How do you like it when you're asked for your phone or account number during a service call by an automated phone system and then get asked to provide the same number again when you're finally connected to a real person? Makes you want to slam the phone down.
Do you find value in listening to advertising before getting connected to a series of menu options, before getting connected to a real person to help you, which is all you wanted in the first place? To cap off the irony, the call may be recorded for 'quality-control' purposes or use in training! What quality? This level of customer service is standard in the utility industry, where the penalty for losing me as a customer is fairly low, and may in fact be a benefit.
At the other end of the customer-service spectrum is ...
Executive summary: How do we learn to be more customer-centric? This article offers some key questions to evaluate how oriented your company is to customer issues. It also identifies traits successful customer-centric companies have in common.
Sure, good ole Joe has been calling on your biggest customer now for almost 20 years. He knows all of the managers by their first names. He has been to their kids' baseball games. He even knows the brand of beer they drink and their favorite restaurant in town. But does he know they are expanding their business in a market your products don't serve? Does he know they are courting potential acquirers? Can he explain to you why their business is down in two key, profitable categories for you?
Executive Summary: This article provides industrial manufacturers with three key strategies for managing their industrial channels. The strategies are built around results-oriented management of distributors based on customer needs and channel economics.
Industrial supply chains and marketing channels are being redrawn as e-business, consolidation, and integrated supply alter the relationship between manufacturer, distributor and customer. This evolution is much more complicated that the na've predictions that industrial distributors would be 'disintermediated' as customers and manufacturers established direct relationships. But how can manufacturers best leverage their existing industrial channels to grow in this era of uncertainty?
Executive summary: This article provides a composite case study that explores three key profitability areas for distributors: a) sales volume versus profitability, b) small order opportunities, and c) customer segmentation to create different service levels.
ABC Bakery Supply (ABC) is a $25M distributor with frustrated management. The company distributes bakery supplies to customer segments that produce baked goods in a channel that is over 100 years old. Although their sales volume is about 3 times greater than the average for a distribution center in the channel, the firm's - gross margin percent of 18.05%, operating profit margin of 1.15% and number of stocking units (3000+) - are quite typical.
Executive summary: The turnover rate of sales people is a constant concern for senior management. This article offers ways to stabilize the sales team, improve their performance and retain your top performers.
Understanding why sales people leave is critical. It is not money! In fact, studies validate that money is typically the last reason sales people move. Sales people leave when a whole set of other factors come into play that make the job of achieving their goals difficult to reach. Therefore, to retain the staff of sales performers that make the difference, management must institute fundamentally sound sales management practices.
The starting point
To begin with, sales managers must develop realistic goals and objectives with their team ...
Where is the growth going to come from? When? Those are primary questions on most distributors' minds right now. Sales are sputtering, an improvement over a few months ago. Conversation at the I.D.A. convention in Denver last week was optimistic compared to a few months ago; no one is bullish on the manufacturing customer base right now.
Ten years ago, there was a consolidation in the Northeast in the industrial customer base. We're hearing similar reports in the Midwest and elsewhere ﾖ both in the traditional automotive markets as well as other segments. Job shops are going away and not getting business back. Prototype work either has been moving more to computerized modeling or offshore. The same holds true for the moldmaking shops, which used to have a bedrock customer base that ...
Peg Fisher, a long-time industry consultant in distribution telesales, inside sales/customer service, and marketing, keeps in touch and offers her unique insight from time to time:
Perspective (MDM Apr. 25) brings up that oldﾠdistributor fall-back '...this is a people business where relationships with customers and vendors are critical.'ﾠFind me a legitimate business that isn't a people business. The question to be answered with continuously updated inputs is: How do customers define relationships that meet or exceed their expectations? Theirs is the only opinion that counts.
Though their opinions can run the gamut, likely they will reflectﾠthe general market trend toward less people-dependent contact and more 24/7 electronic contact services that meet their changed/changing ...
Executive summary: Fee-for-service will be a logical evolution of the traditional gross margin pricing model for the industrial distribution channel. Distributors and manufacturers need to strategically evaluate the outcomes of a fee-for-service world. This article presents three guidelines to predict the ultimate success or failure of service fees along with a scenario on how the channel could change if service fees work.
Distributors are understandably enthusiastic about new fee-for-service pricing models. Distribution exists to solve the problems that customers have in sourcing, acquiring, handling, and using products. Historically, they have been 'paid' for these specific tasks and functions in a marketing channel or supply chain in the form of gross …
Executive summary: This article looks at the biggest errors companies make relative to their outside sales compensation programs in lean times, the 'don'ts,' as well as the activities that companies should undertake, the 'do's.'
'Much of the squeeze on profit margins of domestic operations results from a rise in unit labor costs. Gains in compensation per hour picked up over the past year or so, responding to a long period of tight labor markets, the earlier acceleration of productivity, and the effects of an energy-induced run-up in consumer prices. The faster upward movement in hourly compensation, coupled with the cyclical slowdown in the growth of output per hour, has elevated the rate of increase in unit labor costs.'
Editor's note: This article is an excerpt from The Wholesale Distribution Customer Speaks, a book published this year by the Distribution Research and Education Foundation of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. The focus of the book is to gain customer perspectives on two trends: e-business and fee-based services. Please see below for ordering information.
Executive summary: This article outlines customer perspectives on two trends: online buying and fee-based services, as well as a methodology for building effective customer-research tools. Properly executed, customer conversations can produce valuable insights that can shape strategy, confirm or redefine your company's business model and position you to benefit from today's evolving marketplace. Your ...