Technology & Supply Chain Relationships with Customers & Suppliers

Customer Services

Good customer service spans all your business processes, from dealing promptly and accurately with initial sales enquiries, through processing orders quickly and efficiently, to delivering on time. Whatever type of supply chain you are involved with, all these processes will work better if you and your customers can speak clearly to one another.

Managing customer relationships effectively

A number of things need to happen if you are going to manage your customer relationships successfully.These include:

  • Having accurate information Ensure that the information you have about customers is accurate. If you have the wrong details, you are unlikely to be dealing with the right person.
  • Tailoring contacts Send the right information to the right kind of customer. Selected, targeted information is less likely to annoy people, and more likely to reach the customers you want it to.
  • Customising the experience Technology now exists that allows you to offer customers a fully customised experience, meaning they can tell you exactly what they want and enable you to supply it, thus increasing sales and customer return.
  • Responding quickly A quick response shows commitment and good organisation, giving the customer an impression of efficiency and the sense that their custom is valued.
  • Keeping in touch Follow up initial enquiries, constantly update your product information, and make sure that existing customers know what you are up to. We all know that it’s always cheaper to keep an existing customer than to find a new one.
  • Collaborating right through the supply chain Closer collaboration with both suppliers and customers can help you plan production and manage stock levels more effectively, and make you and your suppliers that much more responsive to customer needs. Operating compatible systems will make this run more smoothly. Such collaboration needs trust, and may well involve investment in new technology solutions, but can impact very positively on your bottom line.

Customer Services Best Practice Implementation Plan

1 Identify the key customer service issues you wish to address

  • Involve staff and customers in this process.
  • Where do you want to improve?
  • What extra services would you like to offer?

2 Take a closer look at your existing processes and technology

  • What does your business do well in terms of customer service, and where might it be falling behind?
  • Consider how you could improve your current use of technology, and how upgrading or replacing technology might help.
  • Examine the costs – remember that outsourcing is an option if you want to avoid up-front capital outlay.

3 Consider technology solutions

  • If your organisation hasn’t got a website, you need to think seriously about getting one. A good website needn’t be complex: the simplest sites, easy to load and with clear, useful links often work best. Include an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) feature, which may save you and the customer time spent dealing with routine enquiries. Website design packages are available to help you set up your own site, or design can be outsourced at reasonable cost.
  • If you have a website, make sure it is clearly integrated with the rest of your business. Ideally, your marketing and customer relations functions should be linked, so you can respond quickly to trends. Consider making your site an end-to-end experience for customers – allowing them to browse, make enquiries, place orders and buy online. Most people are happy to buy online these days – are you equipped to cater for them?
  • Consider taking things even further with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System. Reduced prices and a wider variety of packages mean that CRM software is now a viable option for most businesses, whatever their size.
  • CRM systems allow you to integrate your customer service functions with all other aspects of your business. What you learn from your customers via the web, e-mail or phone can be stored on a central database. This database can be mined for marketing information, and may be linked to an Opportunity Management System (OMS) that can turn this knowledge into new business.

4 Improve customer service across your business

  • Look at each business process in your company, from product development to delivery. Consider how you can improve customer service in each area. For example, you could get customer input on product development, or provide customised, easy-to-fill-out order forms on your website.

5 Improve customer service across your supply chain

  • Ensure there is constant dialogue between yourself, your customers and your suppliers.
  • Use every available channel – phone, text messaging, e-mail, the internet – to keep your customers informed about your business. Ask to be kept informed about theirs, and act upon what you are told. This will build closer relationships, and they will see you as being more proactive.
Technology & Supply Chain Relationships with Customers & Suppliers business advice – Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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