Defining Customer-Supplier Relationships and Customer Satisfaction


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Matties: How much resource do you allocate to a customer? Is 10% of what a customer spends goes back to servicing that customer? What sorts of rules of thumb are out there?

Williams: I don’t know if they allocate a particular level of service that way. You’ve got certain customers that it doesn’t matter what they’re asking for, or what they’re expecting from you. The customer calls, you drop everything, and it doesn’t matter how many other customers you’ve got waiting on you. That customer gets top priority no matter what the situation. It kind of filters down from there. There’s always a bandwidth issue, and customer service is very segmented into who’s most important and who’s less important. A lot of times, if they’re a big enough customer, they get their own person full-time. It all depends on how you’re structured.

To answer your question, I think 20% of spending is a solid number, where that’s one of the top 10 customers for anybody. If they’re 15 to 20% of your revenue, they are at the top tier. And then, now you’ve got to remember, the customer is going to be reading this too, it’s not just us manufacturers that are going to be reading it. The people that we’re trying to satisfy are going to be reading this, so you’ve got to be sensitive to that as well.

Shaughnessy: What do you think are some of the best methods for measuring customer satisfaction? We asked the board shops, and they said they don’t worry about any customers unless they do one job and never come back. And then they call, “Hey! Why didn’t you come back?” So, what do you think is the best or some of the better methods to measure customer satisfaction?

Williams: Well, right now, it’s a bit unique for me as a consultant. If I get a referral from a customer to another client, that’s a huge customer satisfaction bonus for me. A simple “Job well done” or “Our business is better, we’re glad we hired you.” Those kinds of things. It’s a little different from a manufacturing customer, where they are constantly judged on product quality and response and service. In a past life, obviously, you’re right. Customers, for the most part, don’t put a lot of time and effort into demonstrating their satisfaction for the supplier unless it’s bad. They don’t go out of their way to call you and say, “Hey, great job,” and “Keep up the good work.” They’ll call you in a heartbeat if you make a mistake.

You know, I guess that’s a good point in itself. One of the biggest problems in our industry is getting feedback from customers on how we’re doing.

Matties: If they come back and order a second, third, fourth time, that is demonstrating a level of satisfaction.

Williams: Absolutely. A couple of my clients, we talk about that, and they say ‘You know, if I don’t hear from a customer, that’s good news. If I don’t hear from a customer, and they just keep placing orders then everything’s great, I have no concerns, and it is business as usual.’

Las Marias: Alright! Thank you very much, Steve, for your insights.

Williams: Thank you!    

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