The Qualifirst senior leadership team has been spending a great deal of time in the warehouses lately. This is not so unusual for Qualifirst, and it should not be for any company that delivers products to a marketplace.
Many of my blogs and other Qualifirst materials speak about the quality of our products. Our products get us to our customers and they drive much new customer growth. Even though we deliver products, it is service that constitutes 75% of our success formula. It is service that keeps our customers and encourages them to buy products from us that they could easily buy from our competition, and 75% of that service is driven by our warehouse team. This is so important to us, I asked my senior leadership team to step in to see how we can bring our service to the next level.
Where Does Service Come From?
Where does service come from? In part it comes from our reliable and knowledgeable staff who are always able to answer customers’ questions. But as important as this is, much of our service value comes from the warehouse. Each person in the warehouse plays an important role in providing great service, and every order that leaves the warehouse is a reflection of that. The work of the warehouse team is not just to pick and pack orders, but to deliver on a promise that assures clients they can expect every order from Qualifirst to arrive error free and on time. In fact, there are four important features to the service they deliver:
- The customer receives the correct product,
- free of damages,
- in a timely fashion and
- the invoice matches the products received.
This is one of the key reasons clients keep returning to Qualifirst and why they refer their friends and colleagues to us: Our blend of outstanding service and outstanding quality ingredients. Every team member knows, if we fail once, we risk losing an account. Mistakes can have a huge cost. A $20 mistake can cost a $20,000 account. This is why the management team stays intimately involved with the warehouse operation.
The Complexity of the Warehouse
Our warehouse operation is quite complex. We handle more than 2,000 items; we repack certain products; there are UPC Nutritional Facts stickers, and French language stickers to apply, and special orders to be processed. Even deciding what orders to pick is complicated. We ship all over the country, using different couriers that pick up at different times, so the priority of an order changes depending on the time of day and courier we use to ship. Our warehouses are far too complex for one person to fully manage and that is why all leaders and managers need to step in from time to time as needed.
Our Goal: Growth through Accuracy
We have an aggressive goal to double our sales in the next year. To achieve this, we need 100% accuracy every time an order leaves our warehouse. When we make one mistake, even down to 1% of an order’s value or accuracy, we risk losing this our growth momentum. That’s the true cost of an error: a slowing of momentum. So, the management team stays intimately involved in the warehouse operations.
To ensure each team member stays committed to this success approach, I ask them to consider scenarios such as:
- What does it mean to a chef when he/she receives the wrong product?
- What does it mean to a retailer to receive a damaged product?
We are all human. We make mistakes. People should not be punished for making mistakes, but they should ensure they take the time to reflect and improve: to think through what created the mistake, and to focus on steps to avoid repeating it. Great service doesn’t just happen. It comes from conscious awareness of the process, and that is something every one of us can focus on.