Susan MuchaTrade conditions bring “rain” to everyone. Focus on the customer experience.

As I write this, no relief is in sight in the supply-chain constraint situation, and the US is beginning a trade war with China. I’m reminded of a story my grandmother told me when I got my first marketing position after college. Nana worked at one of Miami’s largest department stores in the days when department stores had huge budgets focused on attracting shoppers via user experience rather than reduced prices. This was the era of department store “wars” for market share, where people would line up outside a store to wait for the doors to be unlocked any time a good promotion ran. Nana had just finished executing her first big fashion promotion campaign with ads in TV, radio and the local papers. She saw this as her “make or break” moment in terms of developing credibility in her new position. As she drove to work the morning of the event, it began to pour. Distraught at the negative impact this would have on shopper traffic, she went upstairs expecting to find an equally disappointed boss. Instead, he looked at her and said, “Cheer up Thera, it’s raining on Burdines and Jordan Marsh, too. And, we have the best ad campaign.”

Sales team and program managers in electronics manufacturing services need to keep that point in mind. Every EMS company in every country is getting rained on to some extent right now. The best way to differentiate is to work on ways to make the best of a bad situation. This is the time to promote unique supply-chain relationships or expertise, the ability to BoM scrub, engineering capabilities, real-time systems for material and production status visibility, and the ability to flexibly change schedule.

It is also the time to focus on the customer experience. Like a gate agent on a day full of late flights, you may not be able to control the factors that force you to deliver bad news, but you can control the attitude with which you deliver the news and the course correction options offered. In that vein, here are suggestions for program managers:

The sun did eventually come out in Miami and will do so as well in the EMS industry. The challenges the industry is experiencing provide an opportunity for many companies to demonstrate creative problem-solving. As the primary customer interface, sales teams and program managers should look for ways to use this environment to build stronger relationships with each customer.

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. (, a consulting firm providing strategic planning, training and market positioning support to EMS companies, and author of Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for Account Acquisition in Electronics Manufacturing Services;

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