Wednesday, 24 August 2016 12:47

Are You Moving Fast Enough for Business Today?

Is the pace of your business operations moving fast enough for today’s market? Speed makes a difference these days. Thanks to vast online resources, for example, buyers are more educated than ever—meaning, as much as 70% of the buying cycle is probably complete before they make initial contact with your business.

Technology has conditioned us all to expect immediate (or near real-time) answers to our inquiries. Businesses that fail to acknowledge this expectation or cling to outmoded forms of communication risk a steep loss in customers. Especially in the hardwood lumber business—a commodity exchange based on quality transactional service—speed of response, service and delivery are absolutely crucial.

iphone-in-the-forest-quoteIf you think now is the right time to accelerate the pace of your customer response and service, keep these tips in mind:

Make use of new customer service channels. Phone calls and emails are fine as far as they go, but if your competitors offer advanced customer service channels, so should you. Customers with purchasing questions and/or complaints think nothing of reaching out to suppliers via messaging apps and social media platforms. In addition, we have found that it is usually a good rule of thumb to make your initial response to your customers in the mode of communication they contacted you.

“Customers want their issues resolved in a timely manner and feel taking action themselves is quicker than contacting company representatives,” notes business blogger Dan Virgillito. By offering helpful resources like FAQs, forums and how-to articles and videos, you increase the chances customers will get much of the information they need when they want it.

Be a resource; Always provide something of value. Even the most rudimentary exchange with a prospect or customer should be of inherent value to that person or business. Following an initial inquiry, be prepared to answer any question they might have during your conversation and provide additional information that’s timely, relevant and potentially valuable to their own enterprise.

“Giving away” expert advice with each interaction demonstrates your ongoing value and may be the single greatest incentive for them to reach out to you again in the future.

We find this to be a common need in the hardwood lumber industry. Many people are not familiar with hardwood lumber supply chain or purchasing model. Whether it be a hobbyist looking for a few boards of white oak or a land owner looking for a logger to harvest his land, we receive numerous inquiries that are not for truckloads of kiln dried lumber. When that occurs we have found that it always beneficial to provide an answer, a recommendation and perhaps a resource that the person can find what they need so our brand continues to grow within the industry.

Automate responses with a consistent voice. Your customers understand that you’re busy and not always able to respond immediately to their questions or comments. However, instead of providing a bland, generic auto-response (“Thanks for your message, we will make every effort to respond in a timely manner”), craft an automated response that clearly reflects your brand promise and commitment to replying ASAP. (And then, of course, make sure you or a member of your team follows up on that commitment in a timely manner.)

Personalizing your response can help make a favorable first impression that leads to further interactions and a possible sale.

Make rapid delivery of products or services a top priority. Remember, customers these days want everything right away. Mobile technology can help your sales team take orders from anywhere in the field, get them to your back office and accelerate the delivery process. Speedy order fulfillment – with no glitches or foul-ups – will enhance your standing in the customer’s eyes.

The hardwood lumber industry faces the same customer service challenge as any other industry in the B2B realm. Everything you can do to add speed to quality will differentiate you from your competitors and generate improved results and positively develop your all important customer relationships.

If you have other ideas to share please let us know. We would love to hear from you.

Tony Cimorelli
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