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Customer Service Excellence in the B-to-B Supply Chain

March 23, 2012

While we often think of customer service as a business-to-consumer process, we forget that there is a large chunk of the industry that never sees an individual consumer. Business-to-business customer service is just as critical – sometimes even more so – for while a botched interaction can lose a company one customer, a botched b-to-b customer service interaction can lose a whole company, and the issues being handled by b-to-b customer service are usually far, far more complex.


A new article in American Machinist outlines one of the most critical areas of b-to-b customer service: communications in the supply chain. In this instance, it's about getting the details right in customized tooling. IMCO Carbide Tool, developer of advanced cutting tools for manufacturers supplying aerospace, automotive, energy, medical instrumentation and mining industry OEMs, says that because of the specialty nature of the products it manufactures for clients, the best possible customer support is critical, ensuring the end customers’ profitability, satisfaction and competitive advantage.

IMCO Carbide Tool sales support specialist Louanne Dennis calls these interactions “moment of truth situations” — when an extraordinary occurrence redefines the relationship between customer and supplier. She cites the example of one of IMCO’s aerospace industry customers. The company required a source for custom reamers, but it knew from experience that timing was everything. The aerospace company also knew that not all machine tool suppliers would be able to manage their requirements.

“With these extraordinary situations, it takes a team of experienced people to make things happen,” Dennis told American Machinist. “Everyone on the team understands what’s at stake and steps up to do their part. The team for this project consisted of IMCO, Tool & Gage Associates and personnel from our aerospace customer. We did exactly what they needed, exactly at the time line they needed.”

The aerospace client needed specially sized reamers in more than 42 configurations, all solid carbide. They were going to be used in extremely high-value material to create very critical, close-tolerance holes in sophisticated aerospace parts. Communication – and customer support – was more critical than ever before to get the requirements right.

“With these things there can sometimes be haste and angst,” the customer observed of IMCO, “but they were quite flexible with us.” The first tools shipped just eight days after the orders arrived. IMCO supplied each batch via next-day delivery. The tools worked from the start to the end, said the client, and they were able to produce several thousands of the parts on schedule: a critical step for the client.

Getting b-to-b customer support right, however, is a whole subset of the customer support industry, and often features far more complex issues than the b-to-c industry. Learning by example – with the study of organizations like IMCO and its aerospace client – is a good place to begin.





Edited by Jennifer Russell

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