Tuesday, August 9, 2011

1st Time

“Contact us to discuss your inquiry and we’ll analyze the case to make sure you’re a customer worth handling”.

 …Obviously nobody is going to put that line in their website or marketing material…

Do first-time customers realize that’s an underlying aspect of any first-time encounter or does the company that’s reaching out assume, fresh out the gate, they’re owed your utmost attention, time and resources?

If I’m a first-time customer who may or may not utilize your service or your product, am I owed an amazing experience and exquisite service from the get-go of our first encounter?

Does the customer have anything to prove to the vendor?  Or does all burden of proof fall on vendors’ shoulders?

Imagine a first-time, potential customer decides to take responsibility and before ever emailing or filling out the online contact form, they phone the vendor.  They introduce themselves and explain to the vendor their need.  After some introductory professional banter, they alert the vendor to an email that will come from them to further detail and concretely explain their need.  If a customer did that, the vendor would probably be “wowed” by their professionalism. 

But that’s not typically how it happens.  Normally a person sends a curt, vague email and if the vendor didn’t “hop to it’ and answer asap, on the button, “Johnny-on-the-spot”, then that vendor is deemed a slow response vendor and perhaps the buyer may tweet about their poor customer service response rate.  All responsibility of “wowing” falls on the vendor’s shoulders. 

Nobody is denying the importance of customer service or positive and proactive first impressions.  If we took those off the table, then it would be hard to secure long-term relationships and business.

But do we need to start looking at what we can do to make our buying experience what we hope it to be (and I think this crosses the board on many industries)?

Vendors in China receive many inquiries, all day, every day.  Time and manpower doesn’t allow timely management of every request, and just like buyers, vendors have to filter and prioritize.  If the vendor is slow at getting back to the customer (who sent an email), the customer many time never sends a follow up message or phones to find out how the inquiry is proceeding.

Resources and time (which is a resource) have been stretched thin working to accommodate every inquiry.  But you can bust your tail, put in overtime to answer the inquiry and the customer finally says, “Oh yeah, sorry, um, that’s err..no longer on the table…but thanks for the effort”.

What percentage of the time does the customer take their business elsewhere (because of slow response) and what percentage of the time did they not follow up because it wasn't that solid of an inquiry in the first place?  

With the majority of non-follow-ups, many times, the inquiry was never that important to begin with.  Does an important inquiry not deserve at least one "touch-back" or one phone call? 

Or is our day and age so "tech" that all requests are all digital and life is so hectic that it's one shot or I'll take my business elsewhere?

When dealing with China, just like you’re treading dangerous waters to make price your deciding factor, hold the same standard on making the vendors’ response rate a deciding factor.  These should, at the most, be one of many deciding factors.

The further you get away from home, in manufacturing and supply-chain, anybody worth working with, long-term, has to be developed, grown and nurtured.  Don’t expect immediate amazing customer service.   

Approach the table with the mindset that not only does the vendor have to “wow” me, but I also have to “wow” them.  It’s a two-way street and if you’re only looking for sincerity from the vendor, you may find a very sincere vendor, but they also sincerely cannot deliver.

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