This is a short article I wrote for a client for a trade magazine:
The other morning I was on the phone with one of our affiliates, and he said, “Customers consider quality a given, so why should we keep investing in it?”
That question sat at the back of my mind for the next couple hours. At lunch, I thought to myself, “That’s a good question. Why DO we keep investing in quality? In my own life, as many of you know, I run a moving and relocation services company, and I’m always going back to the Accounting Department, and saying things like “We need to make sure ABC got taken care of with that new supplier.” Why do I do that? 10 years ago, I wasn’t as worried about ABC.
Yes, customers consider quality a given. But the thing is, their quality expectations evolve over time. Years ago, when I was learning this business from my father, being a household goods mover was enough. We would pack and move the goods, and if we did that well, we could impress the customer and get his business again.
But these days, not only do we have to pack and move the goods, we have to protect data too. And it’s not enough to just protect data. It has to be done well. The customer expects us to do it well. If we do anything less, it makes us a commodity supplier, a supplier who does what everyone else does, and no more. Our reputation in the industry drops.
It’s a similar story for that affiliate I was talking to on the phone. He moves goods into and out of the USA. 20 years ago, it was enough for him to do just that — to pack and move. Now his customers expect him to protect his computer servers, too.
We’ve seen the FAIM requirements evolve over time to stay on the leading edge of this evolution. I remember when FIDI first started out with FAIM 1.0, we didn’t look at ABC or data protection. Now with 3.1, we do. Why? Because we started seeing our affiliate’s customers expecting ABC and data protection. And believe me, meeting these tighter expectations is not easy. I know from personal experience.
And this kind of evolution is going to continue for the foreseeable future. As affiliates’ clients’ expectations evolve, FAIM is going to evolve too. In 20 years, what will FAIM look like? That’s the million-dollar question. As a business owner, I wish I knew. What I can tell you as a member of FSC is that the FAIM we will see in 10 or 20 years will have evolved beyond the FAIM we see today.
Think back to your own business 20 years ago. If you were still doing the same thing today that you were doing 20 years ago, would you still be around? Probably not. So yes, it is true that customers consider quality a given. But it’s also true that their expectations evolve over time. FAIM needs to evolve with those expectations, and, for FIDI affiliates to be known as market leaders, FIDI affiliates need to stay ahead of the “commodity supplier” level of quality expectations. And that is why we need to keep investing in quality.
About Matt Krause
Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.