How to Talk with Small Business and Manufacturing Customers About Lead Times Unseen for 32 Years
When it comes to managing long lead times, small businesses and manufacturers are focused on customer communication.
This September, the Institute for Supply Chain Management survey
reported an average 92-day lead time for production materials and 154 days for equipment. How are companies managing longer lead times than we have seen since the late 1980s?
This situation requires careful customer management and open communication.
Help Your Customers Understand Long Lead Times
Obviously, you cannot magically fix the lead time crisis. Leaders I am listening to say it would be a mistake to assume your customers understand that, though.
– Maintain open, transparent communication about the causes of long lead times
– Communicate what you’re doing to minimize the impact on your customers.
What to Communicate to Customers
It’s not enough to talk generally about supply chain issues. Instead, talk about specifically what challenges your company is facing and what you’re doing to minimize the impacts on your customers.
Below are some talking points to consider communicating if they apply to your situation.
- Shipping challenges
- Pandemic-related production interruptions in export-driven economies such as China
- Transportation delays
- Labor-supply constraints
How to Get the Message Out
Consider telling your story from a strengths-based perspective. Be honest about what you’re facing and frame it within your proactive response.
- Create a video with speaking directly to customers and post it to your website
- Send a customer email and include the video
- Post the video to social media
- Send regular updates as the situation changes
By communicating the causes and sharing in your customers business “pain,” you create a “we’re in this together” approach.