Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Neil is the owner of a company called Longbow Consulting, and as part of our install we flew him up from Boston to train us and set up our processes. He said the next three days were going to be quite intense. I know our staff is excited and ready for the challenge. They even made a nice welcome card and basket of goodies and had it dropped off at his hotel for their arrival. Neil said that in the hundred or more installs he has attended, he has never received such hospitality! He said it really set the tone for what kind of company he was coming to train.
The software will take a few months to become fully functional, and I hope you see subtle changes in how you are serviced.
Great job staff!
Update September 9th: In the picture, here is a group of our sales people at the end of our training, and Neil in the front holding a giant 10 pound sucker. Our gift to Neil to let him know "Training Didn't SUCK!"
Monday, August 25, 2008
Buckle up, staff - it's catalogue season! Our staff has seen what it's like when we start preparing our new catalogue - in this case, our 2009 Big Book.
We meet with over 100 suppliers; From coffee to cups, paper to pop, fruit to facial tissue and everything in between. What the staff likes best are the free samples each supplier brings in. So far we have some cool cups and cutlery made from corn and bamboo reeds, and "Amazing Raisins" flavoured with all sorts of tasty toppings that are at the top of our staff selection.
Our goal this year for the catalogue is to continue to add more eco friendly products, more coffee selection, healthier snacks and more fruit, to name just a few. Take a look on the front of our website; we have added a customer poll so you can vote on some of the items we need help deciding on. Also, under our Free Samples list, you might just find a few treats to try for yourself, before they come out in our new catalogue!
If you have specific feedback, or a wish list, please by all means let us know, and we'll consider all items.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
For the next two weeks, all customers will receive a free shredder when they place a qualifying order. The value on the shredders starts at $59 when you place a $300 order, and go all the way up to a $500 industrial shredder when you place a $3000 order.
I will wager the industrial shredders will be snapped up first, since we have so many customers who place large standing orders. They will automatically get one. What a great surprise!
If you happen to miss this special, please sign up for our Express News email list, as this is where you'll see this and other exclusive online deals.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Update September 6, 2008: Here is a follow up to the special. Great success! We know at least 128 customers took advantage of the sale in the two weeks, and feedback from the sales staff was that some ordered paper and toner for the first time. Thanks for the support!
Monday, August 11, 2008
As most of our customers would have seen from our emails and website, we conducted a Customer Survey last week. Thanks to the over 300 customers who participated. The response and feedback was incredible.
For any of you who did not get a chance to fill out the survey, please click here to participate. Your feedback will really help us be the best we can be.
I wanted to share some of the results on how we are doing and to let you know we are listening.
Customer Service - Overall, customers gave us very high marks on the customer service side. We will continue to improve on product knowledge, and focus more on communicating and out-of-stocks and substitutions. There were a few comments that some of our phone staff is "too happy and chipper - it must be fake", but really they are all like that in the office, happy, laughing and loving their jobs. Customers comment also that our atmosphere seems really fun and some have actually asked to come work here. Anyways, good feedback.
Delivery Drivers - Almost perfect marks for our drivers!!! I was so proud to hear the bonds they had made with customers. Most singled them out by name, commenting things like "Mo places our order in the kitchen and puts our milk in the fridge, we love him!!"
Accounting Department - An area we can improve on. Customer feedback was, we could speed up all levels of communication and credits. Point taken, and immediately we put the wheels in action to bring Bill from Purchasing back over to Accounting to help Darrin and Wendy. You should hear from Bill in mid September, once he wraps up commitments in the purchasing department.
Warehouse - High marks for order accuracy, but there was a concern around one supplier who seems to be the route of most of our errors. This supplier ships to us "pre picked" and we needed to ensure the order in the box was picked correctly. Of the approximately 50 order errors we track each month (out of 4000 orders), this supplier was responsible for 75% of them. We have spoken to the supplier, and they in turn have put a double check on all shipments to us. In addition, we added incentives to our Quality Control manager to continue his diligent efforts to reduce any errors.
Communication - It seems we can do a better job communicating with customers. Over 40% of customers responded they didn't know we sold copy paper, and over 60% didn't know that we sold toners. Our goal is to be a single source supplier of consumable products to our customers. We need to let customers know what we sell in some new ways. Powerful stuff!
Pricing - About two thirds of customers responded we had great prices, while the remainder felt we could do better. Of the customers who felt we were priced high, most were comparing us to "non delivered" competitors, such as Costco or London Drugs.
We are always looking at our pricing strategy and we want to be competitive. If customers ever see a lower delivered price we will automatically beat the price. One important note is that we will create custom contract price lists for customers on the items that are most important to them. So consider our catalogue and web prices a start for smaller orders and when you need help on a price or want to order big, we can work with you on pricing. Our company has succeeded for 18 years on service, convenience, selection and our flexibility to work with customers. Please don't leave and buy somewhere else if you see our price is not what you are looking for. Give us a chance to work with you. (Thanks!)
Web Site - I'd say this one caught me by surprise. We received lower marks than expected for our shopping cart. High marks for the front end specials and graphics (great job, Erin). We have had the same shopping cart for over 5 years now and it does about 65% of our sales. But to keep up with the times, the feedback was to have a better search and a fresh look. I am happy to say we have accelerated our plans to revamp our website, and will be working diligently to roll out our new and improved site over the next 6 months.
I also promoted one of our inside sales people, Chris Craven, to the position of Company Ambassador, and she will be visiting customers to train them on our current website. It still is a great site once you have some training and we do a bit of customizing to take advantage of all the powerful features.
Well, it looks like I have some work to do. Thanks again for the incredible feedback, you really are the best group of customers any company could wish to have.
Monday, August 4, 2008
In past years, we have printed our flyer and sent it out around the October time frame. But this year we moved up the date, because there is always limited supply from the manufacturers, and I wanted our customers to get an early start. By late November, all the 2009 supply will start running low, and by January 2009 the selection will be sold out. I know it's strange you can't order 2009 calendars in January 2009, but it seems suppliers just don't want to carry excess stock and possibly see it go out of date and then tossed in a land fill. (We hope they recycle!)
So have a look at our flyer online and get in your orders now (mark in in your calendar!), prices are discounted and selection is good.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Four of us flew down — Sandy (VP Operations), Erin (Marketing/Web), Darrin (Controller), and myself — for 4 days of VIP treatment from our #1 office products wholesaler. It is an event our company really enjoys attending, and the best part is we are invited down at no cost, because of the volumes we purchase throughout the year.
We are treated like royalty from the moment we land. The time is filled with cocktail receptions, trade shows, classes and peer roundtable discussions.
In particular, I spend most of my time in these round table meetings with other owners. As there are over 4000 people who attended this year, there was no shortage of people to meet and share ideas with. My little note book is jammed with great ideas and contacts for me to follow up on over the next few months. I also had an opportunity to share some things that worked well for us at Costless. In particular, other dealers loved our Free Cookies when you buy 6 cases of paper, Free Paper Clips for Life, and our Web Free Samples. I'm glad to share what works for us in such a giving and high-energy environment.
The highlight of the conference had to be dinner on the deck of the famous USS Midway aircraft carrier. With a 40 piece big band playing, and the entire flight deck filled with people under a star filled San Diego summer night - it was a most memorable time for all of us.
Next year we will be attending the conference in New Orleans, and our staff is already lobbying for who gets a chance to go. Past entertainment has included Bill Cosby, Jay Leno, ZZ Top and Lonestar, so you know the stakes are high and staff is on their best game! Good luck to everyone, and we'll see what 4-5 staff get to come with me.