Customer Fulfillment usually refers to the process of delivering the product or service to the customer, involving “order fulfilment” methods such as logistics.
However, when I say customer fulfilment, I mean the whole system of ensuring that your customer is “fulfilled” in their engagement with you.
In other words, how fulfilled are they when they first encountered you, how easy was it to transact with you, whether they received their goods and services in the way and time that they liked, and what was their experience after the sale?
I take customer fulfilment to be much more than “customer service”.
It’s about total satisfaction.
In this definition, customer fulfilment is one of the six key factors that successful businesses must have to be successful.
I explain what the Six Business Success Factors are in my free Small Business Growth Guide that helps you to “audit” your business for how well developed you are in these six business success factors.
As I say, Customer Fulfilment over and above customer service is one of them.
It is important for any business, let alone a small business where the “brand” of the small business is usually embedded in the face and personality of the owner.
As a business you usually engage with the customer during 4 main touchpoints:
- In your marketing;
- At the sale;
- At the delivery; and
- After the sale.
The brand value of your business (what it stands for, its quality-standard, how it communicates the product, and how people feel when they interact with it) should be the same at every touchpoint so that the customer feels a “one-ness” whenever he or she deals with the business.
This means that in order to be fulfilled or satisfied throughout his or her contact with you, they must feel that they understand what they will get, they get what they expect, and they know they will get and do get the same thing next time.
What you say about your product and your service delivery in your marketing material must be reinforced at the time of sale. The product must be as you marketed, and the way you communicate your product must meet those expectations, as does the product itself.
When you make the delivery, the way you deliver, and the product itself must meet expectations set at the early contact points.
If you say you are reliable or that you make the customer understand the features of the product, when you deliver it, you need to make sure that you deliver on time and that an outcome is that the customer knows how to use the product before you leave.
Finally, after the sale, you still need to meet expectations because a satisfied customer is a returning customer.
There is no worse adverse publicity than an unhappy customer telling 5 of his friends about his terrible experience.
So, the way to ensure that you are developing a happy customer journey is to map it out:
- Define your brand value. What are your “promises” about your product and your service? What are your business values? What level of quality do you provide in both? By the way, don’t think that you have to be Gucci if you really are K-Mart. Be honest about your level of quality and stick to it, that’s all your customer asks for.
- Map the touchpoints with your customer – generally, it is the four listed above, being marketing contact, contact at the point of sale, contact at the delivery of the product or service, and any contact after-sale, whether this is initiated by you in a follow-up to gauge satisfaction, or initiated by them in a query or complaint.
- Ensure that your brand value is shown at each of those touchpoints. Train your staff on what to say and how to behave at each touchpoint. Check how your systems like invoicing or POS reflect your brand value – if your brand value is all about efficiency, don’t keep the customer waiting for assistance in the shop or make it hard for them to pay.
It really is a simple skill to develop in your business.
The tricky part is to be consistent and making sure that every person in your business who has contact with the customer is aware of the need to reflect your brand value and behave consistently.
One way to do this is to write step-by-step procedures or scripts on typical points of contact with the customer and train everyone to follow those steps and script.
I have a five-day challenge for you to help you develop a focus on customer fulfilment.
If you have already developed a clear definition of your brand value, you can either skip the first day or spend the time on your first day reviewing your definition of brand value.
Take 60 minutes in the morning to define your brand value.
Write down your business values. These are the attributes of your business “personality” that is fundamental to your business, and that you would never betray.
To some, these include honesty or integrity, focus on people or customers, providing value-for-money, being professional, being always helpful, being respectful and open, and so on.
What are yours?
Describe what your product does for your customer. Not what they would use it for, but how it helps them or makes them feel.
So for example, the clothes you sell may make your customer more confident. Your legal advice might “help my client sleep well at night.” If your customer gets his car serviced at your garage, they might get peace of mind or understand how to drive more efficiently.
Describe what your customer will feel when he does business with you, over and above what the product will do for them.
Will they feel relief? Will they be ecstatically happy? Will they understand the best use of your product? Will they feel that their concerns were dealt with?
Finally, describe the quality of your product or customer service.
