VIP Customer Service
Appeared in Texas Petroleum and C-Store Journal, July-August-September 1999
During every business transaction your customer makes two decisions. The first is the current buying decision. The second is whether to do business with you again. The service your customer receives is the foundation for the second decision. In the chain of a customer’s experience, if you get it right, you can erase a customer’s previous bad memory. If you get it wrong, you are going to erase all the good service you’ve given your customer. Realizing the sales potential of your customer service is what VIP Customer service is about.
What makes it so hard? Customers do not distinguish between you and your company. Consistent with our fast-paced business world, customer service is a moving target. Customer expectations are increasing since customers are richer and better educated. Retail customers are expecting better customer service since suppliers have raised the benchmarks for quality with better process management. Industrial customers value good service more than retail customers do because they are influenced by global business. They can quantify the costs of poor service and they must serve their own customers.
VIP Customer Service Providing VIP Customer Service means understanding what your customers value, showing interest, and demonstrating performance in a variety of situations. Did you know that researchers at Texas A&M found that customers evaluate service quality on 5 factors? They are reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles. Knowing that your customers value these dimensions, are you doing the best job of meeting their expectations?
Showing interest is as simple as greeting your regular retail customers by name and by sending articles of interest to your commercial customers. Listening is a skill that is critical to show your customers that you are interested in them.
What kind of performance helps a customer decide to do business with you again? Credibility, reliability and anticipation of customer needs are the keys to a successful sales relationship. Your credibility comes from every action a customer sees. You have the opportunity of gaining or losing credibility with each promise you make to a customer. Think of the salespeople you know who over promise and under deliver. These people make it harder for you to do your job. Treat everything you say as a sacred promise to your customer. Returning phone calls, sending information, following up on details are all part of the promises you are obligated to keep.
Every customer values reliability. Nothing is worse to a customer than dealing with the unexpected. When you say you will find out, you earn more relationship value points. Tell your customer when you will get back with him, but do it faster than you promised! Needs are different for each type of account. What is important to a retail customer might be different for an industrial account. Do you know what is important to your customers? Have you asked them? You should understand the critical issues for each type of your customers. You must anticipate the needs of your customers and provide what they value. When you know what is important to them, you can help them meet their business needs.
As you inventory the products you sell, how about adding VIP customer service? Your long-term customers want to buy it. What a shame it would be if you were out of stock.
Maura Schreier-Fleming is President of Best@Selling (www. BestatSelling.com). She works with technical sales professionals and business professionals on skills and strategies so they can sell more and be more productive at work. Her column 'Selling Strategies' appears in The Insurance Record.
(c) Copyright 2004 Maura Schreier-Fleming. All rights reserved.