Much has been written in business publications recently regarding communication, it’s certainly an ongoing problem in our industry, specifically, effective communication!
In the past few months there have been a number of surveys distributed to independent manufacturers’ representatives by Principal Companies. The topics covered vary but the common thread running through virtually all of them was how to improve customer service, while increasing sales and market share.
Many proposals were addressed; increased advertising, better literature, enhanced websites, new products, more frequent sales meetings, better sales training, to name a few. But it seems that the simplest and single most important ingredient to assure success, within any organization, is to maximize the already existing systems and programs and strive for more effective communication.
With the advent of new technology & services, Fax Machines, Voice Mail, E-mail, Express Mail and old standbys like FedEx and UPS Overnight, it would seem that communication would no longer be a problem, but it comes down to people and how they use the tools available to them.
Let’s review a few of the most common frustrations;
Faxes; an urgent fax is transmitted and seems to disappear. With no response, the sender is left to ponder if it was ever received.
Voice mail; How many times have you received a voice mail simply indicating who called, no message, no telephone number, nothing? What action can be taken? None! Have you ever called an individual with whom you have left a detailed voice mail to be told that their assistant listens to their voice mail for them and simply leaves a message that you called, with none of the detailed information you delivered? How many times have you left an urgent voice mail and received no call back?
E-mail; A wonderful tool if you have a computer available to you at all times, or if you are fortunate enough to have the new miniature wireless equipment. If, however, you are like most of us and “on the road”, in your automobile, at a pay telephone, on a jobsite, in a sales call, it doesn’t do much to assist in receiving critical information, in a timely fashion.
Express Mail, FedEx, UPS Next Day; You go to the trouble to secure, package and rush the drawings, samples, or pertinent literature to the recipient and receive no response. You place a call and discover that the material was received a few days ago, but nobody has taken the time to review the contents.
It’s obvious that the best tools available are only as good as the individuals using them. It would appear that the most efficient and immediate manner in which to improve customer service, to increase sales and market share, is to utilize the existing tools, and systems in a more efficient manner.
A good approach is to create a standard protocol within an organization to address each of the important components that together create communication. Put the plan in writing and be certain that all involved in the implementation of the program receive a copy, and buy into the concept.
Components of an effective policy should include but not be limited to:
- A named individual to receive the telephone call, E-mail, fax, or package delivery by specific category; General questions, Technical Questions, Pricing Requests, or Sample Requests.
- A specific policy regarding expected response time by the named recipient, for each of the classifications.
- A specific procedure to confirm receipt of the communication by the recipient to the sender, in writing. By return fax or Email.
- An established follow-up policy if there are questions, comments or clarifications required, prior to furnishing the requested items. Don’t let them simply sit on a desk, ignored, if there is confusion. Ask the questions, secure the answers and respond promptly.
The best products in the industry accompanied by the most effective advertising policy available, will not assure increased sales and market penetration. Effective communication is the key component.
These concepts apply to all facets of our industry, Manufacturers, Contractors, Distributors or Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives. We all rely upon communication to make a living. Take a moment to review your company policies, discuss them with your team, ask questions, develop procedures, and train the members of the team to become effective participants.
The fantastic new tools that we have available to us today are only as effective as those using them. Before investing in dramatic changes in you organization, be sure to maximize your existing capabilities. Work closely with other CISCA Members, we are all in this together!
William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award