Everything that goes around, comes around—especially when it comes to the customer service provided by CSCMP's roundtables.
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' 87 global roundtables are dedicated to organizing programs that provide the best customer experience possible for local business communities and the supply chain profession at large. The officers and committee chairs who make up the roundtables' cabinets firmly believe that the better the customer experience, the better the value derived by all involved, from the event organizers and attendees, to the broader supply chain community, and back to the roundtable volunteers.
This concept of mutual benefit is one of the foundations of the roundtables' mission. "[The] value of roundtable involvement isn't just a takeaway," says Mike DelBovo, 2003 CSCMP Roundtable Chair. "It's a giveaway as well. Participation benefits other roundtables and attendees, who in turn give value to the organization, to the membership, and to the supply chain community. And where does it end up? Right back on the doorstep of the roundtable volunteers— enriching their individual careers and personal development."
Voice of the customers
Four decades ago, the founders of CSCMP (then National Council of Physical Distribution Management) established the roundtables as local venues for encouraging dialogue and for sharing knowledge and opinions. That's why, like their Arthurian namesake, CSCMP roundtables strive to create an atmosphere of open discussion and equality among those who come to the "table." By doing so, they encourage the fusion of both commonalities and differences into a cohesive goal.
One way roundtables achieve that objective is by offering a wide variety of educational programs and networking opportunities structured to facilitate communication among all represented supply chain segments. This, in turn, encourages collaboration and ultimately forms an unbreakable connection among participants, the organization, and the industry. These three elements embody roundtable philosophy and purpose by unifying the talents, skills, and knowledge of many people into a single, focused force.
Current CSCMP Roundtable Chair Michelle Meyer, whose involvement dates back to her college days, notes that roundtable participation has enhanced her professional and personal development. Based on her experiences, she believes that members' dedication to serving and promoting the profession makes it all happen. (For more of Meyer's views, see "CSCMP Roundtables—A Professional's Perspective.")
Meyer is right: The roundtable volunteers are the driving force behind CSCMP, functioning both as a conduit of information between the organization and the professional community and as the voice of the customers, expressing their needs to the organization. This two-way stream of communication helps the roundtables develop programs that meet the expectations and needs of their customers, the supply chain professionals.
The customer journey
Yet volunteers can't be expected to provide great customer experience unless they have experienced it themselves. That knowledge led to an opportunity for roundtable cabinet members from around the globe to learn about both giving and receiving great customer service during the 2007 Annual Roundtable Leadership Forum, held in June.
The Leadership Forum's unique "Customer Journey" session was the brainchild of Organizing Committee Chair Russell Kinneberg. In that session, Kinneberg used a "map" to guide participants through the phases of a great roundtable customer experience, as seen from the customer's point of view. The forum's organizing committee designed this unique program to provide cabinet members with a model they can follow in their local roundtables when planning programs and services. (See "Mapping a Great Roundtable Experience.")
Throughout the world, CSCMP's global roundtables offer local supply chain professionals a great customer experience. Whether it's planning, organizing, educating, or learning, each phase of that experience is another step in a unique and memorable journey. And, when that journey comes full circle, the participants have received immense value not only to take away but also to give back—to colleagues, to the profession at large, and to CSCMP, where it all began and where it will start again.
When I was asked to contribute my thoughts about what the roundtables mean to me as a professional to the inaugural issue of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly, the first words that came to mind were "friendship" and "generosity." The community of professionals that I have been lucky to meet over the years of my CSCMP involvement is absolutely amazing, and I am fortunate today to be able to consider many of them as friends.
It is hard for me to believe that it all started when I attended my first annual conference, 20 years ago this October, as a college junior majoring in transportation and logistics at the University of Colorado. Professor Jerry Foster's generous sharing of his time and his keen interest in students helped make sure that I got the most from my conference experience.
The roundtables became "real" for me when Paul Nuzum, who re-established the Rocky Mountain Roundtable in the early 1990s, hooked me the usual way most people get pulled into supporting a local roundtable: He asked me to be program chair. It was my first opportunity to ask industry professionals to share their knowledge with other colleagues.
It was fun! Our roundtable developed programs that attracted a cross-section of people, all coming to learn and to share. This provided an opportunity to network with people whom I otherwise would never have had the chance to meet. And there was always a focus on including students and on ensuring that the program was informative and helpful. I have learned so much about other industries, other companies, and other parts of the world through the information that people have been willing to share at roundtable events.
Some of the unique opportunities that I remember most are witnessing the behind-the-scenes operations at Coors Field (our beloved Denver baseball stadium), walking through a UPS sorting facility during night operations, drinking beer from the end of the filter line at a major brewing company, viewing the size and complexity of one of Wal-Mart's one-million-plus squarefoot distribution centers, and observing how the external tank of the space shuttle is manufactured and assembled. All thanks to participating in events scheduled through the local roundtables. Pretty incredible!
Through all the years of attending, participating, and supporting the local roundtables, I am still constantly amazed at how generous people have been with their time and knowledge. I know personally how much time and effort it takes to run a local roundtable. The roundtable volunteers are a special group of people who give their time to put together the programs, raise the monies that send students to college and to the conferences, and share their knowledge. I just like being around them.
That's why I love CSCMP—it's the people! And the people who make it happen every day at the roundtables are the ones who make CSCMP a viable force that reaches most of us. So, thanks to all who run a roundtable, and to all those who support their local roundtable—you do make a difference.
How do you define a great customer experi- ence? Colin Shaw, author of Building Great Customer Experiences, puts it this way:
"It is a blend of a company's physical performance and the emotions evoked, intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact.
A great customer experience is about how it makes you feel.
A great customer experience is about stimulating customers' emotions."
Creating a customer experience that meets this definition starts with defining a series of high-level steps or phases, and then recording them on a customer experience "map." Many maps that I have seen include seven to 10 linear steps across a sheet of paper. These steps describe the "story" you are designing, but from your customer's point of view. The descriptions usually use words that end in "ing" to indicate that they are in the process of being experienced.
Great stories have a beginning, middle, and end. With that in mind, think about the steps that your customers—the roundtable attendees—will go through while using your product or service. For example, a roundtable that is creating a tour may consider the steps of learning, planning, arriving, networking, educating, leaving, and remembering. On the other hand, if you are creating a customer experience map for your business, you may consider the steps of learning, planning, buying, ordering, tracking, using, and paying.
After writing your steps across the sheet of paper, label the rows under those steps. Each row provides a place for answering questions about each step. The first row is usually labeled description and documents the "what" for each step. For instance, the description for learning could be "Gathering information for decision-making."
Additional rows could include attributes, where you would list synonyms for each step. Attributes for the learning step would include listening, seeing, and discussing—all parts of the learning process.
Additional rows could answer such questions as:
When you are ready to design your customer experience, start with a few steps and a few rows of detail as needed. The chart detail; you can add more shown on the preceding page can serve as an example to get you started with the process of mapping.
Another tip for building great customer experiences is to observe what others are doing and how they are reacting. Keep a journal of what you observe. Can you see for yourself what works and doesn't work? What are the people around you expressing about the experience? Are their needs being met?
Providing a great customer experience helps to prevent your products, services, and programs from becoming a commodity.