It's All About Communications

If you're in a service business, you're in the business of communications.  Regardless of whatever else transpires in the transaction between you and your clients, the most important aspect of that transaction is providing timely information.  I can not tell you how many times I've heard clients or potential clients tell me that they can understand delays, breakdowns and damages, but what frustrates them the most is a lack of transparency and candor, when the proverbial "shit" does hit the fan.  At the end of the day, we all have someone to answer to and our client is - in turn - feeding updates to their client (whether in house or outside) and on down the line.  Failure to communicate increases frustration throughout the chain.  While the actual goods or services are important to a business transaction, customer service should be first and foremost about providing information.  It's as simple as the basic:  Where, Why and When.  The who and how should have already been established when the services (or goods) were ordered.  More important to the client is understanding Where their order is, Why it may be delayed and When they can expect to receive it.  This is a process that has to be reinforced throughout the delivery process.

Sharing unpleasant news is, well, unpleasant.  It's not a job that many relish and depending on the client, the reaction can be even more unpleasant than the news.  It's important then in those situations to be an advocate for the client; listen to their complaints and allow them to vent.  If the news is constantly bad, then it's time to review the feasibility of what is being promised at the time the order is placed.  If you're selling a maybe, you're setting yourself and your client up for a difficult conversation.  Do it too many times and it's a conversation with a former client.

Beyond being the bearer of bad news, we should always endeavor to become a reliable source of industry information to our current and future clients.  We are often in a position to see the market from a different perspective and that perspective can prove valuable to clients and business partners.  Knowledge that isn't shared is wasted.  Once again it comes down to being an advocate for your clients, your company and your industry.  Building trust and building relationships serves a greater good.   

For more than 30 years, my livelihood has revolved around the international trade and transport of food.  In some form or fashion, I've been involved in virtually all aspects of this business.  I've crossed paths with a lot of characters who have had some involvement in this business and left their marks.  I've seen trends come and go.  I have witnessed first-hand, the myriad changes in mode, method and markets.  About the only constant that has seen me through from my trading days with Mitsui Foods dating back to the mid 80s, has been a global appetite for citrus in some form or fashion.  The only easy peelers back in those days were tangerines.  The only clementine we knew back then, was the Oh My Darlin' type.

Of course, our ever diversifying palate has consumers expecting to find not only a healthy mix of stone fruit, deciduous, citrus, tropical, berries and grapes on the shelf all year round, they hunger for  multiple varietal options from among these categories - while few have a clue where they come from or how they get there.  The same applies to dairy, fish, meat and juices.  Consumers don't care about seasons, weather problems, political problems, trade wars or rate wars.  They simply want what they want when they want it.

As an avid observer of the marketplace, I hope to be able to impart a combination of market intelligence, industry news, commentary and conjecture based on my humble view of the world.  Some of it will be self-serving, since we all have to eat, but in the end it circles back to communications. 

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