Millions of people are using social media to network, sell
products, to extend influence and inevitably, complain about poor service. A
recent report on social media use reveals 1.59 billion people engaging with
Facebook, 320 million with Twitter and over 100 million people on LinkedIn.
Beyond these impressive numbers, do you really know the extent to which this
activity impacts on your customer service?
Before the rise of social media, if you had an issue with the
service you received you could complain face-to-face. Another option was to
ring the company later, or write a letter and wait patiently for your issue to
be resolved. All these pathways to customer service are still valid, though
each has their own problems. Face-to-face conversations can be confrontational.
With communication increasing via screens, confrontation is something many
people shy away from.
A browse through Facebook or Twitter reveals a world where even
the smallest everyday occurrences are shared publicly. For many people, it’s
not even a conscious decision anymore to let your social network know what
you’re up to. Any interaction with a business - good or bad - is likely to be
highly visible. Can you really afford to ignore this trend? As an enterprise
with ‘key stakeholders’ and ‘margins’, you really need to know what these
people, your customers, are saying aboutyou.
Doing the right thing
While some share complaints immediately, many customers still
choose to contact the company directly – via social media – to share their
concerns and look for an appropriate resolution. Industry research reveals the
alarming statistic that from January 2014 to May 2015 the use of social media
for complaints had increased 300 percent.
That represents a lot of complaint traffic. However, there’s no
reason for panic. Complaints aren’t new. As you already know how to provide
great customer service – why shouldn’t you be able to translate it into
excellent social media engagement? This is your opportunity to visibly do the
right thing in a very public setting, to promote outstanding customer service
and turn your critics into advocates.
Terms of engagement
To achieve an online presence that is proactive and
customer-centric, requires precise targeting. Adequate software to capture
complaints and analyze data is a must; as well as policies and procedures in
place for colleagues to exemplify good practice.
Equip your customer service team with the right skills to
respond. A badly-written response or negative tone may do as much damage in a
public forum – if not more – as not responding in the first place. All
employees should be aware of your company’s mission statement and objectives.
All levels of the business, from the boardroom down, should be engaged and
Ensure your customer service and marketing departments are
communicating effectively. Empower your employees to make good decisions. Once
they’re confident with their own judgement, you minimize risk. Technology is
available to add layers of protection, if required.
Great customer service looks the same on all channels. Customers
want the same things: they want a swift response; they want you to be honest
and acknowledge your mistakes; and they want a satisfactory outcome.
Are you genuine?
Train your staff to recognize genuine engagement: let them use
their own natural tone of voice; their own words; and their name to ensure that
personal touch. Placatory comments without substance, or using obvious cut and
paste templates should be avoided. One engaging, conversational response
addressing the customer’s concerns directly, offering an appropriate solution,
is much better than going through the motions. Reward colleagues who
demonstrate the best you have to offer.
A public apology and transparent ownership of mistakes show
customers you care. However, you could set a precedent for every customer to
demand the same outcome. You might even encourage unscrupulous people to make
false complaints if you offer public compensation. If you need to have a
conversation about sensitive data, let the customer know that you will contact
them privately. Avoid pushing the initiative back on to them to complain again
elsewhere, especially via a different channel.
Technology answers back
Invest in software to analyze your presence and feedback on the
main social media channels. It’s not just complaints - many people will share
positive experiences too, or even seek the answers to basic service questions.
Every customer who comments about you must be addressed; the one you overlook
is the one that will escalate and damage your reputation. Technology can help
you to catch negative feedback before it escalates. Have a system that alerts
you to a problem and aim to resolve it within a set time.
Some people just want to cause trouble. Identifying trolls and
dealing with them effectively is a key part of your strategy. Again, look to
your processes – do your employees know what to do? Make sure you teach them
how to handle potentially sensitive public situations.
A clear brand vision
Communication at all levels is vital. Align skills and knowledge
about best customer service practice. Possess a clear vision that is shared
throughout the business. Ensure marketing provides feedback and reports on
social media analysis and that customer service craft responses that reflect
this vision. If you have a separate complaints team bridge the divide by
creating one team, or by improving connections.
