Excellence in Client Care Leads to Achieving Preferred Supplier Status

Many Clients have sophisticated procurement processes that allow a 'preferred supplier' status to be conferred on a firm. This gives the firm a competitive advantage over other suppliers. In due time, after a year or two of successful transactions and high Client care and satisfaction ratings, it may be possible to test the Client's loyalty to the firm by pitching for business held by other incumbents. If the Client becomes an advocate, opportunities may arise for the firm to seek references from its Client; some of these may be expanded into case studies that can be used as a shop window for prospects. By now it is likely that the Client has achieved 'strategic' status within the firm and is involved in the joint development of new services, Client panels and speaking about their experience with the firm at events attended by prospects. These activities are included in the firm's strategic Client plan, which is ideally shared and discussed with the Client at some point. An example of a strategic Client plan format is shown in Chapter 9.

WALKING THE CLIENT JOURNEY

In the service sector suppliers of media-enabling technology operate in a highly competitive arena. One particular supplier of broadband had entered the market and was aiming to increase its market share of households and businesses using its equipment. It grew in size over time and had articulated a mission for their brand to become 'the best in the market' and communicated this mantra to all of their staff. It wanted its staff to 'live' its brand. However, as feedback from the marketplace was mixed, and often poor, it called in external branding consultants to investigate.

Discussions with field engineers who handled repairs and replacements revealed that they were not happy in carrying out their work. In fact they felt very grumpy, because they were being given high targets which were almost impossible to achieve. For example, they had a target of 30 minutes per visit and were often held up in traffic in between calls. Clients often complained about poor service - engineers arriving late. The field engineers called them grumpy Clients. The brand promise was not being realised where it mattered - in front of the Clients, but also in the minds of the service employees.

However, it was not easy to convince management and their internal staff about these issues, as they were not in the field where these situations occurred. Their view was 'It's part of the job'. So the consultants decided to create a scenario to represent the field situation. They hired actors to 'walk the Client journey'. One actor played the part of the grumpy Client with a faulty set top box and the other a grumpy field engineer. Several situations were played out in front of employees. These included:

• Tardiness

The Client complained to the engineer that he was an hour late and didn't contact the Client to let him know. In turn the engineer said that he didn't have time to call because the traffic was so bad.

• Equipment exchange

The engineer looked at the equipment and decided to exchange the box for a new one. However, the Client complained that the previous two engineers had done this with no improvement.

The scenario showed that the field engineer was not attuned to the behaviour of the Client, even if the problem was eventually resolved.

The consultants then interviewed each actor and asked whether their behaviour had improved or worsened the situation. Each agreed that they had not really considered the impact of their behaviour on the situation. The field engineer stated that he had only been trained to repair products and admitted a lack of understanding of how to deal with 'difficult' Clients.

The consultants recommended that field engineers be trained in understanding and dealing with different types of Client behaviour. Further scenarios based on engineer and Client feedback were created to enable the field engineers to practice with 'Clients' in a training environment. After several months the field engineers were given a longer time to handle each visit, were expected to make prior contact with Clients to advise their time of arrival and warn them of any traffic issues; the level of Client complaints had reduced considerably.

 
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