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By Chris Voice
All too often, businesses look at using technology as a way of putting barriers between
customers and employees. In fact, terms like call avoidance are often used as justification
to purchase information technology systems that up serve customer information to ensure a
live, expensive call with a human doesn’t happen.
This approach misses a key factor in today’s hyper competitive marketplace: repeat business
is king. With more and more competition fighting for scarce customer business, the cost of
customer acquisition is increasing. Think of customer acquisition cost as the amount of money
it takes with marketing and sales to get a prospect to make that first purchase. With increased
competition, that amount increases as it takes more effort to differentiate yourself in the
In fact, in many industries, businesses accept that they will lose money on that first purchase,
hoping to make it up on repeat business. This is possible because it is typically significantly
less costly to make a sale with a current customer than with a new prospect. In fact, some
very successful businesses invest in customer acquisition and don’t expect to make a profit
on a customer until after several purchases.
So, what’s the lesson? That first interaction is critical – it is the key to follow-up business.
And in this day of on-line sales and self-service customer support, there is a risk that
your customer won’t be happy and you won’t even know it.
We can take a lesson from Tony Hseil, CEO of on-line retailer Zappos.com. He has rapidly
grown the company to over $1 Billion in sales by offering exceptional customer service. While
other retailers practice call avoidance strategies, the Zappos 1-800 number is on
the top of every page and customer service agents are not measured by how many calls they
process per hour. Every customer interaction as seen as a way to foster loyalty – that means
repeat sales and more profit.
Maybe you are a sales person without a budget to implement large technology
products or maybe you are a small business owner who in reality don’t have the budget for
hundreds of customer service reps like Zappos (at least not yet!). Regardless of your situation,
size or location, technology can help, by providing tools to bring you closer to the customer
without being too hard on your budget or time.
Over the last couple of years, here at Engage we’ve implemented several Internet technologies
that have helped get closer to our customers. They weren’t particularly expensive or difficult
to implement. And in all cases – they’ve helped us win new customers and keep current customer
Can you imagine going into a traditional store, interested in finding something to buy and
there being absolutely no one there to help you? That’s what prospects typically face when
they go to a web site. With Live Chat, those visitors are proactively offered the chance
to chat with a real human via a pop-up window that works much like your favorite Instant
Whether it be answering a question about the offering or simply looking to set up a sales
call, that pro-active outreach to each web site visitor has directly translated into sales
and satisfied customers in our business.
Many of us are used to telephone conference calls with our prospects and customers. Web Conferencing
takes interaction to a higher level, allowing participants to see you, including showing
slides and video. People are simply more interested when they can listen to you, see you
and read your key messages.
What makes this option particularly attractive now for any businesses is a significant decrease
in the cost of using these services over the last couple of years. It makes it very affordable
to offer much more intimate interaction on every call. Better yet web conferencing can be
implemented enterprise wide or simply just for yourself.
This may seem like an obvious and simple one, but how well do you know your prospects? Many
businesses offer visitors to their web site a chance to sign-up for a newsletter or free
report. Name and email address are captured, but typically that’s it. By expanding this interaction
with a couple of additional questions – for example job title and biggest business pain –
you’ve now got information that can significantly increase the effectiveness of your on-going
marketing and sales effort.
By tailoring the follow-on, you are personalizing the interaction for the prospect – a sure
fire way to increase effectiveness. And here is a tip: ask these questions on a second screen
after capturing the initial contact info – it will maximize your sign-up rate.
There is an industry metric that for every month you are not in contact with your prospect
base, you lose 10% of them forever. Regular contact keeps these prospects warm so when they
are ready to buy – you’ll be there. And regular contact allows you to prompt existing customers
to ensure they are satisfied and are not having any issues that need to be dealt with.
You probably don’t have time to craft out individual emails and letters to every prospect
and customer, each month. That’s where an Autoresponder comes in. You can draft
personalized correspondence once in advance and have it automatically go out to your entire
database on a pre-set schedule or in response to specific actions (for example, a product
purchase). You keep the communication going which translates into increased sales and more
These are just a sample of Internet-focused tools. There are many more out there for all
parts of your business. The key is to change your thinking and look at such tools as a way
to get closer to your customer. You will be rewarded with more sales, greater customer loyalty
and profits that will more than pay for your investment.