Service: An act or a variety of work done for others, especially for pay. — American Heritage Dictionary
Service is likely one of the most referred to yet misunderstood buzzwords in material handling business. Customers cannot seem to get enough of it and providers can never seem to give enough of it, creating that certain amount of tension. One always expects more and the other always strives to give it. Realistically, service could be defined as a byproduct of both parties’ expectations of demand and supply.
Of course, service means far more than the simple transaction of ordering a product and receiving that product in a timely manner. There is an old saying, “It is far more important to know the value of something rather than to merely know the price of it.” In today’s competitive and price-driven market, it is essential to understand and define the true value of products and/or systems and bring that sense of awareness to customers.
That’s why making service part of your organization’s core focus is essential in today’s marketplace. Four key principles—Customer Focus, Performance, Innovation and Responsibility—form the framework for your business and can be used to benchmark everything you do. In their essence, these principles are the simple definition of “service.”
These key principles can ensure that you stay clear of the cloud of mediocrity and bring the true value of your products and services to your customers. How does your service add value to your product? How can your company create awareness of your products and services?
Of the four principles, there is one that stands out as especially key in today’s “me too” world that continually reduces products to commodities. Let’s talk about innovation.
Innovation as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is “the act of introducing something new.”
Core competencies are different for every company; they form part of a company’s individual personality. However, every successful company needs at least one core competence: innovation. Every company also needs a reliable means of recording and appraising its innovative performance. One example is how your innovations compare to those of the entire industry. Which innovations were truly successful? How many of them are yours? Was our performance commensurate with our objectives? With the direction of the market? With our research spending? These are the questions any company can ask of itself to gauge its innovation. All of these questions further define the concept of service.
As you continually strive to give customers the best level of service, the definition of service will be consistently evolving. However, to be the most effective, service through innovation must remain simple and focused. It should do only one thing; otherwise it confuses the very customers you strive to serve. Indeed, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, “This is obvious! Why didn’t I think of it? It’s so simple!” Even the innovation that creates new users and new markets should be directed toward a specific, clear and carefully designed application. That’s why behind every product, process, system or delivery method, the only goal should be to better serve customers. In the end, this is truly the only way in which to be true to the four key principles—customer focus, performance, innovation and responsibility. This has been the foundation of our material handling company since 1905 and will continue to be the key to serving our customers for generations to come.
|Meet the Author
Ken Cooper is director of U.S. aftermarket sales at Trelleborg Wheel Systems Americas, Inc., located in Hartville, Ohio, and on the Web at www.trelleborg.com.