Effective social media management helps to develop and maintain
a healthy brand and improves relationships with your customers. Reinforce your
vision daily and show it working publicly through social channels. As your
customers are talking about you – you have nothing to lose, and much to gain –
by giving them a platform to talk to you. Most importantly – you remain in
Recently, I came across a
best-selling book on the history of physics and was intrigued by the many stories
of discovery over the centuries, but equally interested in the challenges of
what we have yet to understand. In the 4th century B.C., ancient
Greek philosopher Democritus postulated that the world is made up of atoms, particles
too small to be seen, which are the building blocks of all matter. The next 2,300 years were filled with
competing ideas about the nature of the universe, but it wasn’t until the 20th
century that this “Atomic Theory” was finally confirmed.
The beginning of the last century
was the dawn of a new revolution, unlike others before. Industries were
developing methods of mass producing goods and delivering to market more
efficiently to drive down the cost per unit. Governments were finding new
ideologies, nations were preparing for war, and technology was developed to
gain strategic and tactical advantages. It is clear that science was moving
beyond millennia of observation and intuition into an age of experimentation
and measurement. It was in 1905 that a young Swiss patent clerk’s ideas would fundamentally
change the way we understand the universe.
This young man was Albert Einstein
and, he did what no one over the millennia has been able to do: confirm that
atoms in fact existed. Until this time, scientists could not figure out how to
measure an atom, much less view one. Einstein’s solution was simple. He would measure
the amount of wiggle that particles like pollen or dust exhibit while in a
fluid. Basically, these molecules vibrate and drift while in suspension, and - by
measuring this amount of movement or drift, you could calculate the size of an
atom based on their collisions, thus confirming 2,300 years of intuition.
As a result of Einstein’s
confirmation of the atom, photoelectric effect, and the theories of general and
special relativity, quantum physics emerged as a new field with a focus on
understanding sub-atomic particles. At this smaller-than-the-atom perspective,
things do not occur intuitively. In fact, much of classical physics principals
no longer apply, as observation and logic alone could not be used to understand
this quantum level. Measurement and
mathematics emerged as the best way to unlock further understanding.
Likewise, in the second half of the
20th century, Japanese engineers were developing methods to improve
efficiency in their manufacturing plants in order to rebuild their war-torn
nation’s economy. Lean manufacturing, as we know it today, is the combination
of those techniques and the use of quantitative objective measurements by American
engineers focused on understanding and refining manufacturing processes. Years
later, Six Sigma methodology was born as an extension of these objectives to
control variation in processes. In more recent years, advances in technology
have provided teams of operational leaders with the tools needed to understand
what is happening on their shop floors. Gone are the days of using intuition to
determine whether or not you had a good day.
Today, tools like Factory MES provide you with real-time metrics
captured directly from your operation.
In order to remain competitive and
continue to improve your complex manufacturing processes, it is essential that
you have the data readily available to make informed decisions and drive
actions. Now, when you want to know whether you had a good day, you simply pull
up a report and, based on your predefined criteria, you no longer have to guess….you
know. Intelligent, real-time action can be taken, problem solving activity can
be launched, and countermeasures deployed, all with the use of data captured
from your shop floor.
Let Aptean partner with you to ensure
that your Factory MES application is optimized and providing you with the
critical information you need. Over the more than ten years of working with Factory
MES at customer sites across the globe, we have developed a gold standard of
what system and user configuration looks like. We have examined what strong
users are doing, developed modules and functionality where a need exists, and given
attention to new and creative ways the application is being used. We want to
hear your voice and engage with you and your team to make Factory work even
better for you.
According to industry analysts, there are many facets of
asset maintenance that can be articulated and quantified as characteristic of
best-in-class companies. There are also many consulting companies who can
help you achieve improvements in your business. However you can make progress
yourself by applying just three elements – persistence, focus, and data. While
this premise sounds simple, its execution is not; otherwise there would be no
unplanned downtime in manufacturing operations.
Imagine being a maintenance expert, working only 9 to 5, with no
midnight calls that the equipment has shut down operations. While that scenario may not be realistic any
time soon, there is no doubt that it can become more so with these three principles.
Remember that progress seldom is easy, though is certainly
worthwhile. Persistence is the hardest of the three disciplines, yet the most
important one. Focus allows you to avoid
distractions that can allay your initiative. Good tools are essential in supporting
your persistence, once you push your initiative uphill.
