Nice supply chain, shame about the service

I had already thought of the headline for this article and was about to write it this morning when I saw on the BBC News web site the headline “Firms ignore customer screams“.

The BBC article examines research by business consultants, RSM Robson Rhodes, that suggests top UK companies could be losing £20bn due to the negative impact of efficiency drives on customer service and that many CEOs do not realise that they need to align their business strategies to the needs of their customers – a move that could improve their profitability. The article continues that the CBI is urging business leaders “to take heed and boost profits by listening to their customers’ demands”.

With experience of measuring customer service quality standards in a previous role with a major UK airline, I find it incomprehensible that any CEO of a large organistion should forget for one minute that customers are the most important people for their business. Without customers, they have no business.

Of all the business courtesy issues highlighted by pleaseandthanks, including marketing techniques and employee management, the most crucial is the trend for large companies to focus on their supply chain, while neglecting their customers.

Many modern businesses are not customer-led, product-led or even marketing-led, they are led by supply chain efficiency. The actual products and services are irrelevant to them, as long as delivery is achieved efficiently and at the lowest cost.

Supply chain efficiency, robust and effective processes and accountability to shareholders should all play an important part in a successful modern business, but customer service and satisfaction must always come first.

Simply considering how customers want to be treated and responding to this are acts of courtesy; they also add value for any business. A contented customer who has enjoyed the experience of dealing with a company, of using its products and services, is more likely to do so again, and to tell family, friends and colleagues about their experience.

Customer loyalty, now associated with rewards and collecting points, is actually about generating the feeling in a person that they want to give you repeat business without even being asked – isn’t that a cheap way of marketing? It costs nothing – delivering unbeatable efficiency and return on investment.

Courtesy costs nothing, but can have a massive impact on business performance.

RSM Robson Rhodes’ research and the CBI’s message are to be welcomed and applauded.

Perhaps, at last, businesses will listen to what customers have been saying for so long: “treat us courteously and we will buy from you again and again”.

Those companies who do will surely see great benefits.

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