In my last blog article, How to boost productivity in your incoming goods processes, I looked at how speeding your incoming processes through greater transparency and compliance support from your vendors can really boost your supply chain. This time I’m looking at the role of vendor customer service in streamlining your operations and reducing your business costs.
So what factors do we find make the difference between ‘average’ and excellent customer service for our trade and industrial retail customers?
The primary role of our Customer Service Team is to support our Sales Managers in supporting their customers. Offering a centralised hotline service in addition to electronic means of contact, there’s always someone available to either answer a quick question or forward route a complex query through to the most appropriate people across Sutton Tools’ multiple locations and teams.
We offer a wide range of contact options – because our customers run their businesses in different ways. This enables us to offer the best ways to support their own operations in different circumstances. Sometimes it’s more convenient to email us because it generates an electronic record. At other times you want to be able to talk directly with someone in Australia – because you’d like the benefit of their advice or want to better understand potential fixes or workarounds directly from an expert.
While many of us in the manufacturing and retail supply chain industries have used EDI over many years, true eCommerce is now close .
EDI, as an automated method of transferring data has served us well over the years and continues to offer efficient mass flow of communication business to business. However, it does require considerable effort and resources to setup and maintain, so it’s usually confined to high volume users. Its regimented flow of data, with one action triggering another and now allowance for the dynamic demands of contemporary customers.
However advanced software programs such as Salesforce will soon allow us to provide next level seamless, self-serve customer access to our systems. So, in addition to EDI or direct human interaction, customers will be able to login and gain access to a whole raft of services. They will be able to lodge orders, check pricing, check stock, track orders, lodge a query and many more advanced statistical and service-based functionality. The benefit of this systems is once the customer has portal access, setup is simple and there is no reliance on third parties and cumbersome testing cycles before go live. It truly is a plug and play system designed around taking Customer Service to the Next Level.
It all gets down to people
At Sutton Tools, we reckon the foundation of excellence in serving our retail customers is down to the quality of our people. As well as continuous training and skill development, it also calls for the right people with the right experience.
Some of our front-line customer support team have had over 30 years in the tools industry – and are highly experienced in both the applications and use of our products – both in the trade and home markets and manufacturing sectors.
Escalation to expertise
While we’d like to solve every support question in a single step, inevitably we encounter more complex issues calling on special expertise. For example, one of your customers asks for help with finding the optimum tools for a new manufacturing or trade application. Or perhaps they’d like to improve tool life or material removal rates?
Sitting right behind our customer support function are our Engineering Team, R&D Lab and a range of other technical specialists and product managers. When we can’t give you a quick easy answer, we’ll create and open an issue or even project in our Salesforce system. It is then automatically channelled to the right people – and its progress monitored all the way through to resolution.
Our R&D Labs are equipped with the machinery to test simulate and compare different tooling options for a wide variety of applications. Finally, when really tough tooling problems are encountered in situ, we also have a team of specialists who can travel to our (or your) customers anywhere in Australia and beyond.
One stop shop for customisation and services
Our Customer Service Team are also the place to start when your users ask for modifications of existing tools. As an example, market feedback via our trade retail customers identified areas for improvement of a decade-old tool, Cut-Smart. As a result, we changed the design of this standard tool for drilling and chamfering decking boards to improve its performance by adding:
• A roller bearing to eliminate friction and marking of softer decking materials
• A Tungsten Carbide Tip (TCT) chamfering tool to extend tool life by withstanding abrasion by harder materials such as cement sheet
And we don’t just provide customer support for our own products! As we deliver a range of value-add services including recoating and regrinding here in Australia, we can help with interpreting your customers’ requirements for services to increase tool life and enhance performance of any brand of tool.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about what we’ve learnt about warehouse operations over the past 102 years – including how we run our own warehousing systems and processes.
Please contact us if you’d like to know more about your options for customer support contact.
About the Author
James Clark is Chief Supply & Distribution Executive at Sutton Tools. He has an Engineering background and Post Graduate MBA qualification with over 10 years’ experience in Warehousing, Logistics, Sourcing and Product Management