Your persistence and focus in executing depends on obtaining,
analyzing, and acting on good data. Data, and its analysis with clear
visualizations, is vital to supporting any initiative you undertake. Without
it, you do not know where you are, where you are going, or where any
improvements are being made. Without
that information, your desire to persist will wane, and with it, your
initiative. You will then be resigned to a tale of “well, we tried that
We all have so many initiatives that we wish we could
tackle, but none will happen with just thoughts and wishes. You can only
achieve success one step at a time. So consider your most important initiatives
and apply these three disciplines to impact your current results. I suggest
starting with an initiative that has a high impact, and a high chance of
success, so that you can see positive results quickly and feel encouraged to
tackle the next one. If one asset in
your facility quickly comes to mind as one you would like to throw out of the
window because it causes you so much trouble, then consider focusing on
improvements to it. Just that one asset. Remember that a high-impact initiative does
not have to be a broad one; it only has to positively affect your work
environment in one small way. Once you
see success there, you will be energized and more confident in tackling the
Mark Twain said that “the secret to getting ahead is getting
started.” Decide to tackle one
asset. Decide to organize and control
one small area of the storeroom. Own it.
See results. Sell your success to your
colleagues and management. And watch it
grow. And then brag to me about your success, because I would truly enjoy
hearing about it.
The system for collecting value-added tax (VAT) in the European Union has always had its critics. When the European Commission announced its VAT action plan in 2016, part of their stated ambition was to make the current EU VAT system simpler to use and, as a result, more business-friendly.
The Spanish government is responding to the challenges of the Commission's action plan by further strengthening measures to reduce the VAT gap by applying a strategy to modernize VAT administration, through the introduction of a new system incorporating the "Immediate Supply of Information" (SII). SII is another key step in the process of continuous improvement the Spanish authorities are undertaking. The mission involves upgrading systems and creating the system of the future. The government's intention is to improve the information they gather, both to gain more effective control of the system and to focus on generating more revenue.
In this whitepaper, Jaume Carol, Senior Manager Customer Solutions, breaks down who will be affected and what needs to be considered when selecting a financial management solution.
Being a manufacturer is not easy these days. Margins continue to shrink, regulations are
being tightened, and a considerable skills gap is taking hold. One of the many challenges the industry face
is asking for better, more visible data, yet many manufacturers are still
struggling to gather this information.
There is a lack of visibility, a lack of usable metrics, and very little
real-time information. And while
enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems house some of the data, they lack
the functionality to deliver information to the shop floor, which is necessary
to address issues as they occur.
This is where MES makes the difference. It tracks and
documents the entire production process from the raw material to the finished
product. This data is then fed back into
the production process.
The deployment of MES can help manufacturers to use
capabilities they were not even aware they had, and to better allocate
resources with great potential to become more efficient.
It pays to be picky
Although 2017 is a good a time as any to get into MES, many
forward-thinking food and beverage manufacturers did so years ago, and a
growing number of them have now reached a point with their MES solution where
they are asking for add-on features and functions that further capture
production process data, and using it in a way that expands the footprint of
the MES solution. Making the MES data a
visible part of the overall supply chain is also crucial, and key to ensuring
the four walls of the factory do not represent a black hole of
information. Manufacturer wish lists are
Having proven itself a very viable tool for improving
efficiency in manufacturing, MES has reached a point where it is crucial not
only that you deploy the system, but also how you do so.
For some manufacturers, deployment on their premises will
work best, while others will receive greater benefits from a cloud-based
solution. A combination of the two will
be the way forward for many. Subscription-based
models are prevalent now, making it possible for users to deploy MES quicker
and with less effort.
Manufacturers have also started to ask for mobile features
that allow the data that is collected by the MES solution to be displayed on
tablets and other devices. This demand
is also driving MES providers to advance app-based solutions.
It’s only data –
unless you use it
Data collection is not the difficult part; organizing the
data in a way that makes it useful to manufacturers is. There are two phases. This first is selection: what data can be
used for which purpose? The second is
intelligent presentation: how can this data be arranged so that it has real
value for those looking at it?
