Last Impressions Count too…

-Caroline Cooper, from Customer Experience Magazine

We’re all familiar with the sayings about a first impression: a first impression is a lasting impression, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you only get one chance to make a first impression, you will form a lasting impression within the first seconds, etc. So does that mean if you make a great first impression that’s all you need to do?

We sometimes put so much energy into a positive first impression that we then forget all about the lasting impression. What is the impression that stays with your customers when they leave your businesses or complete their transaction?

What will be the lasting memory that stays with them when they’re thinking about buying or booking again, telling their friends or colleagues, or telling the world on social media or review sites about their experience?

When I’m working within a business reviewing the customer experience I always ask them to imagine the conversation or the feelings and thoughts they’d like their customers to have when they’re on their way home from doing business with them.

In my world that might be the whole family in the car on their way home from an active day out, a couple sat on an aeroplane on their way home from a relaxing long weekend, or a walk back to the office having indulged in a lunchtime treat. But whether your customers come to you for – business or pleasure – ask yourself what would you want them to be saying or feeling after doing business with you?


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4 Critical Steps To Connecting With Customers

Customers have expectations about products, services and interactions long before they walk through a company’s door or arrive at its website.

Friends, family, social networks, product and service ecosystems and brand attributes affect a customer’s perception of a company and every interaction they have with it. Fulfilling those expectations and transforming them into lifelong relationships involves a culture change that begins by looking at value from the customer’s point of view.

Building relationships and understanding why people do what they do are critical steps to attracting and retaining loyal customers. And it takes time. Relationships are built on trust, and trust is built over the span of multiple, consistently good interactions.

So how do companies build lasting customer relationships — and how do they maintain them? They connect the company’s DNA to the customer’s DNA and follow four critical steps.

1. Understand the customer. Companies are encouraged to understand each customer’s unique expectations, how the customer feels about the experience during the interaction and the memories that last long after the interaction has ended. Active engagement and experience tracking across all phases of the journey can help a company understand the customer — rationally and emotionally.

2. Enable the experience. Understanding is good, but that is just the beginning. To enable the experience, companies must map the customer’s expectations to organizational processes. This includes following the customer journey from beginning to end; identifying the most common situations that propel customers to buy products or services; analyzing interaction points that indicate where a customer may be tuning in or out; and designing the people, processes and technologies that can create unbreakable lifetime relationships.

3. Optimize the relationship. For this next step, companies may want to consider striking a balance between the value the company provides to the customer and the value the customer delivers to the company in return. An optimal financial performance enables a company to stay invested in the heart of their business — the customer. Organizations must simultaneously streamline business operations and improve the consistent quality time spent with customers in order to build trust. This happens most effectively when all functions understand how their activities contribute to the delivery of customer value.

4. Align the organization. Change management is a critical element, yet its scope extends beyond people to include processes, tools, management, metrics and culture. In addition to executive leadership and a willingness to empower the organization, companies will also want to create an experience-oriented organizational governance structure and an engaged employee workforce to help build loyal customer relationships.

Truly connecting with the customer is the most important step to building mutually valuable relationships. It’s as important as the products or services themselves. By aligning people, processes, tools, management and culture, companies can build trusted relationships that last a lifetime.

Julie Harter is an executive director in the Advisory Performance Improvement — Customer practice of Ernst & Young LLP. She is based in Chicago, Illinois.


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Weather, Congestion Produce Chassis Shortages


Winter weather has combined with congestion at terminals and backlogs for repairs to produce chassis shortages at the Port of New York and New Jersey and at Midwest rail terminals.

New York-New Jersey drayage drivers have complained for weeks about tight supplies of chassis at some terminals.

Truckers are reluctant to send drivers to congested terminals where they may spend several hours merely returning a chassis. Terminals also have a large backlog of chassis that have been “deadlined” for repairs by International Longshoremen’s Association mechanics.

“The fellows aren’t returning chassis. They’re holding onto them,” said Dick Jones, executive director of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. “They’d rather the per-diem than send a driver back with an empty chassis and gamble on being able to find a good one.”

Another contributor to chassis shortages is extended free time for container usage that shippers often negotiate with ocean carriers. Many roadworthy chassis are sitting under containers waiting to be unloaded at distribution centers.

“It’s really affecting the flow of commerce,” said Eric Zeitouni, president of Blue Arrow Warehouse in Monroe, N.J. “It’s causing a frenzy in the entire market.”

Slow deliveries keep chassis out of system

Chassis shortages haven’t been limited to marine terminals. A series of winter storms have slowed deliveries at warehouses across the Midwest and slowed the return of intermodal equipment.

“It’s all due to the weather and the good chassis not being returned at the velocity the terminals need,” said Jason Hilsenbeck, owner of Load-Match and “All the good chassis get sucked right out of the terminals, and you’re left with the ones that need repair.”

“I have emails from truckers in Chicago saying their parking lots are overflowing with containers that still need to be delivered. Those chassis probably are good, but they’re not available to take other containers,” he said.

“You can go from Minneapolis to Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland, over to Boston, down to New York and Norfolk, and come back through Cincinnati — that’s your path of congestion and severe chassis shortages,” Hilsenbeck said.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach complex in Southern California is also suffering from chassis “dislocations,” which are leading to long turn times for truckers at terminals. Problems there are linked to carriers’ sale of containers as they get out of the chassis provision business.

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