Yesterday I took a group of people on a tour of our facility. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve lead a tour here, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And every time I have a person or group of people come through, they’ve told me they have come away with beneficial knowledge and new ideas.
Whenever I visit a vendor, and I hope whenever a client or prospect visits us, these are a few of the things that I would expect of the experience.
- Is your sales rep present? Better yet, is he or she leading the tour?
- Meet your Customer Service Representative. In most cases, it will be the CSR that handles your day-to-day business and not the sales rep.
- If your sales rep (and perhaps your CSR as well) is leading the tour, what is the sense of relationship you feel between sales and the production team? Do they seem friendly and collaborative towards each other?
- Get an introduction to the department managers or team leaders in each step of production. Personally, I like my clients to have a face to associate with each department (in our case, data processing, quality control, laser imaging, lettershop, presort and transportation).
- Whenever possible, manage an introduction to someone “at the top”. I like to make sure my tour attendees get to meet the president of our company.
- Look at equipment in each and every department. Is it well maintained? Is it apparent that the company keeps up-to-date in new technology and machinery?
- Observe the plant condition. Is it clean and well organized? Does work seem to flow through the plant in a common sense manner?
- Ask if any of your work would be outsourced to a subcontractor or whether your vendor has all the equipment, personnel and capacity to complete your jobs in house.
- And last but most importantly – listen, ask questions and learn something new. I have yet to lead a customer through our facility and not hear them talk about something vital they’ve learned or new ideas they plan to take back to their own companies.
When was the last time you toured the facilities of your vendor or vendors? What did you take away from the experience? Did you leave the plant feeling positive in your decision to use this particular company?
Lesson: Ask for a tour, build lasting relationships with the folks producing your jobs, get fresh ideas and have fun!