Focusing on speed of service will give wholesalers a competitive advantage, says David Gilroy.
“Your password must include a capital letter, six numbers, letters and a symbol.” Why not tell me that in the first place? This is frustrating and taking more time than I have right now. Am I becoming more intolerant, or am I expecting to get my goods faster? Whether it’s online ordering, visiting a store or eating out, I find it highly irksome to have to wait for service. This is a function of our times.
Consumers have less patience today and operators in the service arena are working at breakneck speed to anticipate their demands. The latest app and collect initiatives from the likes of Starbucks and McDonald’s are great examples of the innovative enhancements being designed to satisfy their customers’ expectations. As Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, says: “Never ever compete on prices. Instead compete on services and innovation.” Service is fast becoming the competitive battleground in the war to retain customers. More to the point, speed of service.
In our wholesale world, taking good care of price, choice and service has always been at the core of successful trading. Until recently, there has been a heavy emphasis on getting the pricing right, followed by choice and availability. Service has tended to come third in the pecking order.
I think it is fair to say that service in wholesale has been ‘unsophisticated’. Until now. According to motivational speaker Brian Tracy: “Everybody has a need for speed, and you make your product or service more attractive when you do them fast.”
The wholesale customers I meet have started talking increasingly about the importance of quick service when it comes to selecting their service provider. The shortage of reliable labour is impacting on their available time and the need to spend more time in the business. They can’t afford to commit hours in a cash and carry, nor can they afford to be bogged down on badly designed websites or apps. I’ve seen many examples of both.
So, how do wholesalers innovate to make their services as fast and frictionless as possible? A focus on the front end would be a good start. Those operators with a three-stage checkout process should look hard at designing out at least one of the pinch points.
Maybe randomly or target-check specific customers on the way out? Self-scan is also a popular service speed option and is becoming increasingly deployed across the industry. When properly managed, it is not the licence to steal that you might intuitively expect. A vehicle loading service in the car park is also simple and time-saving.
Here’s a little unconventional thinking. How about an accessible fast-pick area or even a drive-through for, say, soft drinks and water when the weather heats up and customers need to top up their stocks quickly without having to navigate the entire warehouse? This could be supported by an emergency delivery service in times of need when sales are really taking off.
Websites and apps also need to be critically appraised. Page loading speeds, description accuracy, image coverage, checkout functions and payment processes are all the areas that have been highlighted to me by customers. The proliferation of ads is another source of confusion and frustration that needs to be addressed.
I am convinced that service speed and innovation now define the best wholesalers and offer considerable competitive advantages.
Now is the time to break out rather than running with the pack. Customers won’t wait.