Customer service can make or break a company or its reputation but in our fast-moving world, where technology and business are constantly changing, it can also be one of the most challenging things to get right. A recent Accenture study coined the phrase “the Switching Economy” to describe the growth in customers jumping from one company to another due to customer services dissatisfaction, but also highlighted the many ways a business can win and keep its clients1.
At Milliken we value each and every customer and are proud of the benefits that our collaborative approach to partnerships delivers. We believe in investing to address customer needs rather than focusing on programs that are about internal metrics. To do this we prioritize nine key categories of service and expertise:
* We believe in a single point of contact for each customer
* Our associates have years of experience in customer service
* We value language skills
* Our shipping teams are IATA DGR certified
* We work with Dangerous goods safety advisors
* We prioritize short lead times by having local warehouses
* Our samples also have short lead times
* We ensure customer service in different time zones, and
* We pride ourselves with local repackaging capabilities
Maintaining excellence in each of these areas comes down to Milliken’s people. With teams all over the world, inclusivity and working together towards the same goal are philosophies embedded in our culture.
Cathy De Vriese works as Milliken’s Business Supply Chain Manager for EMEA, “the patience, understanding and kindness that I see within my team and how we work with others is like none I’ve ever worked with before. I think we all learn from each other, are open to new ways of doing things and are willing to try new processes and train others. Extending grace and understanding goes a long way. It’s that extra step - making someone feel important and understood - that makes our team work so well.”
This is a sentiment shared by the customer service team in Latin America, “Having the right and passionate people means we are able to deliver outstanding service to our customers with clear communication and listening key to our success. This helps everybody to work on the same page and deliver consistently outstanding results,” says Elisete Santos, Customer Service Manager for Milliken’s Chemical Division in Brazil.
As we all experienced, 2020 brought huge challenges. Milliken’s Asia team was the first to work within a COVID related lockdown, when warehouse activities in China stopped. Customers were asking for urgent deliveries to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and Milliken’s customer service team in China quickly came up with creative ways to ensure critically needed deliveries. It came down to teamwork, and enhanced coordination between regions and with logistics partners. The customer satisfaction feedback has been very positive.
Milliken’s teams in other regions also faced a similar situation. “Working from home in the U.S., we had to quickly come up with technology solutions to coordinate with Logistics, Supply Chain, Sales Operational Support, Regulatory, Sales, and many other departments depending on our customers’ needs. The challenge was to maintain all of those working relationships remotely, which, with innovation and technology we managed to do, and we must continue that,” said Kim Manson, Milliken’s Head of Customer Service for North America.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the team in the U.S. also managed to go above and beyond. North America Corporate Customer Support Coordinator, Jessica Smith led a Focus Group team ‘To Improve our Knowledge of Customers, Products, and Business to Elevate the Customer Experience’. “It was an exciting opportunity to learn something new whilst helping our many different customers,” she reflected.
Milliken’s Customer Service team in Latin America kept up their performance efficiency working from home, participating in regular calls to maintain seamless operations, “It was crucial for us to ensure we kept connected and kept communicating to continue to provide top level service. We kept to daily and weekly routines but innovated when new challenges and issues arose. Going through this situation has shown us that we can adapt and work in different ways,” adds Santos.
Milliken’s detailed customer processes and focus on its nine key categories of care, provide clients with consistently excellent service, minimizing errors. Cross trained teams, daily checks and audits keep work flowing and help to prevent delays. All this has enabled teams around the world to transition to remote work but, at the end of the day, it still comes back to people.
“We take on the issues, see people behind deadlines, anxieties and pressures and respond as if we were needing the answers ourselves. In this past year I think the team has grown and perhaps even connected more with our customers because of the challenges. I have realized just how awesome our department is during this time. We still care and get the customers taken care of,” concluded May Ying Pong, Customer Service Representative, Milliken Asia.
With the hoped easing of coronavirus restrictions around the world in 2021, the use of new technology and the development of streamlined ways of working, and projects to improve our knowledge of customers and their needs in order to elevate the customer experience, Milliken has strengthened its best-in-class foundation for customer service for the decade to come.
1 https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/accenture/conversion-assets/dotcom/documents/global/pdf/ dualpub_6/accenture-customer-2020-future-ready-reliving-past.pdf