Can we grow without sacrificing customer service?

My wholesale business launched a new B2B product and is now receiving inbound calls from buyers in much greater volumes. However, I want to ensure buyers feel they get a great service each time and don’t feel like strangers when they call. How do I ensure that staff, processes and systems are up to standard to meet this new demand?


A. Phil Lenton writes:

This is a great problem to have, but you’re right to be concerned. Most high-growth businesses get into difficulties through failing to cope with massive increases in business rather than through orders suddenly falling away. You’re also looking at the problem at the right time – at the start – rather than waiting until your customer service levels drop.

Here are three suggestions that should help when considering how to ensure your customers remain satisfi ed as you grow:

 

? Closely examine all your processes that impact on customers, both external (such as order taking) and internal (such as invoicing). Within these, identify any steps that depend on one key person or a small team. These steps are likely to be carried out manually, and will not scale well as your orders continue to increase – especially if someone is suddenly unwell or hands in their notice. You should ensure that these processes are carefully documented, and, if possible, built into any system you are using for running the business.

? Ensure every interaction with customers is recorded in whatever system you are using, and insist that all your staff use it religiously. There is no quicker way to make a customer feel undervalued than for your staff to be unaware of previous conversations. Consider investing in technology to locate your customers’ account details based on their incoming telephone number.

? Make sure you have robust processes in place to check for exceptions. For example, as orders increase, the risk of some being ‘lost’ rises signifi cantly, perhaps between packing and dispatch. If you are regularly reviewing the process, then you should pick up on things like this before they become a problem.

Phil Lenton is the managing director of Compsoft, which specialises in designing and implementing bespoke software solutions for high-growth businesses www.compsoft.co.uk

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