MES solutions of the future will have to become better and
better at getting the right kind of information to the right person at exactly
the right time. There is no point in
gathering huge amounts of data if people then have to go and dig for it. For MES solutions to be effective, what is being
recorded needs to be automatically turned into targeted actionable
intelligence, facilitating improvement, and a culture of action at all levels
of the organization.
Industry 4.0 is
coming – prepare yourself
Smart manufacturing is more than just a buzzword now: as machines
acquire more and more intelligence, the idea of a so-called Industry 4.0 is
starting to become a reality. Scenarios
where machines order their own parts according to their needs are not pipe
dreams. In less than ten years’ time,
something close to full automation might be possible.
But although some manufacturers stand prepared to embrace
such a future, others- the broad majority, in fact- will take time to
adjust. Advanced MES solutions will help
them along the way. Using the right kind
of data in the right kind of way, manufacturers can make themselves more
flexible and more efficient – steadily progressing to what the manufacturing
industry will look like in a decade.
The future is
Over the coming years, MES is only likely to grow: the
global market for technology is projected to reach $7.4 billion by 2020. With users who are already deploying MES
solutions becoming more demanding – and with new users joining their ranks –
2017 looks set to be a year where MES takes another step towards providing the
tailor-made, purpose-built solutions that will help food and beverage
manufacturers to be as efficient as they need to be in order to stay
successful, and continue their drive towards lower cost producer status.
Both of the NHS England initiatives (Clinical Utilisation Review and SAFER) cite evidence that patients deteriorate physically and cognitively in direct proportion to their length of stay; and for elderly patients this has a significant impact on life-expectancy. Their common goal is to minimise inappropriate delays to ensure Safe, Rapid Discharge or Transition of Patients and to avoid unnecessary hospital stays at an inappropriate level of care.
In this whitepaper, Peter Ellis, Managing Director Medworxx UK, discusses how both Clinical Utilisation Review (CUR) and SAFER (RED2GREEN days) intend to provide transparency and rigour to managing the patient's journey to ensure, at a minimum, daily assessment of key activities and status. These initiatives are interdependent and if appropriately integrated and harnessed, provide a comprehensive picture of the appropriateness of days of care across the organisation.
Today’s competitive consumer market means that companies
have to differentiate themselves in a number ways, not just on their product
offerings. Consumers have a number of
outlets to provide the goods and services they want, but they want more than
just the product. They want a positive
experience. My recent closet redesign
experience is a great example of how one company exceeded expectations.
The first step in creating a great customer experience is
providing a great product that brings value to the customer. Every bedroom has a closet, and every closet
serves the same basic function. There
are several stores that sell closet systems; most of them carry the same brands
for approximately the same price. I
chose a store that is well-known for its organization solutions. Because of this store’s specialized focus, I knew
I would find exactly what I needed for my closet.
Aptean specializes in industry-focused enterprise solutions to
support the evolving operational needs of our customers. Our software can be tailored to specific
industries, ensuring that the functionality can meet each industry’s business
Having the right product does little good if consumers are
not aware of it. Strong marketing is
necessary to elevate awareness and drive demand. The specialty store knows its customer base
and tailors its approach to this demographic.
They also periodically advertise sales to drive traffic. The best marketing, however, is word of
mouth. Most consumers will believe recommendations
from family and friends over all other forms of advertising. In my case, a friend had recommended the
product from this store, and a sale happened to be running at the same time.
Aptean strives to provide valuable insights to its customers
and prospects through multiple channels.
We offer a wide variety of educational content, such as case studies,
webinars and whitepapers, to raise awareness of how our fit-for-purpose
solutions can drive measurable value for our customers. Our product leaders are also industry
experts, sharing their insight in a variety of trade publications. Aptean also works closely with industry
analysts to refine our product strategies
Once the customer has chosen their product, offering expert
guidance through the buying process often results in a bigger sale and a more
positive customer experience. For my
closet project, I worked with a store designer to select the right product and
configure them to the necessary specifications.
The designer suggested an experienced installer to make certain the
final results would meet my expectations.
This expert advice is another reason I chose this particular store.
Aptean knows that every company is different. We create integrated solutions to serve the
complex needs of key market segments.
