Take a moment to listen – really listen – to your customers and they will tell you how to succeed. Companies that cultivate an organization-wide culture of listening and responding to what customers tell them have a competitive advantage.
Why is a corporate culture based on flexing to the customer’s needs so important in business today? With the advent of the internet, customers have access and an easy way to learn about everything that’s available in the marketplace, and every business providing products and services. “In this environment it’s critical for companies to set themselves apart by demonstrating to their customers that they have a deep understanding of their issues,” says Jeffrey Deacon, Sr. Director, Global Market Development, Intertape Polymer Group (IPG).
The ability to listen to and adapt to changing customer needs must be a part of the whole organization’s culture; not just thought of as the responsibility of sales people. “As trusted advisors, our listening skills need to extend deep into the user’s space, that is where the solution lies.” says Deacon. “The management team needs to have a problem-solving attitude so they can adapt to customer needs and support them with product and process. The ability to flex to the customers’ needs must permeate every department - from product development, to production, to customer service. For our brands that means a corporate-wide commitment to developing custom solutions for specific customer’s needs. That requires an investment by the whole organization.”
Becoming a Customer Partner
It’s a matter of developing a problem solving approach to your customer’s needs and making an organization-wide commitment to becoming a partner with them. Companies that succeed, become an integral part of their customer’s organizations. They become more than vendors that can be swapped out easily with other vendors. “Developing that kind of relationship takes time,” says Deacon. “When established customers come to you to help solve their problems, they trust you. It becomes a partnership.”
Here’s how two IPG brand customers partnered up with the company to tackle two difficult issues:
Customer Problem #1: A fool-proof way to switch between two packaging tapes.
One of IPG’s largest customers provides fulfillment services for diverse retailers, as well as for their own business. Some cartons needed to be sealed with a tape that promoted the shipper with logoed tape. Others needed to be sealed with blank tape. Those who packed the cartons needed an easy and efficient way to dispense the right tape for the right item. “The shipper needed a fool-proof system so their own orders (which required the branded tape) and other orders fulfilled on a contract basis could be processed at a single packing station. They needed both the flexibility to dispense two different tapes and a system where there was a zero chance that their branded tape would end up on the wrong carton,” says Deacon. The solution was a dual dispenser that Better Packages created, prototyped, tested and put in full production in just a few months and delivered before the customer’s peak selling season.
Customer Problem #2: A way to ramp up a new ship-from-store system without breaking the bank.
A major convenience/drug store wanted to cut delivery times by setting up a ship-from-store system from their brick and mortar locations. Purchasing equipment for packing stations at multiple locations would have meant a hit to their bottom line. The IPG salesperson went to the company’s management team to come up with a solution. The answer was to create a program that included both IPG brands – the dispensers and the tape. It allowed the customer to purchase both the equipment and the supplies over time. Deacon describes the outcome this way: “By getting our whole organization involved in the solution, we could meet the customer’s needs with an affordable program that was quick to implement. It all came from IPG’s organization-wide commitment to flex to the customers’ needs and to find creative ways to respond to their problems.”
Products Before the Customers Ask For Them
Once a company makes the commitment to flexing to the environment, they are able to anticipate customers’ needs even before they voice them. “We don’t just wait to hear what customers tell us,” says Deacon. “We have become experts in the field by partnering with our customers and constantly scanning their environments. We have our fingers on the pulse of the industry. That means we can proactively go to our customers with solutions before they ask for them.”
Sales people are key components of this process. They will hear about a specific need from several customers and will bring this information to the company. By responding to that need, the company can develop and introduce products to solve pain points for multiple customers before they ask for them.
The Flexible Company and Success
Companies with open ears and open minds can flex and respond to customer needs, often before they voice them. They become more than vendors. They become partners who are indispensable parts of their customers’ success. These are partners that cannot easily be replaced. That’s a competitive advantage that can lead to a century of growth and success.
About Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) & the Better Packages Brand
Better Packages, Inc is a wholly owned subsidiary of Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), the leading manufacturer of tabletop water-activated tape (WAT) dispensers used in carton sealing. In 2017, both the Better Packages brand of WAT dispensers and IPG’s Central® brand of water-activated tape are celebrating their 100-year anniversary. Better Packages’ product line includes auto-dispensing electric machines used in high volume fulfillment centers, as well as manual dispensers. IPG’s Central® brand of water-activated tape is offered in a wide range of paper-only and reinforced gummed paper tape styles, roll lengths and widths. In the U.S., Better Packages sells through multiple channels that include industrial and packaging distributors and catalog wholesalers, as well as direct to end-user customers. Its worldwide distribution network consists of over 300 authorized distributors selling into over 70 countries. For more information, see: www.betterpackages.com and www.itape.com.
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