In an article in Psychology Today focusing on authentic communication, author, corporate consultant and adjunct professor Beverly Flaxington states; “Many people never learn how to appropriately say what they mean and mean what they say.” She goes on to point out the cultural shift of valuing “niceness” over truth, and we are comfortable telling a white lie to avoid conflict or avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The problem is that once the truth is known it ultimately undermines trust and hurts the relationship.
Truth in Advertising
In a customer relationship, trust and credibility can never be taken for granted. There can be a tendency for companies and leadership to be a little cavalier about how they frame or present the services and capabilities they truly have, and there is a tendency to embellish or misrepresent what the customer can expect when they engage with an organization. If, for example, you tell customers you provide prototyping, plating, shielding or some other service that you outsource rather than do in-house, you need to clearly state that in your marketing materials and website.
All too often a company has the best intentions of providing the customer with the services they need, but if you are currently outsourcing that capability or you offer “close proximity” and not the actual technology,rest assured your prevarication will come to light. The challenge is that customers have a unique tendency to inquire about that very thing during a presentation or business engagement and once the truth is known they will begin to question what else you are telling them that might not be genuine or authentic about you or your organization. That is why truth in advertising is so critical because eventually the customer will find out.
Many companies like to use phrases and buzzwords in their sales and marketing collateral or social media communications. Stating things like “a focus and commitment to quality”, “customer-focused”, “shortening your time to market” and “nearly 100% repeat customer engagements” can be a dangerous gambit if the customer doesn’t consistently receive these commitments. HubSpot recently published an article about the state of customer service and stated that 42% of companies do not listen to their customer’s feedback. The article went onto say that only 12% believe a company when they say, “We put the customer first.”
The current business reality is that most Contract Manufacturers, Injection Molders and Sheet Metal fabricators are seeing flat to limited growth, and some are seeing decline in their YOY revenues. The fact of the matter is that there is too much excess capacity and the industry is ripe for consolidation. Every executive needs to examine what are they doing from an operations, engineering and customer service perspective to be one of the survivors rather than one of the casualties?
The proof is in the Pudding
Billy Joel penned a song titled “Honesty” and the lyrics are apropos. He sang; “Honesty is such a lonely word; everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.” A key question for a business leader is whether they truly value and appreciate honesty - honesty and candor from their employees, their customers or from their Business Consultants? On a monthly basis on LinkedIn, you will inevitably find someone posting this quote from Andy Stanley; “Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say.” Every leader needs to consider; am I only listening to voices that validate and agree with what I and my organization are doing or am I open to an “intervention” and willing to consider observations, opinions, and viewpoints that don’t align with my own?
Inconceivable…You Keep Saying That
Peter Drucker was the first to articulate that meeting customer needs better than your competition is a key driver in the success of your business. It is not enough to say you are customer-focused or that you are fixing or addressing an issue. You need to prove it by company performance and back up it up with action and real data. You may not be as customer-focused as you think you are if these issues describe your customer’s experience:
1. On-time Delivery (OTD) of<90%
2. Finding customers need to chase you for project or status updates
3. Consistently missing deadlines for RFQ’s, P.O.commits, FAI’s and project launch deadlines
4. Consistent lack of attention to detail and errors in communication and data
5. Poor quality and poor product yields
6. Ineffective material planning
If any or all these issues have been a historical challenge for you and your organization, then admit it and own it. Are you truly customer-focused and easy to do business with? Are you listening to customer and employee feedback on these topics? Have you put in place the necessary people and processes to fix the situation, and then regularly communicate with your customers how you are doing? This can be done in the form of a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) or simply conducting a periodic business discussion where you proactively present how you are doing on these specific issues or others the customer has identified. Doing these things builds customer trust and loyalty and can lead to commanding a better margin as well as being the de facto “go-to” supplier for the next project or program.
ATG specializes in assessing your services, capabilities,key skill sets and pockets of organizational excellence so you can say what you mean and mean what you say. And we can help you leverage these things to not only build but maintain your customer credibility. Let ATG show you how saying what you mean and meaning what you say can lead to Accelerated Tangible Growth.