This feature originally ran in the March 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.
In today’s highly competitive market, brands are looking for any means possible to gain an edge. In the food industry, that means looking beyond the packaging format and product formulation and addressing processes, best practices and getting the most from relationships with external partners. Jose Diaz has been involved in customer support for over 30 years. In an informal conversation, Jose shared some of his thoughts on how partnering with a supplier that offers comprehensive customer support can help brands get ahead.
Q: How does working with a customer service team benefit a brand?
A: I think that brand owners have the opportunity to form a collaborative relationship with their customer service representatives. And those representatives can provide a wide range of valuable assistance, from technical support and troubleshooting to ongoing consultation. Working together on a regular basis, rather than just when problems occur, means there is a far smaller opportunity for error and issues may actually be able to be prevented from happening in the first place.
A good customer service team will understand the entire food manufacturing process — not just a particular packaging format. This not only helps them quickly identify and recommend solutions to any problems — especially in circumstances where the issue may not even be with the packaging itself — but it also can help to increase overall efficiency.
Q: Are there any other benefits?
A: It’s all about the partnership. If customer support is deeply involved in the business, from identifying and recommending solutions for issues to providing training on a packaging line for new staff, they can really add value. Working with a support team that is as knowledgeable about their customers’ processes and operations as the customer itself is can be of great help.
The best customer service relationships are built on trust developed over decades. Customers will always respect and appreciate a packaging partner that really knows their business and is able to help them maximize their productivity and improve product quality.
Q: How can a company get the most out of their relationship with customer service?
A: The first step should definitely be to understand the different skills that each team member brings to the table. With the right skills, you are more than halfway to getting a problem resolved.
The most effective teams will have a wide range of industry experience. They are certainly not limited to basic customer service. Crown’s teams consist of food scientists, design engineers, chemical engineers and even micro-biologists, all of whom have a deep understanding of food processing and the packaging industry. That’s a considerable body of knowledge, and it enables them to very quickly evaluate new technologies, troubleshoot issues and understand which products will work with a customer’s existing equipment, and which will not.
Q: So brands should turn to customer service teams for more than just problem solving?
A: Absolutely. It is important to take advantage of all the services that customer support offers. The range and scope of those services will vary, of course, but a good team should be offering advice on equipment and processing, regulatory advice where necessary, and even undertake audits of key customers’ packaging lines if needed.
For example, brand owners that package products in cans need to understand double seaming, which can be a challenging subject. Suppliers should be offering regular training in this area. Crown provides double seam guidelines and training that are used as a reference by the FDA, and can be shown to customers’ auditors and any other authorities that examine their facilities.
Q: Do you have any closing advice on how brands can get the most from their supplier’s customer support team?
A: Make sure that your CTS representative has the opportunity to fully understand the scope of your business at the beginning of your relationship. Allowing the supplier to examine your facility and learn about each function and operation will, in turn, enable them to provide the highest quality service. Then make sure you are in touch regularly and maintain an open dialogue on any issues or concerns you’re experiencing. Finally, take the time to understand the resources that are available to you as a customer of a company like Crown, and look for ways to take advantage of those resources.