Aptean has created a best-in-class solution for the Food and Beverage
industry that integrates Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing
Execution System (MES), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Warehouse Management
(WMS). Our Metals industry solution
boasts an ERP designed specifically for that industry, complemented by EAM,
Business Intelligence to collect and organize data that can be turned into
actionable insight, and Event Management Framework which helps automate
alerting and complex workflow processes.
Perhaps one of the most important steps in creating a
positive customer experience is setting expectations and following through with
the promises made. Following my
purchase, I received a detailed email containing the order information, the
images of the new design, and instructions for picking up the materials. Before the installation, I received a phone
call to confirm the appointment. On the
day of my appointment, the installer showed up on time, was courteous, did
great work, and cleaned up after he was finished. Shortly afterwards, another phone call was
placed to make certain I was satisfied.
All of these touchpoints showed the company appreciated me as a
At Aptean, we foster an on-going relationship to ensure that
our solutions continue to provide the value that our customers expect. Our user conferences and executive customer
advisory boards allow our customers a platform to share best practices and give
feedback that can help shape our product roadmaps. We also spotlight our customers’ successes
through press releases and on social media.
This example from the retail world is relevant to the B2B
world. A company needs to be focused on
more than just the product its sells. The
right product mix, combined with effective marketing, deep expertise, and
quality service creates an experience that customers want, and one that they
want to share.
Customer experience is an increasingly important task for
any business, especially in retail banking. The sector is still working to
repair its reputation in the wake of the financial crisis. New technology
increases the avenues of engagement and customers are becoming more connected,
more demanding and less forgiving. With new players entering the market, they
are also faced with more choice. Banks need to place customer experience at the
front and center of their operations to make sure their customers remain their
customers, as well as to protect a reputation which can quickly become fragile,
especially when exposed to online communities.
In this whitepaper, Imad Alabed, Aptean’s Senior Director of
Pivotal CRM and Knova, discusses how the right Customer Relationship Management
(CRM) software can be used to drive a better customer experience and maximize
customer ROI. In this challenging and uncertain future, those
institutions which adapt most successfully will have an edge.
Another NFL season football has come and gone, and the
big game did not disappoint. It was a game for the ages, among the most
entertaining in our modern football era. However, I considered turning the game
off after halftime as Atlanta appeared to be coasting to victory. Fortunately,
I was steadfast and told myself to just watch one more series after another,
hoping it would get better, until it became not only interesting, but
As I reflect back on the game and season, I am
struck by several observations that are relevant to all of us who are focused
on operating our businesses and positively affecting our areas of
responsibility. Like in football where you strive to outscore your opponent, we
are all laser focused on improving our bottom lines. How do we transform raw
ingredients into the highest quality finished goods with less overhead, optimal
material, and labor costs all the while maximizing the usage of our assets in
the process? We not only have to compete with others in the open market, we have
to continuously improve relative to our historical performance in order to
position ourselves to be successful.
I consider the reasons why the New England Patriots have been so dominant over
the last decade, I am left with one conclusion. While the easiest assumption
would be to attribute their success to having arguably the best quarterback to
have ever played the game, I prefer to think it is more fundamental than simply
one player. Like any organization, football is a team sport. While you need
quality players, perhaps even a few stars, you need everyone working together as
a unit, towards one goal: winning championships.
Green Bay Packers Coach, Vince Lombardi once said, “The achievements of an organization
are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” Today’s successful
teams preach a message of next player up, focusing on the philosophy that
success is not solely about an individual, that it is really the team that is fundamental
to winning. Players get injured, others are lost to free agency; however, the
winning teams seem to doggedly focus on the process of developing, training,
and maximizing the talents of each of their individual players to perform as a
team. When unfavorable personnel events happen, these teams are positioned to
continue winning in spite of the personnel challenges.
As in football, we often
lose our “players” for one reason or another, and we must guard against losing
the momentum we have worked so hard to achieve. Each successful organization
has a goal and vision of where they want to be at the end of each quarter, each
year, or even five years. A team approach is critical in meeting the challenges
along the way. When an organization faces the inevitable turnover of seasoned
workers, it must guard against losing its ability to compete and win. It really
is next man up.
