Let me me begin with this statement: I don’t believe in multi-tasking. Concentrate and get stuff done, when possible. By possible, I mean “not having to wait on someone else.” That is, don’t get distracted by the shiny things in your email inbox or Ted at the water cooler. OK, now that’s out of the way let’s cover the next part of the Five Love Languages of B2B supply chain: Responsiveness.
Some of your customers will need a certain level of responsiveness from you. Call them high-touch, high-maintenance, or inexperienced. In any case, once you notice you have a group of this type of customer then you’ll need to learn more. These customers need someone to be “there” for them, through thick-and-thin. If your company is agile and has the ability to respond to various customer needs, then you’ll win “Responsiveness.” This could mean expediting an order after they already told you that the standard lead time was OK; this could mean answering the phone after just one ring. It could mean a lot of things, so it will be your job to understand what type of “Responsiveness” a group of customers expects.
Don’t, don’t, don’t get caught not-knowing about your customers’ love languages! Read back on my previous posts on this topic and PLEASE start to think about the types of customers you have.
What does “Quality” mean to you? I’ll go first: Quality always meant that the product was free from defects, that is, a “Quality” department worked real hard to ensure that no products left our company with any defects. That’s it! Now, you go. Really, think about it. Write it down, tell someone near you, whatever. “What is Quality?”
This is back to our love language series of posts. Up next, we need to talk about Quality. I will not show you some fancy institute of quality and their definition. I’m sure it’s wonderful and perfect and we love it for a lot of uses. The awesome thing here is there is no wrong answer. How ’bout that?? The customer gets to dictate what “Quality” is and you get to understand it and adjust (if you want to keep and grow business.)
Customers talking Quality need assurance that your products going into their processes meet a certain standard. That standard could be viscosity that needs a certain value to not clog up their production line. That standard could be related to their ability to advertise a certain way and keep a competitive advantage because their end product is “better/faster/stronger” than the rest of the market, thanks to your products’ Quality level. “Who knows” what Quality can mean for any given customer. You just need to be aware of what customers have that love language and work it out so you’re not left behind.
That’s a serious look. He’s probably wondering the same thing I am when I talk to people about speaking the right love language to their customers: “Are you sure you got that right???” Or maybe it’s “You’ve got to be kidding me??!?” In any case, let’s keep talking about the customer love languages. Up today: Price. Customers talking Price are very concerned with how much they pay for your products. Maybe this is a commodity business, or maybe it is ultra-competitive for them and they need to ensure they can keep a certain level of sales through low-pricing. Margin improvement may be another reason, wherein the customer could pay more but wants a lower price to keep margins in-tact, for whatever reason. There could be tons of reasons, actually, and only these come immediately to mind.
You gotta ask: “What matters to YOU?” Know this stuff! Ask your customers what they care about, and, if it’s price: “What does that mean to you?” Ask multiple people in the customer organization, if necessary. Know things. Do things. Be better.
Are you talking your customers’ “love language”? What? It’s not weird to think about loving your customer, is it?? Good, it better not be weird. Customer = your business existence, so get over it if you’re unsure. OK, is your head on straight? Good, listen: you need to know what “love language” your customer speaks and receives. YES, two different things. It is exhausting, but, either you do it or someone else will. You never wanna see your ex with someone else, do ya? So how do we do this? We need to adapt an idea from The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, by Gary Chapman (1995). Stop here: if you are in any (personal) relationship you care about, that is, want it to be great and happy and sustainable, then go consume their content. Really, it’s life-changing to understand your others’ perspective and needs. Once you “get that,” then it makes perfect sense in the business world. There are also five things that every business-to-business company could “speak” to you and “receive” from you, so you better “get to knowin'” sooner rather than later.
The five B2B love languages are price, quality, responsiveness, service, and time. Your customers speak and receive along one or all of those to some degree or another. Think about what these mean to you? If a customer told you, “I care deeply about Quality and expect the same from your organization,” then what would your reaction be? Do you understand? Can you make any promises? Think about it…
Ever looked through a cardboard tube, like in the picture? Go try it, I’ll wait … Interesting, no? For me, it has always seemed like what I see on the other end is “closer” for some reason. Maybe there’s some science behind it that I don’t know about, but, obviously there’s nothing real that is making the image closer like mirrors or whatever is in binoculars. I think the reason that effect happens is because you are focused on just that one point in front of you. Everything else is blocked out. It’s a different kind of focus. Maybe a focus that only comes from nothing else distracting from that one point. Addition by subtraction, maybe? Think about your supply chain organization, and what you are working towards.
Is it inventory reduction?
Is it freight savings?
Is it higher service levels?
I’m sure a resounding “YES” is the most appropriate answer for most of us… To make a real impact, you need to block out the noise. Take that cardboard tube, focus on the one point that matters, and hone in on it. Just think about the time spent throughout the day with trivial tasks (you’d be shocked by knowing how much time there is to do important work) and re-allocate that time to what you see at the other end of the tube.
Don’t wait. There’s tons of opportunity in your supply chain, right now, waiting for YOU to address it. And guess what: you can give it your best and will be rewarded for the initiative. So what are you waiting for? You are likely taking at least 1 hour, OK, maybe 30 minutes, each day on routine low-value activities. Transform the effort during that time to a new project for your supply chain. Make it super-small, and talk a big game, and get attention. Rally some “troops” for the effort. Do something to get some awareness to a glaring, nagging supply chain issue. Go do.