Ben Andrews (below), is Senior Account Manager at OSI Electronics UK. He was promoted in July 2019 from Account Manager.
Ben and his two account manager colleagues are ‘the voice of the customer’ within the organisation, with particular responsibility for on-time deliveries – while there are no industry stats to compare, OSIE UK is currently running at 92 per cent and looking to achieve 95 per cent on-time deliveries this year.
Ben had seven years’ experience of account management before joining our commercial team in 2012. With a degree in sports science, Ben is naturally a logical thinker: “I like to find the facts and focus on them, rather than shoot from the hip,” he says.
“If a customer wants product urgently or has a query, I’ll find out what needs to be done and get back to them in a timely manner with the answer.
“It’s part of an account manager’s job to have good relationships with customers – if there are any production, cost or delivery issues we can discuss them in a friendly manner.
“Keeping customers fully informed and being truthful at all times is essential to good customer relations and winning repeat business.”
To allow senior management to concentrate on strategy and run the business with confidence, Ben is taking on the production of regular, accurate and easy-to-digest reports of all the orders / issues going through the works, plus rolling three month forecasts based on known purchase orders.
“It’s another reason for good relationships with customers – we can base orders and forecasts on reliable facts so reports aren’t hiding anything,” he says.
“And there’s more I can do to automate reports to shorten the time it takes to produce and read them – that will give us focus and time back to spend more time with our customers.
The customer journey from quote to delivery
When a prospect asks for a quote, it is given to an Account Manager to champion, manage the project and progress the enquiry.
“To do this with certainty and build a summary of facts to quote on, first we talk with colleagues in engineering, production, purchasing, quality, IT and the quotes team so we all understand the project and its complexity.
“It’s important everyone is aware of what they have to do based on the customer’s expectations of quantity, delivery time and price target,” said Ben.
“Having won the order and received a bill of materials from the customer, we coordinate another meeting to plan the project and make sure each department will do its part to achieve the delivery deadline.
“Good planning is vital and avoids putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves – it is the account team’s responsibility to check, chase and communicate internally and with the customer to achieve satisfactory delivery.
“It’s part of my new role to ensure we are better at the detail of planning a project and keep the plan up-to-date as it progresses through production to delivery.
“By design, the plan tracks the project through all its stages so everyone with access, including our senior management, can keep abreast of progress and, if necessary, step in should the need arise.”
Ben is also taking responsibility for regular customer satisfaction surveys as part of OSIE UK’s quarterly business review.
“I like to talk to customers face-to-face so they can be genuine with what they think about us – the good and the bad with specific examples,” he says.
“There’s always room for improvement and, of course, we need to learn from any negative issues and fix them – but it’s also important to report back on what we’re doing well so we can keep that going and to make senior management aware so they can praise individuals and teams.”
“I spoke earlier about the processes involved with the new customer journey – ensuring contracts for an existing customer are reviewed in a timely manner is another process I’ll be looking at. Fresh contracts must be carefully managed so within 24 hours of receiving a new order it is in our system with planning being put in place for production to meet the delivery schedule.
“Some customers like us to hold inventory stock they supply and other customers component stocks which we have bought, so stock control is very important – who wants unused, valuable stock on their shelves?” he asks.
“With the account team, I’ll be co-ordinating management of the customer inventory to ensure customers are supported for peaks and troughs in demand while also keeping excess stock down.”
A change of mind
Customers changing quantities or the product spec is something Ben and his colleagues have learnt to take in their stride.
“We will look to see how it will impact and report back to them, then plan for when and how the change is to be made by involving colleagues in production, engineering and purchasing – this eliminates surprises and smooths the change,” he says.
Component obsolescence is a common issue in electronics manufacturing. “This can follow run down of stock we forward purchased when the component first went obsolete, a rarely used component or one that’s gone out of production between the design stage and purchase.
“It’s the account manager’s job to manage this and get it sorted quickly – purchasing or the quotes team will tell us so we can discuss it internally and then with the customer to have an alternative approved.
“Time is always of the essence if we’re to meet a delivery commitment and every day lost without a decision can lead to slippages down the line, which we’re very keen to avoid.
“It is where a good rapport with colleagues, suppliers and customers is vital.”
Ben Andrews reports to Derek Williams, the General Manager at OSI Electronics UK.
OSI Electronics UK is a subsidiary of Californian based OSI Electronics.
Posted 22 July 2019