For all intents and purposes, this should be the end of the story about the commercial exchange between you and your clients.
The truth is, it isn’t, and you’ve probably known this instinctively for some time.
There are, indeed, hidden pitfalls lurking inside your contractual relationships with your customers that are silently, yet significantly, eroding your margins.
Let me ask you, what would it mean for your bottom line to reclaim 10% to 20% of profit that is rightfully yours, but that has
somehow become lost under the guise of you being ‘customer-centric’?
In pursuit of ‘cost down’ targets, your customers may be asking for more and more, and your staff will give it to them, again and again. Their generosity can end up engendering a ‘keep squeezing them’ mentality from your customers.
You may also be unintentionally relinquishing margin because your staff are
Going beyond the ‘call of duty’ to delight your customers is absolutely something to aspire to, but not if it is going to impact on the net margin you negotiated to achieve in your original contract terms.
If you don’t establish boundaries with your customers, your ‘cost to serve’ will grow exponentially over time, at the direct expense of your profit.
But let me now be clear about the type of margin I am inviting suppliers to ‘take back.’ I am not referring to gross margin – the anticipated difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS). Too much directly attributable customer cost remains excluded from such a calculation.
Nor am I addressing the profit margin, which includes taxes and interest charges in its total deductions of all costs from revenue. I have no desire to delve into the specifics of corporate taxation, nor attempt to explain how borrowings affect a company’s beta.
While both gross margin and profit margin play a distinct role in any business margin outcome, my focus is very deliberately on the net margin.
Only the net margin, when calculated for individual customers, can account for everything that requires time or money to provide specific goods or services to the purchaser. This expense, when deducted from customer revenue, results in a truly
margin accounts for all costs required to
provide goods or services to that customer.
When you have a handle on the individual customer’s net margin, it becomes yours to relinquish or reclaim, over a relatively short period of time.
Let me challenge your thinking.
Do you have the courage to give customers what they want on your terms rather than on theirs? Have you learned to say to your customers, with strength and authority, “If
Or is it possible that there is a culture within your business that has disempowered your staff members from initiating hard conversations with your customers, even though it is really their responsibility to take control of processes and functions that ensure you are not inadvertently hurting your margin?
What if you could identify the pitfalls affecting service delivery, one customer at a time, and find hidden margin embedded
There could be millions of dollars in unrealised value being left in your customers’ pockets.
I believe very few people turn up to work each day with the intent of forgoing margin. Most business leaders I know give their all to satisfy their customers and establish a reputation as a ‘trusted supplier’.
The problem is, most customers don’t contract to buy ‘your all’.
A strategic supplier relationship is not about ‘I win, you lose’. It’s about mutual
Inspiring ingredients for the dairy industry
Maximising productivity, energy efficiency and power quality
We help improve your competitiveness by doing more with less in some of the industry’s most demanding and energy intensive applications. We also help lower maintenance burdens while ensuring maximum reliability in critical processes.
Contact ABB today, to find out how you can maximize the lifetime of your facility.
1800 222 435
driver, you must teach your customer
how to treat you. Mutual respect is key.
Underlying mutual benefit is respect. If you demand respect, you will receive it. If you forgo respect, it will be readily forgone.
Whether you are a CFO wrestling to pinpoint the cause of a less-than-expected EBIT result or a forklift driver trying to quickly load an urgent delivery, you must teach your customer how to treat you.
This is an art and a science.
Starting with this article and over the next few issues of this magazine, I will reveal the pitfalls that you, as a supplier, must overcome to protect your net margin.
Pitfall: Sales staff are responsible for customers
Suppliers routinely leave the management of their major customers in the hands of
However, sales staff may have no idea what is contained in the supplier-customer agreement, and they may not know what the negotiated version of the goods or services looks like from a functional point-of-view. How could they know what accountability standard to hold the customer to?
Non-sales staff are the most vulnerable to excessive demands and lack of compliance from their customer counterparts. And, if customer management is entirely in the hands of the sales staff, non-sales staff feel much less empowered to do their jobs
This is why every function in your business must have inherent responsibility for customer compliance and profitability.
