I recently read that 48% of all customers feel that the most critical time for a company to gain their loyalty is based on the first order. That means nearly half of your customers are going to decide if they want to keep working with you based on their first impression. Talk about pressure! Especially when you consider that so many things are liable to go wrong on that first order: you have no previous experience with the company and are seeing their data package for the first time, so you don’t know their special quirks, hot buttons, etc. You just don’t know them very well yet, so you must be extremely careful to do a good job.
I can’t prove it, but from my years of experience, I would venture to say that chances are very good that the first job is the one you will mess up as you get to know the customer. Thus, half of your customers feel that the most critical time to gain their loyalty is on the first order, and, conversely, the first order is the one you are most likely to mess up. That’s a bad and dangerous combination, which is why that first order should be considered what I call a “paid audition." Like any audition, you have to be extra careful to do everything you can to make sure you do a fantastic job.
Here are 12 tips to make sure you wow the customer based on your first order with a company that has the chance to become a multi-million-dollar account.
- Have a team meeting, including operations, quality, engineering, and sales. Also, make sure the sales team discusses the customer, what their available spend is with you, and how important they are to the company.
- The front-end team should evaluate the data package to make sure they have everything they need to deliver a great product. If they don’t, then they should not hesitate to call the customer and get what they need.
- The customer service representative should tell the customer that they will be handling their account. They should also keep the customer apprised of the progress of the order all the way through (without being a pest, of course). This is the right time for customer service to establish themselves as valuable to the customer.
- The general manager should also introduce himself to the customer (remember, this is a potential multi-million-dollar customer).
- Operations should make sure that all front-line supervisors are aware of the opportunity and that they bring their “A” game to this order. This order should have complete visibility throughout the shop.
- Every precaution should be taken to ensure that the boards will be delivered exactly on time. If that means running several lots ahead of schedule, in case something goes wrong, then so be it. This is, after all, a multi-million-dollar opportunity.
- The quality team should also watch this order every step of the way. Even if you have a full quality system shop, it is better not to take any chances.
- When the boards are complete, they should be double-inspected by several quality team members, including the quality manager, to make sure they are perfect.
- The quality manager should work with the team in shipping to make sure that the package is perfect and that all the proper documents are included and in order. Remember, an order shipped without the proper documentation is as bad as a late order. The customer cannot use the product unless it is properly received. These days, shipping has become a skilled position, especially when you consider all of the documentation that is now required to accompany each order; hence, the quality of the package you ship to the customer is more important than ever, not to mention the fact that it is the first physical representation of your product and its quality.
- Once the product ships, the tracking information needs to be sent to the customer, and the quality manager should call their counterpart at the customer’s company to make sure everything is okay.
- The salesperson should talk to their contact and let them know that the product has shipped and that they are on standby if they need anything else. This is the time to start working on that next order. It is the next order that will turn the audition into a permanent role, and it is now up to the salesperson to make that happen.
- The general manager needs to call their counterpart at the customer’s company to thank them for the business and ask for any feedback once the order is processed. They should also offer their services going forward. Customers love having direct access to the top person at the company where they are buying their boards, and this goes a long way in starting to cement the relationship.
I know some of you are thinking that this is a lot of work to secure an account, but is it really? Isn’t this the way you should be treating all of your accounts, let alone a major, multi-million-dollar account? Think of how much money you have already spent just landing this account. From marketing to advertising, lead generation, SEO, the salesperson, and the person doing the quoting, it is estimated that you have spent a minimum of $10,000 to land that one account, so you need to treat it as the special jewel that it is.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.