Why not aim to provide the kind of positive experience that your customers get from their favorite suppliers — throughout their personal and business lives?
Look for ways to make it easy for customers to do business with you.
Making it easy to do business can change your customer relationships in the most fundamental way, and it will help you to keep more of your existing business and win more new business as well.
Start by looking at the most basic ways in which you do business. Are there things that get in the way of positive customer experiences? Of course, it’s helpful to offer flexible scheduling and a fast delivery cycle, and a fast and easy ordering process can’t hurt. But you can go far beyond those basic elements.
What gets in the way of positive customer experiences?
Even routine products or services can be enhanced without changing the product itself. Car dealers understand there’s no unique way to perform an oil change or wheel alignment, so they focus on making the rest of their customers’ experience better — making it easy to schedule the appointment, check in, pick up and pay.
They turn something ordinary into something special and make customers feel good about the entire experience, from start to finish. They make the experience more important than the product itself, and wind up with happy (and profitable) service customers who are much more likely to buy their next vehicle from that dealership.
Steps for improving customer experience
You can affect your customers’ experience in countless ways. What stands in the way of you delivering a truly superior experience?
Most companies get lost in the uncharted territory that lies between good intentions and good implementation. You’ll need real tenacity to make some fundamental changes, but the pay-offs can be really large.
- Start by streamlining and/or automating your ordering process. Eliminate handoffs and resting places in your order-processing by creating online portals for clients with recurring work, and by using other portals to automate simple jobs that shouldn’t require human intervention or analysis.
- Reduce turnaround time for proofs. Start by eliminating paper proofs. (You’re hanging on to old bad habits if you’re still producing more than 10% paper proofs.) And stop working around clients’ native file formats.
Create a streamlined pathway for proofs through an automated file submission portal — so clients can submit and pre-flight their files on-line. This will squeeze time and costs out of schedules while also making it easier for the clients.
- Reduce your turnaround time for quotes. Aim for completing 80% of your quotes in four hours. It’s a competitive advantage that makes a real difference.
Only about 25% of your quotes require the skills of a professional estimator. Simpler quotes can be done by the people who do your order entry. You can make the entire process even easier and faster by creating templates or standard products. Many companies have found this simple step has reduced their turnaround time for routine quotes by 50% or more.
- Don’t count on production miracles to deliver on time. Be realistic about scheduling from the outset and eliminate unproductive calls to clients, asking whether it’s okay to deliver little late. (It’s time to stop that behavior. They’ll say YES, but your relationship will be dented.)
- Have information on job status more easily at hand, so clients don’t have to wait for answers. Consider using a portal to offer clients a view of where their job is in the production process. (And as your delivery promises become more reliable, clients will relax, dramatically cutting back their questions on job status.)
- Connect with your clients. Acknowledge that client continuing orders are just as valuable as their first order. Demonstrate your appreciation for every order, and seek out signs of approval from them, by giving them a convenient way to make suggestions.