Chairman’s Blog: Building Relationships with Customers through Customer Visits, by Tracy Rosenbach, CCE

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Greetings CMA members! I can’t believe that we are in the middle of summer. Time sure flies. For this month’s blog I wanted to talk about our customers and techniques I use to build a relationship with them. Some of our customers drive us mad, some of our customers are fabulous and some are somewhere in between. One valuable tool I use as a credit manager is the customer visit. Understanding that each of us works with a budget (both fiscal and time) that determines who we can visit, I strongly encourage you to attempt to visit as many of your customers as possible.

Depending on factors such as your industry, dollar purchase volume, your company’s risk tolerance, etc., I suggest that you make a checklist of those key customers you would like to see and why. The “why” provides the justification to management for you to be out of the office, and it also proves that you’re taking a proactive (instead of reactive) stance towards your job.

The next step is to approach your boss with the list and be prepared to discuss the “why.” I have found over the years that having that initiating a personal connection with a customer pays off in terms of obtaining financial information, and it provides a far better understanding of the customer’s business including its challenges and a relationship with a company that can directly impact your company’s performance. For example, I had a key customer contact me directly with all the pertinent information regarding the removal of a key member of its management team before it went public just so I would know what had really happened. This is the type of relationship I strive for with all our key customers. Is it practical? Perhaps not, but it is important to try. If your budget is tight and an actual visit is not possible, then I suggest that you give your contact a call to see how he/she is doing and how the company is doing. Be sure to get their e-mail address so that you can touch base periodically. Communication is truly the key to success in any business relationship.

What methods do you use to build relationships with your customers? I’d love to hear about them. Please respond to the blog below.

Have a great rest of your summer. I’ll touch base in the Fall.

Tracy Rosenbach
CMA Chairperson 2016/2017

I Love My Credit Industry Group, by Melissa Kobus, CCE

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com
Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com

Last week someone asked me why my company joined CMA. I did not have to think long about why we became a member of CMA, it is all about the access to resources. The number 1 reason we joined was the electrical credit industry group. I have been a group member for over 15 years. The other credit professionals in the group at that time were wonderful, excellent credit managers in their own right, that group made me want to get involved.

I learn so much from participating in the group. I can ask questions and not feel uncomfortable. I am exposed to best practices that I can bring back and implement immediately. I developed friendships with people who understood what I face every day. A commitment of two hours every month helps me become a better credit manager, helps my company protect their assets and allows me to contribute to the growth of the credit profession.

Every month I have my credit industry group meeting on my calendar. It is not something I can afford to miss. I make the time to attend, it’s important to me, my company and the other group members. Contribution to and participation in the group is the key to a successful experience. My contribution is submitting our aging report every month so that the group has access to the most current data available. My participation is coming prepared to talk about new ideas, give insight on processes, and discuss upcoming educational opportunities.

One of the most significant parts of the group is the submission of aging information. The aging goes into the CMA database for access on anscers and in group reports. The contribution of your data is so very important, as it makes the meetings so much more valuable to deal with real-world problems. If you are not submitting your data today, please find a way to do it. There are contacts at CMA that can assist. Talk to your IT person to find an easy and simple way to download the data.

I love my credit industry group. I respect the credit managers that are a part of my group. I hope you find the same enjoyment with your group. If you are not part of an industry credit group today, ask why not. Contact CMA to find a group or even better, create a group for your specific industry needs. Please let me know if I can answer any questions about CMA’s credit industry groups.

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com

The Year End is Coming – What is the Credit Professional To Do?, by Melissa Kobus, CCE

As a credit manager, I am not sure there is any time of the year that is “slow” for me, especially not year-end.  There is always an account that needs attention, money needing to be collected, training that needs to occur, etc.  However, as we roll into the last quarter of the year, I will take a few moments to identify some action items to ensure that we will meet our goals for the year.

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com
Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com

I know that 80% of our receivables base is made up of 20% of our customers.  I will review these accounts for any special items that could delay our payments coming in as they need to.  I will check with the sales team to see if their purchases will be ramping up for the end of the year so that the credit limit is in place.  I might make a customer visit to strengthen the relationship with my Company, expressing my appreciation for their continued support and to verify payment expectations for the year end.

It is house-cleaning time, or better yet account-cleaning time, my team and I will spend some time to ensure that our account disputes are being resolved for the year end.  We will scrub and clear as many disputes as we possibly can.  We will engage the sales team early in the quarter to give them plenty of time to address the issue.  I might even pull one credit analyst to spearhead this activity, and let them focus on only this activity.

I also take time throughout the last quarter to remind my team how important they are to me.  They have worked hard all year and I am asking them to make the push to close the year strong.  I want to keep them motivated and happy; I might take them out to lunch, for a cocktail after hours, or maybe let them leave an hour early on a Friday to miss the traffic.  I appreciate their efforts and recognize that as a team we are successful.  The recognition really is all year long but the last quarter can be more stressful than the others.

The year end is coming, sooner than we all probably would like.  It is a good time to reflect on areas of opportunity, and lead the team to the finish line!  What are some of the opportunities you look to as the end of the year approaches?

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com

Chair’s Message: How to Spot Fraud, by Melissa Kobus

In today’s connected world, fraud is an epidemic that can hurt any company, big or small, and it’s becoming more common.

In my company, we recently were hit with some large fraud both with “phony” PO’s and stolen credit cards.  As credit managers, make sure that you are diligent about watching for the red flags so that we can stop these before we take a hit.  If something does not smell right, look right, etc. – ASK your credit analyst and investigate further.

Please pay attention to the following details when accepting orders (on terms or credit cards):

  • No contact except via email
  • Phone number is from outside the area or linked to Magic Jack phone
  • Urgency of getting a quote or in shipping material (must have it air freight today)
  • Email address is outside the normal address (gmail and yahoo too)
  • Reluctance to complete online forms
  • Typos and misprints on pre-printed information
  • Material type and quantity is out of the ordinary (hard drives, projectors, testers, etc)
  • Material has a high copper content and seems out of the ordinary for a credit card purchase
  • Shipment going to a different location or a location outside of their territory  (Use google earth to research ship-to address)
  • Shipment made close to a border town
  • Credit card number and name does not match the way the account is setup

Our best defense against fraud is a strong front line, so please make sure to keep your eyes open and ask questions, make phone calls, do the research.  We can continue to stop these thieves from hitting your company.

It is important to make sure everyone on your team gets this information.

What measures are your companies taking to prevent fraud? We welcome your feedback.

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com