Sunday, August 5, 2012

How To Provide Outstanding Delivery

How To Provide Outstanding Delivery
Sales and Delivery
Two concepts and departments that must work hand in hand to provide your customers with an optimum buying experience. Whether you are in retail, wholesale, manufacturing, or service, the sales and delivery of your products and services will make or break your company.
Why is it then that so many companies fail to provide outstanding delivery of their services?
Is it because they have made conscious choices to annoy the customer?
Is it because they don't understand the importance of the final delivery to the customer?
Or, is it because they have lost focus on the customer?
My guess is that it is the latter of these three. As companies grow and expand, specialization begins to emerge as a method to streamline processes and improve the quality and consistency of product delivery. So Sales makes a sale and then turns it over to the "delivery machine". Sometimes that delivery machine is the checkout line at the front of your store. Other times it is a production department that has to manufacture and deliver your product. But in any case, it is not often that the sales person and the delivery person are one and the same, and that means handing off the customer to someone else in the organization.
Why is this important?
Because sales in the 21st century has changed from where it was only 5 or 10 years ago. Today, sales is much more about relationships and focus on the customer than it is about product. Many stores sell exactly the same products. Many service companies have products that are either indistinguishable from each other, or have qualities that are not easily measured.
In truth, many products have become commodities, much to the dismay of all involved.
So why should someone choose to buy from company A versus company B?
Because of the relationship that has been built between the sales person and the customer.
Think about why you shop at a certain grocery store or go back to a certain auto mechanic. 99% of the products are the same from one store to the next. Yes, in some cases convenience might be an issue. Yet you tend to favor certain stores, not because they carry Cherry Pop Tarts, but because the store appears cleaner and brighter, it's easy to do business there, and most importantly because the people there treat you better. Hence the customer/company relationship.
When your sales team hands over a sale to your delivery team, that relationship can be jeopardized if the delivery area fails to recognize their responsibility to the customer and their ultimate responsibility, not as a delivery group, but as an extension of the sales process and therefore the sales team.
Your delivery organization must think of themselves as an extension of the sales team. Their job is just as much about nurturing the relationship with the customer as every other part of the company. And to nurture that relationship takes time and commitment from the company as a whole.
In other words, the company/customer relationship commitment starts at the very top of your company and then extends down. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the company to foster the understanding of the customer/company relationship and give all of the players involved the processes, systems, and VISION required to turn that vision into reality.
Sales is now much more relationship based than it had been in the past and that means that your sales process no longer starts and stops with the sales team. In the 21st century, everyone that touches the customer (and many who do not) is now part of the sales process. And as such they need the same type of training, commitment, and customer focus that your sales team has. Failure to understand that commitment results in confusing operating results as sales plummets and customers become less, not more satisfied.
Let me give you a true to life example of how this happened to a company that I worked for years ago. I was working in the back office of a department store chain. Sales were bad and getting worse. Revenue was declining and losses were accumulating. The Executive Team got together to create a battle plan. More money was provided to the Buyers (those folks who buy the goods that sit on the shelves), and more money was given to the Advertising and Marketing teams to help create promotions that would bring more people into the stores. The Buyers were told that it was up to them to buy the right goods that the customers wanted to buy. The pressure on them was enormous as they flew off to various lands to find "the next hot thing".
In the same meeting, it was decided that all operational organizations needed to cut their expenses by 10%. Layoffs resulted in Accounting (1 person), Housekeeping (3 people), Warehousing (5 people), Store Department Managers (1 per store) and last but not least, Sales Associates (2 - 10 per store, depending on size).
You can probably guess what happened.
The Buyers did their jobs and purchased a wide variety of popular items, negotiated hard on the terms, and had them shipped to the warehouse. But the warehouse manager was short staffed and had problems getting the merchandise to the stores. When the sales advertisements hit the paper, not all of the goods were available. But the ads were good and customers came into the stores. Unfortunately the depleted sales staff was too busy doing merchandise counts for the nervous buyers to be of any real help to the excited customers. Department Managers, tried to shift resources in the stores, but found that the sales associates didn't know the merchandise, or any intricacies about how their "new" department operated.
Sales continued to decline, merchandise was marked down and sold at a loss, and the layoffs continued. They eventually went bankrupt.
The Buyers in retail are treated like the Sales Teams in many companies. When times get tough in retail, more money is allocated to Buyers to get customers into the stores. When times get tough in other organizations, more money is allocated to Sales to get more customer orders.
But cutbacks of those groups that touch the customers, or assigning them duties (like counting merchandise) that take away from their primary, customer-oriented responsibilities, look good on paper, but ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the organization.
Increasing focus on sales and decreasing focus on delivering on your promises is a recipe for disaster.
How do you get the two in synch?
First, start by understanding the relationship between Sales and Delivery. It doesn't do you any good to sell something that you cannot deliver. Likewise it does you no good to deliver something that is not what the customer wanted or ordered. That understanding needs to start at the top and filter down to every organization and every person in the company.
The commitment from the very top of the company must be that everyone who touches the customer is a part of the sales process and by definition, has a customer focus. That mantra needs to be continually reinforced across the company. It needs to be made clear to everyone in the company that the customer is really king. Anyone who touches the customer must have as their primary aim the satisfaction of the customer.
Next, reinforce that understanding by reviewing the organizational and departmental objectives to ensure that "indirect touches" of the customer are given the same weight that direct touches are. That applies to the Sales organization, the Delivery organization, Customer Support organization, Billing organization, Collections organization, and so on. It is up to the CEO/COO to ensure that the message is being received loud and clear to the entire management team and the entire company.
Ensure that departmental budgets and headcounts are related back to customer impact. Don't increase your sales force and then decrease your ability to deliver. And that means not confusing order efficiency (orders per person) with customer satisfaction.
Draw clear distinctions as to how customer touching employees will be rated and measured. Make sure that people who touch the customer are not measured on how many customers they touch, but how satisfied those customers are.
The trick here, if you will, is to figure out who touches the customer (satisfaction driven) and who does not (metrics driven). If you can do that you will go a long way to satisfying your customers and providing them with the services that they want and deserve.
David Meyer, owner of Coaching for Tomorrow, has more than 25 years of management and leadership experience, having worked for companies such as Nobil Shoes, McDonough, Allied Stores, MCI and Nextel Communications. His mantra, "You Win With People" is based on the deep-seated belief that hiring, developing, and promoting the right people can lead to organizational and financial success. As a management and leadership coach, David works to instill that same passion in his clients by helping them understand the importance of strong leadership, strong teamwork, and strong players.
David has a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Elmhurst College and has been certified by both ACTION International as a Business Coach and the Coach Training Alliance. He also has received his CTM from Toastmasters. He is an Officer in the Denver Coach Federation and a facilitator/trainer for the Coach Training Alliance and ACTION International of Colorado.

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