As I said above, if you’re a K-Mart, don’t promise to be Gucci.
Just define your level of quality, be honest, and stick to it. If you don’t provide 24-hour after-sales service because you can’t afford it and it’s not included in your pricing – just say so.
Once you’ve defined those brand factors, think about how you would embed them in your business. How does your marketing material and behaviour reflect them? What are one or two messages or tag lines you could use to tell people about your brand value? How does your product or customer service show your brand value?
If you want to download a Brand Value Worksheet, you can get one by clicking here – https://members.teikoh.com/pl/202835
Take another hour first thing in the morning for this exercise.
Write down all the touchpoints where the business has contact with your customer.
Obviously, this may be where a customer, potential customer or previous customer makes contact with someone in your business. But it may also be where the customer sees something about your business without talking to anyone in your business – for example, by reading some marketing material or talking to another customer.
Start with these four major touchpoints:
But then add any in between that you think are major touchpoints for your customer, for example:
- At a conference
- Referral from another customer
- In the store
- On the telephone – receptionist
- Notice of delivery/telephone contact
- Freight company
- Set up for customer
- Complaint or query – reception
- Complaint – service department
- Call to check on satisfaction
As you write your touchpoints, make notes about what they see, hear or experience.
Write who they first speak to – for example when they call, they may get the receptionist rather than a salesperson. This little analysis shows you how you must not forget that some of your people not directly involved with the customer may actually have contact with the customer.
Think about how they are passed on from person to person – who is involved?
Today you are going to spend an hour to start to design your customer fulfilment process.
Reviewing what you have done in the last two days, map out the customer journey – basically simply a list of their touchpoints as they go through the journey.
For example, from reading marketing material to making a call that is answered by your receptionist, to be transferred to a salesperson to making a meeting, and so on. This doesn’t have to be too complicated, just tell the “story” of how the customer learns about your business and their journey to the sale and to after the sale.
Depending on how many touchpoints you listed on Day 2, this could take you a few minutes to a full hour.
Make sure that when you “draw” your map, you also copy your notes about who they talk to and how they are handed over in the process.
You will complete the design of your customer fulfilment process today.
Spend an hour again today, and review your map of the customer journey, this time noting where it can be improved:
- Are there any inefficiencies? Is it a smooth journey?
- What brand values are being reflected at each stage? How can you improve the communication of those brand values?
- What are some key (and stock) messages you can make at each stage?
Day 5 is a review and “common-sense check” day.
Again, take an hour and review your newly designed customer fulfilment process. In its entirety, will it give a customer going from start to finish a true picture of your business brand values? Will they be fulfilled at the end of the journey? Will they be fulfilled enough to come back and buy again?
The last review question is an important one – do you think that you can establish procedures, checklists or scripts so that the journey can be repeated consistently for every customer and for each customer every time they transact with you?
The customer fulfilment process is all about consistency so that they know what to expect and get what they expect every time!
Finally, make some plans on how you will communicate your decisions to everyone in the business, especially those whom you have identified as having a role to play in your customer fulfilment process.
Well, that’s the end of the five-day challenge, but now there’s a new challenge for you!
At the end of these 5 days, you should have a good idea of how your customer interacts with your business, how to make this interaction smooth and satisfactory, fulfilling even!
Your new challenge is to implement your decisions and the new system.
This means you need to schedule some time yourself to write some formal procedures and standard scripts, and then train your staff to follow those procedures and scripts when they interact with your customers – or to train yourself to make sure that you are consistent.
It’s an effort well worth spending.
Ask yourself of a time when you interacted with another business – what made it a fulfilling transaction and what did not?
In most cases, you’ll find that it was fulfilling because you were “told” what to expect and you got it.
It may not have been the luxury experience, because that was not promised – but whatever was promised was delivered and you got that consistent experience every time you were in contact with them.
If that fulfilled you as a customer, why don’t you give your customers the same journey?
So, off you go – take the challenge and knock off one of the Six Business Success Factors.
To find out about the other Business Success Factors and how you fare in your business, you can download my free Small Business Owners Growth Guide.
See you again soon!