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Dazzle your customers with improved service.

We have heard that the field of credit is changing in the 1990s. Companies are downsizing, or rightsizing - depending on how the company sees it. Those of us in the credit profession know what that means: more work divided among fewer workers without decreasing the output. It becomes a challenge to be more efficient, to get the job done without becoming stressed and/or curt with customers, and to continue educating ourselves and our staff in the current processes while maintaining a life beyond daily employment. Will we, or can we, be a part of the reengineering of credit?

All companies are searching for excellence and a way to reduce manpower at the same time. Can we provide customer service through credit? The essence of customer service is to go beyond the expected, satisfying the wants and needs of a customer, either internal or external. Our goal should be "customer dazzlement," as Chip Bell, of Performance Research Associates, Inc. states.

"At Starkey Labs, we are saying, 'Yes, we can do it - and more. . .' Our administrative service department adds, 'Anything's a possibility.' We are examining our processes and eliminating those that are not cost effective. We eliminated bank inquiries (with nominal exceptions) because few were returned and the information was negligible."

New customers are given initial approval while they are on the phone opening an account. Much of the credit approval is now automated, set to pre-approve pending orders within prescribed parameters. Sales has access to this information, thereby knowing whether or not to make a sales call on a specific account or to contact the credit rep for what and/or how to sell this account. Credit applications are dated when they are returned and processed - in most cases within two days. Most customers do not have to wait to have their custom order approved.

Don Mosher, president NACM North Central, wrote in the August, 1995 Creditorial, "Credit is moving from a transaction-based department to a customer-service-process oriented department."

It costs less to keep an existing customer than it does to solicit a new one. All companies are looking for new business, but it is service that will keep current customers happy.

Even our department name has changed from the negative "credit" to the positive "service." Under the umbrella of "Administrative Services" falls a number of value-added options for our customers. They include:

* Auto pay. We write their check in our office and process the order today. As Jim McIntyre, president, McIntyre Enterprises, Ltd., said at the CFDD Regional Conference last fall, "Give the green light to credit.";

* Hearing health care card. This is a credit card for use in the dispenser's office;

* Professional benefit service. Insurance for the customer's hearing aid, with future products to be offered;

* Financial Management Services. Financial consultation regarding purchasing a new office, office layout, any and all aspects of a dispensing practice;

* Lease services. Providing equipment purchases through a lease company.

These tools enhance our job and corporate cash flow, and provide value-added services for our customers. Our credit reps "sell" the dispensers on HHCC, PBS, Auto Pay, and Lease Services. Is that a credit/customer service/sales function? Yes. And look at what we have achieved. We have increased the awareness of what credit/administrative service does and can do very well. Administrative services is multi-functional, blending credit, customer service, and sales.

Credit people have always been flexible and we fill many roles. After all, we are the "we can do it, we can fix it," type A people. Today, more than ever, we have to show that flexibility. We will be discarding the clean-up process with the advent of TQM and reexamination of all systems and processes and move forward in areas previously not seen fitting a "credit position."

Use the tools you have. Measure and display your progress. Apply your initiative to move forward. Be memorable and dazzle your customers.

Kaye Erbes, CBF is credit manager, Starkey Labs, Inc. Eden Prairie, Minn. This article was originally printed in NACM North Central's newsletter, the Creditorial.
COPYRIGHT 1995 National Association of Credit Management
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Erbes, Kaye
Publication:Business Credit
Date:Jul 1, 1995
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