Turning Customer Service Into a Powerful Sales Tool
Most people think customer service is something that happens after the sale is made. Or that customer service is a department people call when they have a problem.
However, WE KNOW AND UNDERSTAND intuitively that customer service is something that must take place throughout the entire customer experience, which may begin long before the customer decides to do business with you or make a purchase. In other words, customer service is part of the sales and marketing process.
Customer Service is in fact Crucial to what we call the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.
In a retail store, customer service should begin before the potential customer even walks through the door. How the store looks from the outside, whether its clean or cluttered, its sounds and smells (yes they all matter), is either welcoming and has an appeal or it does not. It may even be off putting.
When someone does walk in, typically, you have no idea whether this potential customer will buy something. If you want to ensure that they do not, then ignore them or treat them rudely. However, engaging with the customer, asking appropriate questions and showing you care, begins the relationship in a positive way that will hopefully lead to a sale and perhaps return business.
The same applies in a Business to Business transaction. The customer’s purchase cycle may be longer and require a proposal and much more before the customer makes a decision. If in the process you’re anything less than customer focused, you’ll risk losing that customer.
Keeping the Customer
Why create a customer experience that makes customers want to come back? Some of the obvious benefits are:
- It’s less expensive to keep existing customers than to continuously have to acquire new ones.
- Existing customers may eventually become loyal customers.
- Loyal customers buy more frequently.
- Loyal customers spend more when they buy compared to other customers.
- Loyal customers tell others about your business (word-of-mouth marketing). This may be your most powerful sales and marketing approach.
- There are many similarities between the getting and the keeping of customers, at least as far as customer service and the customer experience are concerned.
First and foremost is the adage that says people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. The knowing and liking is usually easy. Customers, whether they know it or not, go into the situation hoping to do business with you. Therefore, the expectation is that you’ll not do something wrong to damage the relationship. While the customers may not yet know you personally, they may know of your company’s reputation. Or they may like what they see in your advertisements. Or they may have been referred by a colleague. They’re hoping for a positive outcome, so until you prove them wrong, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Now, achieving the “trust” part of this adage is a bit more difficult. Assuming a close friend or colleague hasn’t made such a strong endorsement that hands you a customer ready to buy based solely on that recommendation, you’ll have to build the trust. Fortunately, that’s not as hard as you might think. It comes from a predictable and consistent experience. That means you have to prove, over and over again, in every interaction you have with the customer, that he or she has made the right choice to do business with you. It can be as simple as calling someone back on time, receiving a package promptly, or sending confirmation emails right after an order is placed. These are touch-points that prove to the customer that he or she chose well when they chose to do business with you.
Some simple ways to manage these touch-points are:
- Always do what you say you will do.
- Act with appropriate speed and urgency.
- Show respect and always be polite.
- Value the customers’ time—show up on time, call back on time, etc.
- Exceed expectations. Follow the adage “under-promise and over-deliver”. Set expectations that the customer thinks are reasonable and acceptable, and then exceed them.
- Be proactive. Anticipate what your customer needs before he or she asks.
- Don’t take the customer for granted.
The goal in the sales process is to build confidence up to the point that the customer is ready to buy. Once the customer has made the purchase, the goal is then to maintain that confidence and reinforce that the customer made the right choice to do business with you.
Once that customer chooses to pay you for your goods and services, they’ve crossed the line from prospect to customer. That’s where the real relationship begins. That’s when you prove to them that they made the right choice. That’s when you begin to earn loyalty. That’s when your customers evangelize you with recommendations to their friends, colleagues, and family members. That’s when you’ve turned Your Customer Service into a VERY Powerful Tool.