Pitfall: Excessive service autonomy
I admire the airline industry, because they really understand their net margin.
Airlines know exactly what it costs to run their business and how to price their fares accordingly.
Consider the options available to book a flight from Sydney to Adelaide. On any given day, travellers can buy one of five different fares, with prices ranging from $150 to $850. The different prices and levels of service for each fare are clearly explained under the heading ‘Fare Inclusions’.
The cost of each flight and related conditions are fully understood by the airlines, which means that the margin they incur on each flight is affected only by the quantity of fares sold.
Now, if you’ve ever tried, for whatever reason, to make changes to a booked flight, you were no doubt referred back to the terms of your fare purchase and invited to pay a hefty premium for the requested changes.
margin and makes the customer pay for
the smallest change to the fare booked
OutShred Your Competition
PRECISE, RAPID SHREDS HOUSED IN A NEW 2-PIECE DESIGN!
Sanitary cutting zone completely separate from mechanical zone. The Model CCX-D Shredder’s new two-piece cutting chamber provides greater access to reduce maintenance & labour time. Large 32‘‘ diameter cutting chamber pairs with powerful 10 HP motor to deliver highest capacities.
Durable machine designed to promote uninterrupted production. Types of Cuts? Precision shreds within your target zone specs.
Turn to Urschel for cutting solutions to fit your production line.
find your customers enjoy a premium
service for a bargain price.
This simple concept of accountability permeates all the way down to the staff at the ticket desk. Gone are the days when the agents at the counter had discretion over what they did or didn’t offer customers. Airlines have taken these decisions, and many others, and turned them into policy.
This disciplined approach to the customer service relationship has allowed the airlines to teach its customers how they can expect to be treated and, ultimately, how the customers treat them.
In my experience, this is worlds apart from how business-to-business (B2B) suppliers respond to their customers on a daily basis when they ‘miss boarding time’ or try to negotiate other contract changes with staff.
B2B suppliers routinely sign and seal contracts with customers based on the fact that quantities are roughly estimated, the selling price is clearly defined and the method for the annual price increase is understood.
What isn’t made clear is the equivalent of ‘Fare Conditions’. The B2B equivalent of fare conditions is the specific service level that ought to be clearly identified in line with goods or services being provided at the nominated price.
If you dive deep enough into your business, you may well find that many of your customers are enjoying a first-class experience despite having purchased a discount fare!
What often happens is that customers ask for ‘add-ons’ or adjustments to their services when face to face with the different company functions. These can come in the form of order changes, cancellations at the last minute, requests for delivery after hours, (unreasonable) increases in quality KPIs, etc.
Suppliers rarely identify when and what customer requests fall outside of overall service contracts. Many staff are unaware of the detail in these contracts, so they follow their instincts and do what they have discretion to do to keep the customer happy.
Some of the worst, and most obscure, impacts of supplier over-servicing include risks to safety and depletion in employee engagement.
I have seen many manufacturing environments where the pressure to respond to late production demands or urgent orders has translated into hastened production job changeovers in order to keep yield targets on track. This puts tangible pressure on production staff and can often lead to compromised safety standards.
big bucks, while constantly giving in to
customer demands breeds contempt.
They may feel that they can never do enough. This shows on their faces and in what they have to say. They’re being taken advantage of and, on occasion, even verbally abused, sometimes serially, and they feel they should just put up with it.
All this is in response to suppliers allowing customer expectations to get out of control. Constantly submitting to customer demands can breed contempt, while exercising unfettered discretion on servicing can significantly contribute to margin erosion.
Customers will inevitability ask for a little more here and a little more there, because for them the request is as much a part of human nature as it is of doing business. If customers see an opportunity to get a bit more and it gives them an advantage, then there is every probability they will take it.
On the supplier side, if different company functions don’t know what customer contracts require in terms of providing service or if agreements aren’t enforced, they will pay through margin erosion.
Either way, the cost to you, the supplier, is incremental.