Adding Value Through Good Customer Visits

“As credit people we don’t ever look at our roles at making the customer experience a little better,” said Susan Delloiacono, CCE, director of credit for Brother International Corp. “We kind of just stay in our own silo and
we forget about the touch point we have with the customers.” However, as Delloiacono discussed in a past CMA webinar, “Effective Customer Visits,” a credit professional’s ability to pull off a productive customer visit
and successfully maintain a healthy customer relationship can add real ongoing value to a company.

Preparation is required for any successful customer visit and, throughout her presentation, Delloiacono offered tips on what to know and what to take care of before a customer visit, such as creating an agenda, confirming
with the customers what issues are going to be discussed and setting the travel logistics so both parties are clear on when the meeting will take place.

Delloiacono also noted that, prior to the visit, credit professionals should know as much as possible about the customer. “Understanding the cash flow and looking at their operations cycle is so critical to a credit professional,” she said, adding that potential visitors should check the customer’s website for any recent press releases, even if they don’t necessarily pertain to business. “Customers really like that, because then you’re really taking an interest in
them.

But just as important as it is for visiting creditors to know their customers, it’s also important for visitors to know everything about their own companies, including any ongoing sales and marketing initiatives. “We want to understand our companies,” before visiting a customer, she said. “You really need to understand what is going on with your sales person and it’s very important for you to understand your upcoming promotional activities.”

Do You Think (and Act) Like a Salesman When Visiting Customers?

A Rather Unusual Approach When Visiting Customers

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in Credit Today, the leading publication for the credit professional, a CMA Partner. Click here for Special CMA Member $10 Trial!

On his visits to customer organizations, experienced international credit exec and now consultant Eddy Sumar (ERS Consulting Services) makes it a point to meet as many people as he can — everyone from the receptionist to the president.

“The receptionist, for example, will be my first contact anytime I call that customer,” he explains. “I want her to remember me, so she can facilitate my connection to the right person.”

Sumar also recommends spending time with everyone in the accounts payable process: the person who receives and processes the invoice, the person who signs the check, the person who authorizes release of the check, and so on. “You want to make all of them feel important,” he emphasizes.

As a former accounts payable person himself, Sumar understands what payables people experience. “I always remember wondering why salespeople visited the purchasing people, gave them gifts, and took them to lunch, but never paid attention to us,” he recalls. Sumar feels credit execs should makes it a point to give small gifts of introduction and appreciation to payables people, such as pens or key chains with your company logo, or to take them out to lunch. He has received a number of calls from these people thanking him for these gestures, he says.

More important than the appreciation he receives, however, are the results.

Three Big Benefits

Sumar has also found that personal visits can clear up misunderstandings that might have occurred over the phone. Once, for example, he had the opportunity to visit a customer whose payables person had been very difficult to deal with in the past. “When I visited, we seemed to hit it off almost immediately,” he reports. Following that, she did not default on even one payment, he related.

Another benefit: Many customers, when they are experiencing cash-flow problems, will be much more prone to initiate contact with you if you have taken the time to visit and discuss your problems before they become serious, allowing you to work out appropriate arrangements.

An unexpected benefit is also improved relationships with the sales department. “When salespeople see the value you can provide to an account, it often pays dividends,” he says. “Once, for example, a customer was so impressed with some of the things I was saying that he asked if I’d conduct a seminar for his employees. When the salesperson heard about this, it really strengthened our relationship.” Whether or not you take all the steps Sumar does, it always makes sense to think strategically about how to get the most out of your customer visits – and not to forget anyone involved in the payment process. They’re ALL important.

This article originally appeared in Credit Today, the leading publication for the credit professional.
Click here for Special CMA Member $10 Trial!

Credit’s Role in Customer Visits

 

It seems that, in an age of heightened travel concern, everyone knows someone or has their own story of an airport security nightmare, whether from an overzealous TSA agent or an innocently misplaced bottle of mouthwash. In general, increasingly stringent security policies have removed a bit of the sheen that once characterized the world of air travel. “Traveling today is certainly no glamour gig. It’s a lot of work,” said Susan Delloiacono, CCE. However, she added, braving the crying babies, metal detectors and parking fees may be just the trick for credit professionals looking to enhance their relationship with a customer and, in the end, generate a solid, tangible benefit in the form of quicker customer payment.

Delloiacono, a long-time credit professional and expert on customer visits, recently delivered a CMA-sponsored teleconference, entitled “Customer Visits: Credit’s Role,” where she outlined the many benefits of visiting a potential or existing customer. “This is the best weapon in your credit arsenal when you think about knowing your customer, having them know you,” she said. “You become a human to them. And you become accessible. When there’s a problem, you get the first phone call.” In addition to bringing credit departments and their customers closer together, Delloiacono argued that customer visits can also bring other company departments in on credit’s mission as a sales generator and customer service organization. “Our purpose is to develop a win-win customer service strategy that really looks beyond just the credit department,” she said. “Early in my career I thought the world revolved around the credit department, and clearly, as we grow, we realize that although all roads go through credit, we need to understand other members of our company, other members of our team and their touch-points with the customer.”

“When you go to visit a customer, it not only brings you closer to them, it also brings you much closer to your sales organization,” she added. “You really adopt that team approach.”

As with any well-considered business venture, Delloiacono noted that proper planning for a customer visit is essential and offered tips about what to prepare for when visiting a buyer. She also outlined the different considerations that need to be made depending on the type of customer visit, whether it’s at your office, theirs or in a neutral territory like a trade show or whether it’s a pre-sales customer visit, a maintenance visit, or a problem solving visit.