine job of pushing information to customers via these channels, but how many provide a meaningful mechanism for feedback?  More importantly, how many provide a meaningful mechanism for interaction?  Take a step back from your day-to-day responsibilities and consider what activities you can influence so that your organization can better engage customers.  What things can you do to influence “word of mouth” about the product or service you provide? Advertising has been around for quite some time, but an endorsement from another customer (an engaged customer) is much more powerful than a paid advertisement.

So, Stop Talking to Your Customers…And Instead Start Talking With Them

 

Rindge Leaphart

http://www.linkedin.com/in/rindgeleaphart
https://rindgeleaphart.wordpress.com/

 

This might be my last post on the particular subject.  I had a discussion the other day with an executive at a flexible packaging  / label firm.  The discussion reminded me of the fact that some industries can’t just add labor and more hours when trying to improve on-time delivery (OTD).  Industries that rely on labor for assembly / manufacturing can put in overtime to get back on schedule.  Some industries, though, that rely more on machinery and the capacity of that machinery find it harder to stay on schedule and especially get back on schedule.  Since I started off with a comment on the label company, let me expand.  In a printing or label industry you have to keep your presses running.  Changing over jobs on presses can take anywhere from 3-6 hours if not more depending on the complexity of the job.  In my experience it is particularly challenging to stay on track with the promises you have made customers.

The best way to stay on schedule is to stay on schedule.  What I mean by that, is that your operations team, especially your planners have to OWN the schedule.  You cannot let sales own the schedule.  Salespeople are typically concerned with what their customers want and may not be very concerned with the overall health (OTD) of the system and how the business is performing for other customers.  Customers always have unplanned needs.  That is the way the world works.  My view is that a business should do their best to assist with the unplanned needs of their customers.  Having flexibility (some excess capacity) in your system is key to responding to emergency needs.  But sometimes the emergency requests become normal and it throws the entire business off schedule.  Sales people should always feel free to call and jockey for improved deliveries or assistance with rush orders.  But, the planners should own the schedule and have final say with input from management.  If you fall into the trap of letting sales dictate your schedule, then your OTD and customer satisfaction will suffer.

Managing the business and rush orders is a delicate balance that is fraught with issues.  That is why management must coalesce around what the goals of the business are and who has what responsibility.  Once again, no knock on sales.  They are a lifeblood of an organization.  But once that job is dropped into the funnel, it is time for operations to do their thing and keep the business on schedule.

Rindge Leaphart

During my last post (http://wp.me/p2kKle-C), I discussed On-time Delivery (OTD), its importance, and a key step to improving OTD.  Let me take a quick step back.  The thoughts that I am sharing are not brilliant strategic insights.  They are insights learned over the years about how to significantly improve operational performance.  As stated in my earlier post, many small to medium sized companies don’t focus on these small ideas, which deliver outsized gains.  These posts are focused on doing the seemingly little things that need to be done to make sure the big things (revenue generation, customer satisfaction, etc) get done.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

So you have kicked of your production meeting.  What is next? Or more appropriately, what other activities should you be working in parallel?  Before I move on to answering that, I want to stress the importance of guidance, leadership, and behavior modelling to attendees of the production meeting.  If you have a need to put a meeting like this in place, there is a good probability that people are not accustomed to performing at the level your organization wants or needs.  People may not have an idea of what they should and shouldn’t do.  People may not be sure what to do when they reach a crossroad and have to make a decision to improve performance. With regards to crossroad, I am not referring to a moral dilemma, but instead a business dilemma.  This is where your leadership is most important.  At the early stages of the production meetings you have to consistently and constantly model the behavior you want them to emulate.  You have to demonstrate to them your thinking process when it comes to making decisions.  You have to show them how to do the right thing and not the easy thing.  You don’t want them to become clones of you, but you want them to think and do things differently than what they were doing.  Many people don’t need to be told what to do, but they do need to be taught how to fish.  I do believe this is quite important because it sets the tone for the organization. It also pushes people outside of their proverbial comfort zone and causes them to start thinking differently, and hopefully acting differently.

Okay, I’m off of my soap box.  In conjunction with the production meetings, you probably need to do things differently in your purchasing organization as well. Over time, I have come to find that organizations neglect the data in their ERP/MRP systems.  As such, the data is outdated and causes havoc within your system.  I strongly suggest that the purchasing team scrub the data in the system.  Specifically, scrub lead times to make sure they are accurate.  Scrub buyer codes and make sure each part has a valid buyer code for someone in the purchasing organization.  It never fails that an organization overlooks the purchase of a critical part because it had a buyer code of someone who no longer works for the company.  While you are at it, make sure the manufacturing group is also scrubbing your Bill of Materials (BOM) to insure that routings, revision numbers, etc are all correct.  Cleansing the data is a time consuming task, but it has to be done.  My view has always been to get it done as quickly as possible. Please do not overlook the importance of cleansing your system data.  It is neither fun nor easy, but it pays huge dividends.

I will discuss other steps in future posts.

Rindge Leaphart