As you focus on equipping
your team on driving the results that define wining for your organization,
please keep in mind that you have a partner in Aptean. Factory MES is a
powerful tool, providing the essential real time metrics needed to make
intelligent decisions to improve your operational activities; however, due to
turnover, your team may be faced with a gap in proficiency with the system. We
want to work together with you to help you achieve your goals, and be best
prepared when it becomes time to rely on the next man up, we want to help with
any training needs you may have. Please reach out to us and we will work
together to develop and deliver training that is specific and tailored to your
In 2016 the world was surprised by the passing of Brexit and
Trump winning the US Presidential election. Looking to 2017 from a global trade
perspective, these events make one prediction certain: trade barriers in the
Western Hemisphere will not be lowered.
To what extent there will be an increase in tariff and non-tariff
barriers is unclear, but there is no time like the present to speculate a
An interesting year is ahead, and it’s being kicked off on
January 1 with the 2017 Harmonized System (HS) Nomenclature overhaul per the
latest World Customs Organization (WCO) directions. These changes to the HS Nomenclature will be
one of the largest in recent years, with more than half of the changes
impacting codes in the agricultural and chemical sectors. In total, there will be 233 sets of amendment
revisions. These revisions are meant to address growing global concern around
environmental and social issues as well as the importance of collecting HC
With customs professionals expressing a growing concern about their supply chain compliance/Global Trade Management (GTM) challenges,
the recent political events in the UK and US have led to increasing uncertainty
in the industry. Be prepared for an exciting 2017!
The average global rates have decreased over the years, yet the
question is whether 2017 will buck that trend.
Will the USA walk away from bilateral or multi-lateral Free Trade
Agreements (FTAs), ban countries from General System of Preference (GSP), or increase
duty rates for certain countries of origin to protect domestic manufacturing? Will
Brexit have an effect on the UK – European Union (EU) duty rates? How will the UK re-create their own external
tariff and will it be able to break off UK FTAs from the current EU FTAs? A
step further, it is to be seen if any of these events will affect duty rates
(initially) on a unilateral basis, if there will be repercussions, and whether a
tit-for-tat culture will initiate a tariff war?
It’s all not too likely. Negating
FTAs is not easily done, and the UK will be cautious to create any economic upheaval
that may negatively affect their status as a financial leader in the market.
However, the prospect of an increase in duty rates is
realistic as a number of large economic forces will be closely reviewing their
trade agreements and tariff structures.
Who would have thought the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade
Organisation (GATT/WTO) bound rates books would ever have to be dusted off to
check possible rate increases would not violate these agreements?
Additionally, two other events could impact duties in
2017. It can be expected that the US
will increase pressure on low cost manufacturing, which would lead to a
significant number of new Anti-dumping duties/Countervailing Duties (ADD/CVD)
cases as unilateral duty increases are possibly too obvious. Lastly, China’s growing debt may threaten
current economic stability, but the association with duty rates will likely not
be seen in 2017.
Most likely there will be additional paperwork required for
goods to move between the UK and the EU, and equally likely there will be UK
FTA specific documentation requirements once it is clear how the UK will
rearrange its trade relationships with the current EU FTA partners.
On the artificial side of trade barriers, some token reactionary
measures may be taken to hamper certain trade lanes (read: importing from
China), but expect additional non-tariff barriers to be more in the security,
trademark, and consumer marking areas, specifically security around additional
compliance measures for dual-use goods (a global trend), a stricter enforcement
of trademarked goods, and closer reviews of consumer marking where safety of
products containing certain materials is concerned. For example, ‘simple’
accidents like smart phones catching fire will pave the way for more agencies
ensuring all imported products are safe for handling.
Some 2017 predictions
And now the unofficial 2017 predictions:
Sensibly common ground will be found and China
manufacturing will continue as is, although there will be a face saving
announcement about increased market accessibility of foreign products into
China. This agreement will bear little result.
FTA utilization rates will improve. A common compliance standard (i.e. proof of
eligibility) will be agreed on and this will boost the use of FTAs.
Hopefully, the WCO announces that in 2022 they
will randomly make products obsolete by no longer allowing them to be
classified (i.e. any logical or possible HS codes will specifically exclude
these products). Under consideration are
items such as flip phones, satchels, Yanni CD’s, and toy panda bears holding
One thing is for
certain, 2017 will prove to be an interesting year in the Global Trade