I recently had the pleasure of taking the train to the SAAGNY show in New York for a few reasons, (1) as CPPA’s president I wanted to support the other District One Regionals, (2) to get an idea of how other regionals works, and (3) I wanted to attend education.
The education platform was simply a panel discussion, an excellent panel with four formidable panelists, Joe Hoffmann, iPROMOTEu, Andy Shape from Stran Promotional Solutions, Brett Hersch, HIT and Dan Edge with Peerless Umbrella. Mike Merkin, from Hit, co-moderated the event with SAAGNY’s president, Rachel Levin – the event was stellar, so much so I could write three pages on what I learned, I have saved the details for this article in PromoCorner.
All the panelists had brilliant observations; the vast amount of the conversation and questions surrounded communication issues. Joe Hoffmann, with iPROMOTEu, shared the importance of having a strategic plan, and how that plan should include a communication strategy with clients, prospects, and suppliers. Better communication creates a better working environment.
Andy Shape, President of Stran Promotional Solutions, shared with all the supply chain issues it is critical to have multiple solutions when sharing product options for your clients. For your staff, create and develop programs to keep you staff engaged and motivated.
Brett Hersch, Sr. VP at HIT reemphasized the importance of solid communication between suppliers and distributors is essential. He further stressed distributors should embrace technology when presented to them and do their best to integrate those processes into their workflows. Another major disruptor Brett mentioned, was the extraordinary number of orders that come through their system that had mistaken, he felt 85% plus had errors – having been an owner of two supplier companies, I can verify that number. Make no mistake that is failed communication.
The final points from my friend, Dan Edge, President of Peerless Umbrellas, actually made me sit back in my seat, his experience and observations made me really think - again.
You see, he made something surface that happened to me personally many years ago, and issue that involved me and a customer service representative – full transparency, what I did was shameful. I was dealing with an irate client, and I needed help. I called the vendor and angrily verbally attacked the company via this CSR’s. She took it only so long and crying she said, ‘sir, I am sorry, but I am going to respectfully hang up now’. I had a moment to gather myself and I called back to apologize, but this time, the owner of the company took the call.
He proceeded to calmly tell me he didn’t appreciate the way I treated his employee, I apologized up and down, he did acknowledge that it took guts to call back and apologize but his final words are still burned into my mind; “Cliff while I appreciate your efforts to make amends, I am not interested in doing business with you, I am sending all your art and paperwork back…have a nice day!” I was stunned.
Good for that owner – I deserved ever single thing I got. That CSR was just doing her job and I had no right, regardless of the issue to berate someone – Now, every time I have an issue, I pause, and politely share my thoughts.
Dan’ mentioned impact of this pandemic and the effects on staff and their mental health issues which have stemmed from this miserable pandemic. (I a paraphrasing his comments here) ‘People are at their wits-end, supply chain issues, employee issues, employee engagement, motivation – it is tough for everyone.” We get so caught up in OUR day to day lives and forget the partners we work with are experiencing similar issues. I never gave it much thought of how incredibly difficult it must be for the front-line folks, the customer service representatives, those who make the effort every day, to come to work and field calls. Dan, thank you for the reminder!
Folks, keep in mind, CSRs cannot move freight, they cannot unload the container ship, they have no pull when it comes to getting a chassis to move the container once off-loaded – they just do not. I realize it is annoying, frustrating, challenging, aggravating to spend ten times as long creating an order than in the past – but they, along with our supplier partners are doing their level best given the circumstances.
- Communication is key! Have a plan and communicate early, often, with your clients.
- When your faced with inventory issues, have three or more options to share with your client.
- Be present and aware of what is going on IN your business, pay close attention to your staff, have an open-door policy and a way they can communicate their issues before they become insurmountable,
- Put some simple programs in place that can help diffuse the pressure, like Pizza Friday, or Ice Cream Tuesday. If you are a solopreneur, take time for yourself, take walks, off-gas, read, get away from your desk so you can clear your head,
- Think twice before you comment, escalate the issue up the chain if needed, but make sure your delicate with your words.
Lastly, I write this to you this month to say – communicate openly with each other, realize you are not being singled out, this is affecting everyone. Be more understanding, tolerant, patient, and kind – it will go a long way.
We have made it this far together…just a little further and this will be behind us; it is who we are, it is what we do. Thanks Rachel Levin, SAAGNY, and my friend Dan Edge, for this much needed, eye-opening, panel discussion.
Until next time, remember, we got this! Together we can accomplish everything!