For many years the global logistics industry has been hammering the nail in it’s own coffin with price being the battleground and the race to the bottom the weapon of choice.
Innovation died and customers were left wounded from the many cuts of short-termism and bitter experience once the initial sweetness of low price had worn off. Customers got stuck on a carousel trying in vain to find a better partner, more aligned with their vision and values, to forge a long-lasting relationship with - but how to stand out in a saturated market where everyone is wielding the price axe, swinging it around their head like some kind of possessed Viking?
But what’s the lasting damage?
The household names tightened their grip, taking advantage of a global pandemic by filling gaps left by bankrupt forwarders faster than a track and test result.
How did SME’s react?
They sank more and more hours into each day, trying to keep up with an increasing and ever sporadic amount of admin from customers who, like themselves, suddenly found themselves thrust into being a teacher, referee, entertainer and full time domestic assistant. But is this sustainable? How do you keep up?
Tip 1. What Customers want.
Have you asked? I mean ever? Not just 5 years ago when you met at an event, shared a few beers and heard their lost shipment horror story to win their business.
What’s important to them?
Is price the bee all and end all, or do they value your unwavering commitment to making sure they’re looked after and that even when they ask for the impossible, that you’ll be there to make sure it happens for them?
You don’t have to be Mel Gibson with the insight into the inner monologue of every woman in the world, but just make sure that you’re speaking with your customers. Ask them for feedback, even if you might not like the answer so you can work with them to find a solution, otherwise your hard-earned customer will join the price-race bandwagon.
Tip 2. How are they doing?
Similar to finding out what’s important to your customer to preserve your relationship, have you asked how their business is doing at the moment? Are they facing any challenges that you can help with, or as some businesses are finding, they’ve never been busier and need additional help that you can help with. Keeping close to your customers and being top of mind isn’t just sending them a bottle of their favourite Scotch every year at Christmas. Joey’s famous 3 words are a key question to be asking your customers, and companies who you’d like to work with to find out what problems they’re facing to see if you’re the right fit to work together moving forwards.
Tip 3. Save time - it’s precious.
The most precious commodity is time. It’s the only thing in the world that you can’t buy or replace and not everyone has the luxury of Alex Ferguson’s watch to find that winning goal in the dying seconds of the game. Look at your processes. How long does it take you from email to booking for each client request? How often do you and your team do this every day? If you need a calculator then you’re working bloody hard but I’m sorry to say, you’re not working smart and there’s much room for improvement. Manually processing data sucks the life out of employees, kills the businesses profitability and greatly increases the chance of human error being made throughout your business. What would it mean to your employees if they could spend even 1 hour less on data processing each week? Equally important, what would it mean to your bottom line?
Tip 4. Make it all about the Customer.
Think back. How many times has something happened where you’ve thought - well that should have been a hell of a lot easier!
Car parking machines are my pet peeve and councils the primary culprits. Who carries £12.75 in exact change to pay for parking that seems to go up by a random figure every time you visit?! Wireless card machines have been around since the 1990’s yet why do councils seem so averse to having them? People are happy to pay for convenience and value of service, so why not offer it to them… if you don’t, your competitors will!
Put yourself in your customers shoes, how easy is it for them to work with you? How much effort do they have to invest in working with you?
Do they have to phone you to track their shipments? Does it take 3 and and forth emails to book a shipment? And I’m sorry, but if you’re still using a fax machine you might as well get on the next bus to Bedrock.
How much value would they put in having an online portal to submit bookings, track shipments and communicate with you directly on specific bookings, all in one place. If you don’t know, refer back to Tip 1 and ask them!
Tip 5. Network. Network. Network.
For most of us we’ve been staring at the same 4 walls for the best part of a year. Trade shows, industry conferences and networking events seem like such distant memories as school assemblies but that hasn’t stopped the need to network.
Platforms like LinkedIn are amazing places for networking to meet like-minded people, share ideas and even learn a thing or two. Plus, they’re great for finding and winning business, but you’ve got to put yourself out there.
Lurk in the shadows and like a few posts, maybe sneak a comment in here and there before finally taking the plunge and put your own content out there for the world to see - but don’t make it a sales pitch about yourself or your company as no-one wants to be pitch-slapped whilst they’re scrolling with a coffee.
Join the conversation, become a solution to the problem and see how many customers you pick up along the way, you might just surprise yourself.
2020 was a challenge and 2021 hasn’t started much better but by taking small steps you and your business can come out of your covid chrysalis and lean, mean, future ready customer satisfaction machine!