Tailor-made Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

Remo Picchietti hates being kept in the dark. Take air travel, for instance: “There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting on the tarmac not moving and not knowing why,” says the CEO of World Commerce Services LLC. “All the pilot has to do is get on the PA system and tell us why we’re not moving.”

To avoid similar frustration at the 54-employee transportation management and consultation company, Picchietti is actively engaged in client transactions in order to disclose changes and anticipate specific needs.

“It’s all about sharing the information,” he says.

Those airlines should take note — from 2004 to 2006, Picchietti’s emphasis on open communication has helped the company post increasing revenue, from $55 million in 2004 to $65 million in 2005 and $80 million in 2006 before selling it to Wako Logistics Group Inc. in 2007.

Smart Business spoke with Picchietti about how to meet each customer’s unique needs.

Q. How can leaders anticipate their clients’ changing needs?

My advice is always to keep the customer completely up to date, good news or bad news, because then adjustments can be made accordingly, and then there are no surprises.

It’s all about listening, to begin with. One customer is going to certainly have a different need [from another]. Listen to that customer, and try to tailor to their needs.

The CEO really has to get his or her hands dirty. That’s the only way that I can properly lead this business is if I know what is happening within our industries and with our customers.

I am quite often on the road with salespeople, visiting existing or potential customers.

That is a competitive advantage against the big boys and girls of the industry.

If somebody is having a problem or a challenge, they have my direct-line number, they have my cell phone number, and, in some cases, they have my home number.

If they have a problem with one of the larger service providers, they have an 800 number, and they don’t know who they’re going to speak with.

Q. When tailoring services to a given customer’s needs, how do you avoid overpromising?

There are some companies in any industry that attempt to be everything to everyone. Quite often, that’s impossible.

It’s only going to lead to disappointing the customer and not winning that customer.

Our philosophy is consistent and constant sharing of what our abilities are. We don’t want to misguide or even misspeak on either side. We want them to know everything we can do, but in no way, shape or form can or should we make promises on what we might be able to do because that will only lead to disappointment on all sides.

Q. Have you ever turned down customers because they were asking for too much?

Absolutely. It’s so counterintuitive, and it’s probably one of the most difficult conversations I have with key staff, managers and salespeople — to actually make the decision to walk away from a customer.

That needs to be a key component of your strategy — the willingness and hopefully the capability of walking away from a customer if you can’t properly service that customer.

Q. What is the benefit of communicating that to your employees?

If they were attempting to take care of the needs of a customer for whom we can’t service properly, so much time and effort and energy is taken in trying to do something that we can’t do or something that they want us to do that we won’t do.

That’s time spent away from those customers that need our services elsewhere. With staff, they come to understand that, in the long run, (it’s better to) properly service the nine customers that we can versus serving just the one that has expectations beyond what we’re telling them we can do.

Q. How do you know when to expand offerings that consistently limit your ability to serve customers?

Counsel very closely with customers and attempt to anticipate what they are going to need.

In some cases, we are invited by the customer to be involved in their strategic planning.

These are wonderful customers that want their vendors to know well in advance of what their plans are so that everybody can make the proper adjustments.

If there’s expectation or anticipation that a vendor is not going to be able to keep up with us, then we have to make a different decision.

Therefore, when I’m on the other side and I’m promoting our services to our customers, I look at myself from their eyes. Only if I’m going to be able to be flexible and adjust are they going to stick with me.

HOW TO REACH: World Commerce Services LLC, (888) 873-9271 or www.shipwcs.com