Opinion: Suppliers must listen to the ever-changing needs of customers

IMG_3575 Ewen Cairns crop
Foster's Ewen Cairns believes suppliers need to be able to offer the same level of customer service that they did pre-pandemic.

Never has the phrase ‘we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ been more appropriate in our business. It’s about listening to the ever-changing needs of our customers and adapting to those needs. Sometimes, suppliers simply need to show understanding and empathy with the predicaments this pandemic is causing dealers and their customer base.

The key areas suppliers need to excel in are the speed of response, adaptability and understanding. Guidelines and advice are changing by the hour and customers need decisions, information and even deliveries quickly to adapt to market conditions.

Product is crucial. Suppliers need to have products available for immediate dispatch. This applies to Brexit as much as it does the pandemic. As a UK manufacturer, we hold stock of our most popular products and hold high componentry levels so that we can manufacture non-stock items to suit customer requirements.

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It’s not limited to availability though – a change in product demand or sector means suppliers must adapt. This was certainly the case during the initial stages of the lockdown – the demand for freezers increased dramatically as customers looked to hold a greater amount of frozen goods due to the uncertainty of food deliveries. We have also seen a rise in public sector enquiries in a multiple of environments, from food storage to the sobering realisation of mortuary chamber enquiries.

It goes without saying that if you don’t react quickly to a request the opportunity could disappear not only for you, but the dealer as well.

Situations are changing constantly, and dealers value a quick response time, both from sales teams when purchasing products and after-sales teams for support. Suppliers need to be able to offer the same level of customer service that they did pre-pandemic, turning quotes around quickly, offering technical support, either remotely or in person when necessary. Site surveys are still an important service to offer, ensuring that customers order products that can fit.

Everyone’s experience of this pandemic is different, but it’s important to remember that the industry as a whole is suffering. Now is the time to listen to dealers and their customers and take the time to understand the difficult financial position people are in. This is why we’re so proud of our interest-free credit offer, it’s a real helping hand to the industry – it’s manageable monthly payments for the operator and risk-free transactions for the dealer.

There are a number of areas where a supplier needs to show flexibility, and in the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, one thing we won’t compromise on is the health and wellbeing of our customers and staff. We’ve adapted in terms of ensuring social distancing through our manufacturing plants, and various hygiene and safety measures to ensure people are working safely.

And we consider this when delivering products. Suppliers must be adaptable and ensure they abide by local ever-changing rules, as well as adhering to a strict health and safety routine for the safety of customers and employees.

Tags : FostergamkoopinionRefrigerationvoice of the industry
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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