Working together for better client partnerships
The client development team at AIB International has done some developing of its own over the last year.
“Previously our client development team was largely located in North America, with one person in Europe,” said David G. Fliss, global vice-president, client development and target marketing, for AIB International, Manhattan, Kas. “When you have thousands of clients, it’s very difficult for a single person to manage the entire global (business) on a daily basis. We spent a lot of time over the past year defining and developing our team, enabling us to work on a more global level and on different tiers.”
Mr. Fliss was named to his current position last August, and since then the department has developed a close working relationship with customer service and marketing so the organization can support clients of all sizes.
“We have very large global customers, called platinum accounts,” Mr. Fliss said. “We also have small clients, typically family businesses, that are vital to our core business. Although our larger accounts will have key account managers, various departments will support the key account manager on the management of these platinum accounts.”
In addition to a client development lead, a person from marketing and perhaps even someone from bakery services or product development may be part of the management team for a platinum account.
“It’s a tiered sales approach that involves many team members contributing to the partnership,”
Mr. Fliss said.
For smaller accounts, AIB International can offer similar cross functional support.
“Even with this tiered approach, we have to continuously focus on building closer relationships with our clients to form better partnerships,” Mr. Fliss said. “We call it customer intimacy.”
The intent is for AIB International to be more proactive and even more integrated in clients’ operations.
“So it’s not just the day-to-day sales but working with them strategically, working on planning the future,” he said.
“We understand different customers have different needs,” he said. “Creating a ‘concierge service’ that involves customization for a client is one way of increasing customer intimacy.”
AIB International can modify an existing training program to meet a client’s specific needs.
“While team members in client development will concentrate more on long-term relationships, our customer service representatives will work on day-to-day business such as setting up an audit or training session,” Mr. Fliss said.
“Customer service at AIB International’s Manhattan facility has started outbound calling to remind clients about everything the organization offers,” said Andre Biane, president and chief executive officer of AIB International. “And sometimes it’s as simple as reconnecting with clients that we, for whatever reason, lost connections with in the past.”
He said last year one associate generated $100,000 in only four months of calling. AIB International will expand outbound calling globally this year, Mr. Biane said.
Marketing also is playing a larger role in how the AIB looks and feels to its clients.
Katie Mayes, director of marketing, said AIB International is now more consistently promoting its brand through unified materials and a recently updated web site.
“(The web site) has helped people find us on-line easier, which raises brand awareness,” she said.
Consistency can be as basic as assuring that the right colors and graphics are used across all sales materials and consistent messaging in multiple languages on the web site, she said. AIB International’s web site will showcase the broad array of technical expertise.
“We have a wide variety of technical personnel and services,” Ms. Mayes said. “We’re a technical company. That’s the nature of our business.”
The marketing department also will get the word out about all of AIB International’s offerings.
“As an example, we have audit or inspection clients who are often unaware that we offer food labeling services,” Ms. Mayes said.