“We only deliver on Tuesday and Thursday.” As the company owner said it to me, I had to use all of my poker playing skills not to let shock take over my face. This wasn’t the milkman, fuel oil company, or a transatlantic container shipper, this was a B2B service in a highly competitive localized market with literally over 100 competitors within 20 miles. “We decided it was easier for us so we tell our customers our delivery days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. If someone wants it Wednesday, we tell them it will be Tuesday or Thursday.”
I’m all for training customers on the value of pulling off incredible feats and why such activity is worth a higher price, but I was at a loss for how to respond to such a clear disregard for customer service in an industry currently operating at less than 50% capacity.
Training your customers is the process of reaching a mutual understanding and agreement on how you will conduct business with each other including pricing, lead time, quantity, frequency, and payment terms. If someone wants to buy more, they rightfully expect to pay less per unit. If someone wants extended terms, it is not uncommon to charge a slightly higher price. But what happens when the seller says flatly, “We won’t give you what you want?”
According to this owner, there hasn’t been a significant backlash. I would say there hasn’t been a significant backlash yet. When customers need something and call their normal supplier, they may accept the adjusted service level. Until, that is, a competitors walks in their door and using proper selling skills asks, “What one thing would you like to change about your current supplier?” only to hear, “Well, they only deliver on Tuesdays and Thursdays and sometimes we need it on Monday.” At that point, it is only a matter of time before the current supplier loses a client and the competitor gains one.
Are you training your customers and serving your customers or are you training your customer to find a new supplier? When was the last time you actually looked at your company from a customer perspective and asked if, “I knew nothing about the industry, what could we do better?” Or, when was the last time you sat in front of your best 20 customers and asked them point blank what you could do better?
I am all for charging as much as possible for performing better than your competition. I’m also in favor of you staying in business by providing better total value proposition than your competition. If you haven’t asked your clients how to improve in the past three months, your homework for this week is to get out and ask them. Sooner or later, either I or one of my competitors will be working with your competitor. When that happens, we will find out what you aren’t doing right and it’s only a matter of time before your client base shrinks one by one.