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September 20, 2004

Hi, welcome back. 

Customer service is much more than getting the order 
and shipping on time. It's only one of the battles 
in winning customers. To win the competitive war for 
“supplier of choice”, a company must provide superior 
customer service. 

Technology will get most customers interested in your
product or service. Price and availability will enter 
into the first buy decision. But when it comes to the 
most important requisite in a customer satisfaction 
initiative, "Customer Connectivity" is the focus of 
the winners.

If your company has not yet to achieve six sigma (more 
about six sigma in a future bulletin)in its pursuit 
of customer satisfaction, you'll want to be sure to 
read this week's bulletin. 

Have a nice day, keep the faith, and stay connected.

Bill Gaw
Business Basics, LLC
bg@bbasicsllc.com
760-945-5596

=================================================
BEST MANUFACTURING PRACTICES BULLETIN

Now serving over 6261 subscribers

Competitive Knowledge for Manufacturing People 
=================================================

CUSTOMER CONNECTIVITY
How to Provide Superior Customer Service. 

The reality of customer responsiveness is in the eyes 
of the beholder - the customer. The sooner we realize 
and accept our customers' perceptions of our products 
and services as reality, and accept it as our 
challenge, the sooner we will earn their confidence 
and become their permanent supplier of choice.

Customer connectivity represents a set of business 
processes touching on all aspects of the company. 
Customer satisfaction is a great deal more than the 
clichés "getting close to customers" and the motto 
"the customer is always right". Since some companies 
sell to a variety of customers with varying and even 
conflicting desires and needs, the goal of getting 
close to the customers, and the motto that "the 
customer is always right", are somewhat vague. 

We have also found no meaningful business philosophy 
in the terms "market driven" and "customer oriented". 
Most business gurus use the phrases interchangeably 
and have difficulty in defining and communicating 
their scope and meaning. Successful business leaders 
go beyond these clichés and strive to provide their 
selected customers with products and services under 
the business philosophy of Customer Connectivity. 

Because different customers have different needs, a 
company cannot effectively satisfy this wide range of 
needs equally. The most important strategic decision 
in the pursuit of Customer Connectivity is to choose 
the most important customers. All customers are 
important, but invariably some are more important than 
others. Collaboration among the various functions is 
important when pinpointing key target accounts and 
market segments. 

This done, sales people know whom to call on first and 
most often, the people who schedule production runs 
know who gets favored treatment; those who make service 
calls know who rates special attention. If the 
priorities are not made clear in the calm of planning 
meetings, they certainly won't be when the sales, 
production scheduling and service dispatching processes 
get hectic. 

Customer connectivity starts with customer selection 
however, the next phase is just as important. Company 
executives must gain a thorough understanding of 
their customers' buying influences and their relevant 
needs. Such customer information must be communicated 
by these executives beyond the sales and marketing 
functions and permitted to "permeate every business 
function" - the R&D and design engineers, manufacturing
folks, quality people and field-service specialists. 

When these technologists, for example, get unvarnished 
feedback on the way customers use their products, they 
can better develop improvements on the products and the 
production processes. If, on the other hand, market 
people predigest the information, technologists may 
miss opportunities for improvements.

Customer connectivity must be predicated on team 
dynamics and commitment. Serial communications, when 
one department passes an idea or request to another 
routinely, without interaction can't build the team 
dynamics and commitment needed for Customer 
Connectivity. Successful new products don't, for 
example, emerge out of a process in which marketing 
sends a set of specifications to R&D; R&D sends the 
conceptual design to design engineering which sends 
finished blueprints and designs to manufacturing. 

But joint design/development reviews and decision-
making, in which customer and supplier functional and 
divisional people share ideas and discuss alternative 
solutions and approaches, leverages the different 
strengths of each party. Powerful internal and external 
connections make new product development communications 
clear, coordination strong and commitment high. 

Establishing effective business relationships with key 
customer personnel is paramount to making it easy for 
customers to do business with your company. From the 
shop floor to the front office, we must establish "one-
on-one" customer communications that provide real-time 
customer input relative to business relations, product 
performance, and field service. We must convert these 
communications to action plans and put forth our best 
effort to quickly resolve all issues. 

Let's remember that being nice to people is just 20% of 
providing good customer service. The important part is 
designing systems that allow you to do the job right the 
first time. All the smiles in the world are not going to 
help you if your products or service are unsatisfactory. 

Individual and team direct-line communications with 
customers is the best approach to obtaining timely 
and relevant "how are we doing" feedback from customers. 
Customer satisfaction surveys are tedious, possibly 
supplier biased and not very accurate in their customer 
service portrayal. We prefer a "one-on-one" customer 
connectivity system! 


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