I read recently that 48% of all customers feel that the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty is based on the first order. So, half of your customers are going to decide if they want to keep working with you based on that first order.
Man, is that pressure or what? Especially when you consider that so many things are liable to go wrong on that first order. You have no previous experience with the company, you are seeing their data package for the first time, so you don’t know their special quirks, their hot buttons, you just don’t know them very well yet. So, you have to be extremely careful to do a good job.
I can’t prove it but from my years of experience I would venture to say that chances are very good that the first job is the one you will mess up on as you get to know the customer.
So, half of your customers say that the most critical time to gain their loyalty is on the first order, and conversely the first order is the one you are most likely to mess up. A bad and dangerous combination.
And that’s exactly why that first order should be considered what I call a “Paid audition” and like any audition you have to be extra careful to do everything you can to make sure you not only do a good job, but that you do a fantastic job! You have to wow the customer.
Here are some tips on making sure that happens (these tips are based on your first order with an account that has the chance to become a multi-million dollar account).
- Have a team meeting including, operations, quality, engineering, and sales, and make sure sales discusses the customer, what their available spend is with you and how important they are to the company.
- The front end team should evaluate the data package to make sure they have everything they need to deliver a great product. If they don’t, then they should not hesitate to call the customer and get what they need.
- The customer service representative should contact the customer to introduce himself, and tell them that he will be handling their account. He should also keep the customer apprised of the progress of the order all the way through (without being a pest of course). But, this is the right time to be establishing himself as a great customer service person.
- The General Manager should call the customer to introduce herself as well (remember this is a potential multi-million dollar customer).
- Operations should make sure that all front-line supervisors are aware of the opportunity, and make sure they bring their “A” game to this order. In short, this order should have complete visibility throughout the shop.
- Every precaution should be taken to assure that this board will be delivered exactly on time. If this means running several lots, and running them ahead of schedule in case something goes wrong, then so be it. This is a multi-million dollar opportunity.
- The Quality team should also be watching this order every step of the way. Even if you have a full Quality system shop, it is better to not take any chances.
- When the boards are complete, they should be double inspected by several Quality team members, including the Quality Manager, to make sure the boards are perfect.
- The Quality manager should work with the team in shipping to make sure that the package is perfect and that all the proper documents are included and in order. Remember, an order shipped without the proper documentation is as bad as an order that is late. The customer cannot use the product unless it is properly received. These days, shipping has become a skilled position, especially when you consider all of the documentation that is now required with each order. The quality of the package you ship to the customer is more important than ever, not to mention the fact that it is the first physical representation of your product and the quality of that product.
- Once the product ships:
- The tracking information needs to be sent to the customer
- The Quality manager should call his counterpart at the customer’s company to make sure everything is okay.
- The salesperson should talk to his contact letting him know that the product has shipped and that he is standing by if he needs “anything else”, and this is the time to start working on that next order. It is the next order that will turn the audition into a permanent role, and it is now up to the salesperson to make that happen.
- And finally, the General Manager needs to call her counterpart at the customer to thank him for the business and to ask for any feedback once the order is processed. She should also offer her services going forward. Customers love having direct access to the top person at the company where they are buying their boards, and this goes a long way in starting to cement the relationship.
I know some of you are thinking that this is a lot of work to secure an account, but is it really? Isn’t this the way you should be treating all of your accounts, never mind a major multi-million dollar a year account?
Think of how much money landing this account has already cost you. From the marketing, to the advertising, to lead generation, to SEO, to the sales person, to the person doing the quoting, it is estimated that you have spent a minimum and I say minimum of ten thousand dollars to land this one account, so you need to treat it as the special jewel that it is. It’s only common sense.