Crack the Customer Code – what they REALLY want

To gain your ideal customer’s business and retain it for the long term – you need to be able to figure out exactly what they want often before they even know themselves…. here’s how to crack the code and get started!

Don’t guess.

Don’t assume.

Don’t do what the other guy is doing.

Do some research – inside and outside your company.

Do some discussion – inside and outside your company. Figure out the performance their customers expect from them. You have a lot of data on this already. Review:

  • records to figure out why they expedited orders
  • notes from complaints made to customer service
  • your delivery and logistics personnel’s knowledge about what this customer expects.

Then take a look at what the customer is proclaiming to the world in marketing taglines, the strategy embedded in a 10k, and the promises being made on the website.

But don’t stop there. You need to ask them directly. Face-to-face, even CEO-to-CEO if they are big enough. Tell them the insights you’ve gained and your understanding of their performance requirements of you.

They will be impressed at your work, amazed at your insights, and ready to talk in meaningful ways. And that means you need to have a standard, easy to understand, industry recognized set of performance attributes ready to discuss.

This conversation positions you and your company as the trusted leaders that they need to do business with.

  • You buy more from those you trust
  • You integrate more with companies you trust

This discussion also provides you with valuable data that you can take back to your company, embed into processes, and enhance the customer experience even further. To stay aligned and to keep the trust, your company will be using the same performance attributes you just discussed.

Here they are:

  1. ReliabilityThe right part at the right place at the right time with the right quantity made to the right specifications…

    It’s what you capture in a contract. If you can’t provide it, then don’t promise it.

  2. ResponsivenessReduce cycle times for ever faster service. This is the “Amazon” play.
  3. AgilityKnow your capacity and that of your extended supply chain. Once you do, you can flexibly adjust as demand changes without hurting your supply chain or yourself.

    How agile are you?

  4. CostHow efficiently are you using your cash? How does your cash-to-cash cycle stack up against your industry? Your competitors? Your goals?
  5. Asset ManagementHow efficiently are you using all that stuff you paid cash for? Are you tracking it so you really know?

First, pick your strategic performance attribute. Only one. This is the tie-breaker, the one that always wins if you have to decide between attributes, the one you tout loudly and clearly to your customers.

Second, embed this attribute focus in all of your processes. No exception. Alignment prevents promising one thing, measuring another, and expecting a third.

Nor will you bring in customers you can’t service in the way they want to be served. Why? Because their expectations do not match the performance you deliver. And this is where your earlier insights and discussions come into play. You know who they are even better than they know themselves.

Remember, the narrower you focus, the more business you get.

And beautiful things happen when the supplier and the customer both know exactly what is wanted and each can state it in ways the other company understands the exact same way.

Great things like:

  • Visibility
  • Lower costs (without focusing on them)
  • Our pick of outstanding companies for our supply chains
  • Much lower employee stress
  • No expediting
  • Larger top lines
  • Bigger bottom lines

How did this happen? It happened because you know your focus, your expertise, and have embedded them into your processes so that you can achieve amazing results as shown in your performance metrics.

AND BAM! You’ve just added huge competitive value to your company and impressed the high-level decision-makers who like, trust, and respect you already, but were beginning to have doubts.

They doubt no more.

Key words and concepts: supply chain, metrics, alignment, flexibility, agile, agility, responsiveness, reliable, cost, competitive value

About the author: Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky with Process & Strategy consults with and provides training for organizations eager to increase their competitive value by helping enable growth, align performance, make and move product (even when the product is electrons). She is teaching SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference model) in Baton Rouge this October. SCOR is the framework Fortune 500 companies use to increase their performance.


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