Customer Service is a dying art! The average attendee in my seminars, when asked, states that they have had mostly average experiences of customer service in the past month compared to a few horrible experiences and just one fantastic experience. Tony Alessandra calls these Moments of Mediocrity, Moments of Misery, and Moments of Magic. It has been my contention that every company has the ability to stand out by focusing on simply striving for the WOW experience that Alessandra calls a Moment of Magic.
Most of us feel that the customer service departments in our companies are responsible for this experience. While I agree that the customer service professionals on your team do absolutely drive the customer experience, I would like to challenge those of us in the sales side of the business to take a closer look at our role in this process.
Let’s see if we can break down that M.A.G.I.C. into an easy-to-digest (and apply) acronym:
The sales process really “tees up” the customer service process by setting up the customer expectations. Let’s face it; anyone can get anyone to buy anything by telling the buyer whatever they want to hear. In fact, it is exactly this fact that has given salespeople bad reputations for years. The true sales professional understands that they seek a customer for life (a client relationship) out of every transaction. Just as with any relationship, there are expectations that both will have. It is the salesperson’s job to discover the true expectations of the customer from the onset and to temper those according to true deliverables. In addition, the sales professional must explain in detail to the customer the role that they must play in the relationship. With properly discovered and mutually agreed upon expectations set in advance, the customer service experience has been properly arranged in advance so that the customer “knows what they are in for.” At that point, it is up to the entire organization (every touch point) to EXCEED those expectations!
The first and most vital conversations that are held with a customer are done so with the sales professional. It is during these conversations that we are to gather information in addition to giving it. We have defined the shortest course on selling for years as “Asking Questions and Listening.” This process is not important only for the discovery of a potential customer’s hot buttons and motivators which will guide them towards a purchase from us, it also helps us assess their HVNs (Highest Value Needs) so that we may communicate them to our internal customer service teams.
Here is an idea: Create a form that will allow your salespeople to capture some of the basic HVNs of your new customers. On the form, simply list categories that are important for the smooth transition from the sales process to the service process. In addition, capture the communication style of the customer and any pertinent information that will create a strong communication foundation for the service team. What has been promised? What does the customer expect? Where are the potential “landmines that we need to avoid?” How can we WOW them early in the relationship? What do we need to know about them personally as well as professionally to best serve them?
Growth vs. Maintenance
There are two ways to look at every interaction that we have with prospects, customers, and clients. We can simply strive to MAINTAIN our current status, relationship, or loyalty with these folks or we can strive to create GROWTH in these areas with every interaction. From a sales perspective, it is my belief that there should never be such a thing as a MAINTENANCE call! The purpose of front line sales reps is to GROW the customer relationship, GROW the trust that a customer has in you, GROW the value that the customers perceives in you, and to GROW their account within the organization, thus GROWING your company. When your goal is simply to MAINTAIN, there is very little preparation necessary. There is very little need for pre-call planning, practice, or customer focused thought. Here’s a good drill: Write down the two words above (Growth and Maintenance). Under each word, write down 10 things that you need to DO to either Maintain or Grow an account. I bet the list is longer and requires more action under GROWTH!
Interest – Show one-before, during, and after the sale
As a sales professional, if you were to be judged and compensated on the overall length and value of your relationships with your customers and clients, I would bet that your actions would be more focused. We are all guilty of “moving on” from a relationship in the mind of the customer. The courting stage is full of surprise, passion, excitement, and over-the-top communication when we have the prospective customer in the pipeline. Early into the customer phase, we will stay in touch, make the occasional call to see how everything is going with our product or service, and do some of the things necessary to grow the customer (one-time, price focused buyer) into a client (lifetime, value focused buyer). However, it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. Too often, salespeople tend to lose interest in an account after a while and in doing so create the perception that they are taking the relationship for granted. Although you may think this way, it is really not important what you think—the customer/client is the king. Good drill here: Identify your top 10 accounts right now. Next, schedule a face to face meeting with each one of them within the next 60 days. The purpose of that meeting is to reconnect; “to renew your vows,” and to get into their hearts by attempting to re-visit their business needs (they most likely have changed since you were dating.)
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why customers get fed up and leave is a lack of true communication on the part of the company with whom they are doing business. Of course, people don’t do business with companies—they do business with people. Think about the world that we live in today. Phones are answered by machines that guide us through a seemingly unending series of “press this” or “enter that” before we can get a chance to communicate. Our email boxes are so loaded with spam that we have a tendency to DELETE courteous correspondence before it is read. We are forcing our customers to websites to interact with us. We are using “self-checkout” lines at grocery stores. What in the world happened to good old-fashioned one-to-one communication? When we survey customers as to what it is that they are looking for in the “service experience,” the answers rarely, if ever, mention cost effectiveness, efficiency, and electronically based communication. Instead, they say they are looking for knowledgeable help, follow-through, basic courtesies, dedicated attention, feedback, empathy, and respect. This begins with the sales professional.
As a salesperson, how can you create all of this and still be focused on getting new “fish in the boat?” It’s not easy—especially on your own. Don’t fall into the trap of keeping others in the company away from your accounts. Furthermore, don’t micro-manage every detail of the customer’s interaction with your company. Instead, create a team to deliver consistent Moments of Magic.
Using the acronym above, turn “inward” toward your support staff, your delivery staff, your installers, your customer service team, your help desk staff, and the accounts receivable staff for assistance. First of all, set and manage their expectations of you and what it is that you can and will do with the customer on the front end and throughout the relationship. Next, assess their needs. What is it that they need from you in order to best deliver on your promises? Next, look for ways to grow their knowledge of the customer, the sales process, and the service expectations of the customer. In addition, try growing your knowledge of their position and what it is that they go through every day to meet your customers ever changing needs. Next, show an interest in them. As a salesperson, you try to spend time with top accounts in the interest of building a relationship. Why? So they continue to buy from you and never leave. Create a plan to do the same with your inside team. Spend time with them. Show an interest in who they are and where it is that they come from. Meet their families. “DO” for them and they will line up to “DO” for you and your customers. Finally, learn how to best communicate with them on a regular basis. If you communicate with them via email only, you will eventually create a disconnection. Try to develop the habit of the regular “team huddle.” Regular, value-add communication on the inside breaks down the walls and allows for creative juices to come up with the best ways to take care of your customers!
The profession of sales is for sales professionals but you need to know that, as a sales professional, the customer experience is something that demands your attention and commands your focus! Sell Smart all the way through and you will find yourself with a never-ending stream of referrals and leads generated by over-the-top loyal fans on the outside (customers) as well as the inside of your business!