I am constantly amazed by the poor service I regularly receive by various vendors – restaurants, retail store workers, and sales reps who are trying to sell me products, or services. The service skills I am exposed to range from mediocre to poor, and include such travesties as lying to get put through to me on the phone, never following up, over exaggerating what products are capable of, not listening to what I really want, not caring what I really want, ignoring me when I walk into their business, only talking to my husband (yes it still happens) and ignoring me after I make an initial purchase. Whew! It seams to me that everyday, there is less and less humanity in customer service and more and more indifference. Could I be right?
You be the judge. According to market research firm BIGresearch A whopping 85% of Americans think customer service is getting worse, or at best treading water. As a side note I think this number is the same for Canadians we are often just too polite to say anything! Additional research from Accenture tells us that half of us have switched service providers in the past year because of crummy service. Why should you care? Consider this: (1) The US National Retail Federation Foundation reports that if 100 people have a bad experience with your company you could lose up to 36 current or potential customers because of the verbal ripple effect. (2) Selling to new customers is on average 15 times more expensive than selling to existing customers AND (3) People who experience bad service tell on average 17 people about it. People who have great service tell on average 2.
It’s clear that the best sales people must also be the best customer service people. Your job is not only to sell. Its also to build a rock solid wall around your customers so they don’t want to leave. Recently during a coaching call with a client they complained to me that no matter what they did, they could not convert a prospect to a customer. this customer was dealing with a competitor and despite the fact that the prospect admitted to being unhappy with their vendor ( orders were late, incomplete and sometimes wrong) they were unwilling to leave because they really liked and trusted their sales rep. In other words, the prospect was willing to cut the vendor some slack though a tough time in order to save a relationship with the sales rep. My client asked….”What can we do?” My response was “hire the sales rep”. They thought I was joking. I was serious. Anyone who is that good at building and keeping relationships should be on your team.
The best sales people are focused on ensuring their customers only buy from them, without shopping around AND also actively refer other prospects. The very best sales people know how to make their customers feel so special and so safe doing business with them that they don’t ever leave, even when problems arise (as with the prospect above). Leaving is considered risky, staying is considered profitable. To do this you need to build a service offering that is so valuable, the cost for the customer to switch to a different supplier is simply too high. How can we accomplish this? First, commit to yourself and your company that you will practice exceptional customer service everyday. Be n ice to your customers. Then….as Nike would say…Just do it! It’s easier than you think. Why? Well first of all, the most recent research shows that consumer standards have been lowered by the lack of service in the market place. What was once considered a courtesy – eye contact, a handshake and thank you – now passes for great service! You don’t have to make this complicated. Here are some other best practice ideas form the Top 10% you can use everyday
(1) Be empathetic and compassionate. Truly care about your customers. And remember, unless your last name is “DeNiro” or “Streep,” faking it simply won’t work. Many sales people say they are “People people” and then act as though they could care less about their customers. How can you show you care? Celebrate with customers during their personal and professional milestones, grieve with them during tragedies. Say thanks, show that you appreciate them formally with notes and gifts, take excellent notes in your database of their personal and professional interests, their family situation and their vacations. Use this information to build a loyalty and advocate program.
FOLLOW UP. Create a system for follow up after a customer buys a product. It’s appalling how many times I never hear from a company again after I buy from them. At a minimum you should be sending a thank you after customers buy the first time. I suggest that your Thank-You includes a coupon for a discount off additional products, a free gift with purchase. The best companies and sales people have a structured follow up system in which the customer receives regular (at least twice monthly) follow up in a variety of media formats including email, fax, direct mail, personal visits, and voice. This follow up contains valuable information (not just ads) that can help the customer. Direct mail marketers have discovered that we can be in touch with our customers up to 200 times per year before they start to get irritated! WOW – 200 times. How? Only by using a variety of media sources. Unfortunately, most sales people I watch think that they can stick to 1 media type and have success. Usually its email. WORNG! If you send 200 emails to your clients each year (or if you leave 200 voice mail messages) you will either end up on the do not call list or with a court ordered cease and desist. Sadly most sales reps don’t follow up enough and then blame their own companies for not having a follow up system in place. I say stop blaming and create your own. You can use all the media types (voice, in person, fax, email, direct mail, advertising etc) easily, and from your own desk to be in constant contact with your customer base. One Engage customer – a sales pro at Protus IP systems took action and created her own follow-up system. She ended up with 72 referred leads within 30 days of implementing her new system.
Still not convinced you should have a follow up system? Consider this: Stanford University reports that over 85% of customers buy somewhere between the 7th-9thcontact; yet, the same percentage of sales reps – a full 85% – have given up after the 2nd attempt. I know these stats are as true for repeat sales as they are for new sales. Many of your current customers would gladly buy from you again if they just remembered who you were. Often customers buy from the competitor because the competitor was simply more visible. If you sell, and immediately move on to another customer with no follow up its easy for that customer to forget about you. Without a follow up system you are encouraging your customers to buy from someone else. Your job is not just to sell. It’s to also stay top of mind with your clients. The best way to do that is through a follow up system. Plan to use technology to create a follow up system that has you reaching out to your current customers at least once per month – ideally twice per month. Write a newsletter, create promotions, take them out for coffee or lunch, have a customer appreciation party, and attend networking event. Follow up is profitable.
(2) Add value and give first. No, this doesn’t mean giving away a free product in the hope that a prospect will give you their business. Rather, give away things that will increase your value, such as a referral to another client or partner, or sharing an idea that could help them solve a business problem. Create a network of experts that your clients can have access to – as long as they stay clients. Open your rolodex and make introductions, run free seminars on topics that your customers are effected by and your product can help with, provide free access to articles and reports that your clients would normally have to pay for.
(3) Love what you sell, the company you work for and the customers you serve. Customers buy from sales people who believe in the products they sell, and the companies they work for. Choose to be honest, open and empathetic to your customers’ needs, and you will experience consistent sales growth, build an excellent reputation – and quickly rise to the top of your field. If you don’t love what you sell, you won’t want to serve at it. To be truly successful in your life’s pursuits the number one question you should ask yourself is “Do I really Love What I’m Doing ?” If you can be honest with yourself and evaluate where you are in your life, than this question should be first on your list. If you do not LOVE what you are doing each and every day it’s time to take a good look at yourself. We all create our own happiness and unhappiness in life, blaming others for our mistakes or choices leads to a life of futility and resentment. Break out of the box you are in and make the conscious choice to really change your life and do what you really Love to do each day
Important Life Information: “You can really smell a rat” contends Dr. Robert Corrigan a trained U.S. rodentologist. “I’ve been to plenty of fancy restaurants where I walk in with some friends and say ‘we’re not eating here’ and we turn around and walk out” It smells like a musty locker room in case you were wondering adds the Washington Post~ as seen if the Globe and Mail