EMC Food Sector SIG Networking participants enjoyed an informative session on “Leveraging Your Customer Relationships” with Guest Speakers, Neil Lester of First Oak Hospitality Consulting and Peter Vandeweg of PWV Consulting Services. Innovation, technology and communication were the key underlying themes.
Customer Relationships is "…the approach of an organization to winning and retaining customers. The most critical activity of any organization wishing to stay in business is its approach to dealing with its customers. Putting customers at the center of all activities is seen by many as an integral part of quality, pricing, and product differentiation. On one level, customer relations means keeping customers fully informed, turning complaints into opportunities, and genuinely listening to customers. On another level, being a customer-focused organization means ensuring that all activities relating to trading "for example, planning, design, production, marketing, and after-sales of a product or services" are built around the customer, and that every department and individual employee understands and shares the same vision. Only then can a company deliver continuous customer satisfaction and experience good customer relations. http://dictionary.bnet.com/definition/customer+relations.html
EMC Food Sector SIG Networking participants met on October 7th, 2009 in Milton to focus on "Leveraging Your Customer Relationships". We were delighted to have with us Neil Lester, Principal, of First Oak Hospitality Consulting and Peter Vandeweg, Principal, PWV & Associates Supply Chain Consulting to lead discussion on this subject. Neil and Peter brought with them a combined experience of 50 years in the Food Industry and had many excellent industry examples to share.
The key themes of discussion surrounding our topic at hand involved Innovation, Collaboration, Technology and Communication. We also looked at the impact of cost drivers, activity based costing, managing for profit and subsequently recognizing the purchasing process as a "profit centre" rather than a cost centre. A brief glimpse at some of our discussion follows below:
- Innovation is rooted in consumer behaviour and trends - it drives industry leadership which in turn drives sales and profits
- Leaders need to innovate
- Resulting benefits might be the development of new products and services, improved processes, cost savings identification, quality improvements, manufacturing optimization, industry leadership and increased sales.
- Technology helps open up the flow of information - it becomes an enabler on many levels from speed (real-time data, 24/7/365), detail (multiple locations, component detail), actionable opportunities (flexibility and custom delivery), to process efficiency (waste reduction, duplication)
- Technology has many applications - e-billing, webcasts (training/meetings), customer POS polling, payment data, consumer research, and inventory management
- Communication should be open and frequent - you should know your value chain and their stakeholders as well as your own
- Sharing of information can help immensely - business plans, industry research, issues and challenges that could result in mutual solutions, goals and objectives to stimulate ideas
- Application of Quality Assurance or Research and Development may benefit more than one customer
- "Collaboration brings together the mindset and capacity of business partners necessary to drive business in a volatile world"
- It offers an opportunity to streamline operations, eliminate waste and become more efficient
- Customer benefits may be seen through proven lean principles, on-site training between manufacturers and customers, participation in shared-risk opportunities such as consignments and capital investments, effective sharing of information, responses to Twitter
- Sharing cost reductions and understanding cross industry applications could lead to saving business relationships
- Development of collaborative centers of expertise - ie for major capital purchases, activity based costing analysis
- Need to help people understand and share "cost drivers" - work out the true "value drivers" with your key customers and manage for profit
Final Words of Wisdom:
- There is true value in all customer relationships…
- Collaborate and innovate…
- Remember that innovation drives consumer trends and you need to stay ahead of those trends…
- Take advantage of technology!
Given those final words of wisdom, perhaps it offers us an opportunity to ponder how are we making a difference in our organizations when it comes to our customers - how are we demonstrating good leadership skills, tapping into innovation, building collaborative partnerships, communicating with our Teams, our employees, our customers and our suppliers about our businesses and theirs? When it comes to remaining competitive and viable in a difficult economy, how have we built or could we build stronger relationships with our customers and our suppliers? How are we staying current, viable, technologically savvy? What can we do different tomorrow that we are not doing today?
This was an excellent session and as such we look forward to addressing this topic again at our National Conference in Hamilton in May 2010! If you have some best practices to share relating to "Leveraging Your Customer Relationships", we would be most interested to hear from you!
Our next Food Sector Special SIG Networking Events are taking place from October 26th through 30th, 2009 in Cornwall, Napanee, Richmond Hill, Woodstock and Chatham - we are honoured to have a number of Community Partners participating along with four very special Guest Speakers from L&S Food Corp. (Carp, ON), Griffith Laboratories (Toronto, ON), Karma Candy (Hamilton, ON) and Bonduelle Foods (Tecumseh, ON). This is an event that promises to provide value on a number of levels introducing opportunities through funding and partnerships that can aid in business development, retention and growth and we hope that you will be able to join us! Please RSVP to email@example.com to be added to our Guest List.
Best wishes as always - have a great week!