Supply chain challenges and simple straightforward solutions
In a world of supply chain upheaval, we are short on more than just stuff. The ripple effects have touched every part of the economy. Manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and customers have all had their fill of these volatilities. Everyone complains to their counterpart further up the food chain, and everyone gets the same answer. Ultimately, it comes down to the customer and the business owner who can’t deliver on the goods.
As business owners, how are we supposed to handle all the delightful surprises handed to us by the supply chain crisis. Unfortunately, we can’t simply offer our customers a beer while they sit and wait for a table. However, I have learned a few different approaches that seem to work well.
Ultimately, customer desire to be in the know. They want to be as informed as you are, and they want to know what you have been doing to address their problems. Even if you haven’t been able to make any progress on their situation, a weekly text message or phone call commiserating your mutual misfortunes goes a long way. In the customer’s mind they fear being forgotten, losing their money, and never getting their project completed. Frequent contact will keep the lines of communication open and help you detect those fears.
Coinciding with good communication, compromise is the other avenue in this dreadful waiting game. As I have communicated with customers, I’ve had to do more listening then speaking. In many instances, I have realized the need to find the customer an alternate solution to their problem. Sometimes project completion is more important to the customer then ultimately getting what they want. This can mean finding an alternative product, redesigning the project without the missing componentry, or some other creative solution. We should always strive for customer satisfaction, and sometimes that requires compromise.
We have only been dealing with this crisis for the past 11 months. At this point we see the writing on the wall, and we should take heed. During the sales process, it becomes critical to clarify with prospective clients the current situation of goods and materials. It is unethical to sell a customer a project without at least informing them of the bumpy ride ahead. Whether it is astronomical lead times, manufacturer surcharges, or labor challenges we should be upfront and honest with our customers. This will ultimately build the client’s trust and confidence in our companies.
All these approaches require us to be the adults in the room and have those challenging conversations. Ironically, if we apply the same approach to our vendors, manufacturers and distributors, our odds of success rise substantially. District representatives, purchasing agents and other staff are being bombarded by frustrated business owners and sometimes even customers. Their shoulders are already overburdened with the weight of customer complaints, they do not need any more negativity. When we approach these individuals with calm, rational and even sympathetic discourse we become a breath of fresh air. It is surprising the lengths people will go to help someone who treats them fairly and kindly.
In summation, the only thing we can control in life is our response to it. We can respond by improving our communication, finding compromise where possible, and clarifying expectations with everyone involved.
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Written by: Chris Sherman
Date: November 3rd 2021