How a Supplier Becomes a Partner

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Customer service tactics that add value to your customer relationships — and your products.

A great product only takes you so far.  Especially when that product is castings. In a world filled with increasingly-sophisticated competitors who can match or beat your best prices, you need to add value and differentiation any way you can.  And one of the best ways is through superior customer service.

With excellent customer service, you become more than simply a source for castings, forced to compete on price and delivery. You are a resource that solves problems, creates opportunities, and provides peace of mind.  You differentiate yourself from the competition — while isolating yourself from competitive pressures that reduce margins and lose contracts.

Andy Schelke, Director of Business Development for Non Ferrous Cast Alloy, Inc., has a list of six tactics that any foundry, large or small, can use to enhance customer service effectiveness.

Make it company-wide.  A commitment to customer service needs to be part of your company’s DNA.  Everyone, from the front office to the foundry floor, needs to have a customer-focused attitude to ensure the best possible service outcomes.

Put yourself in their shoes.  Empathy, patience, attention — and a willingness to admit mistakes — are the hallmarks of good customer service.  Treat the customer the way you’d want to be treated if you were the one with an issue.

Be the expert (Or an expert at finding the expert).  Your customer is counting on you to answer questions and find solutions.  Be as knowledgeable as possible, not just of your company and products, but also of the customer’s needs and situation.  And when that’s not enough, have a network of other experts you can consult who’ll know what to do.

Turn your customer into the hero. All your customers have one thing in common: they have people they need to keep happy — a boss, a customer, the rest of their team.  Always look for things you can do to improve your customers’ performance.  Make your customer look genius for choosing your company.

Go above and beyond. If there’s a problem to be solved — or an opportunity to be created — don’t stop until the customer is as satisfied as possible. Look for ways to exceed expectations; it’s the best way to build customer loyalty.

Encourage customer feedback. You need to get all the input you can from happy and unhappy customers. Criticism and complaint can spur improvements; praise lifts morale and indicates strengths you can build on; advice gives you a great insight into your customers’ needs and state of mind.

“We’re always looking for better ways to serve our customers’ needs,” Schelke says.  “There is nothing more important to establishing an effective partnership than a supplier clearly understanding the customer’s needs.  We’ve found that effective and concise communication is the main component for developing exceptional customer service.  This strategy has proven to serve our customers and us well.  Ultimately, it enables us to be more flexible, cost-effective, responsive, and efficient, which equates to happy customers.  Every great customer service strategy delivers the same outcome: it builds long-term relationships… which both parties benefit from.”