In a recent article, our associate Alan MacNaughton noted that the primary functions of any business are to get customers and keep them.
While getting customers is primarily the job of sales and marketing personnel, KEEPING those customers is the responsibility of EVERYONE in the organization, from those involved in producing the product or delivering the service, quality assurance, customer service, technical support, credit and collections, right through to the shipping personnel.
All these functions can impact (positively or negatively) how the customers perceive your company. The best (perhaps the only) way to keep customers is to insure that every customer is a SATISFIED customer.
Regardless of the type of business, insuring customer satisfaction has many benefits:
- A dissatisfied customer is easy prey for your competitors. Conversely satisfied customers resist vendor changes
- Satisfied customers can be your best and lowest cost sales force. They may recommend your company to others or allow you to use them as references
- Satisfied customers tend to be less cost sensitive, and may believe that paying a modest price premium for superior service is worth it
We recently visited marketinglagniappe.com, an intriguing blog that focuses on customer service and the practice of G.L.U.E., or “Giving Little Unexpected Extras” in order to engage customers, promote customer loyalty, and drive word-of-mouth.
As you may know, a lagniappe (pronounced “lan-yap”) is a Creole word. It is a small gift or “extra,” often given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase.
The website lists a number of examples, such as a 13th doughnut when buying a “baker’s” dozen, the free peanuts provided by 5 Guys Burgers & Fries, or the free warm chocolate chip cookies given to guests at Doubletree Hotels.
GLUE for Sales Professionals?
As sales professionals, what “little unexpected extras” might we give to our customers or prospects?
I’m thinking these lagniappes need not be products or tangible gifts, but rather extra service, such as:
- Going the extra mile when assessing needs with which we might help
- Providing a useful referral to help our customers address needs in other areas
- Identifying and implementing ways that make it easier for our customers to do business with us… possibly streamlining order processing, more straightforward scheduling, or providing concisely-written post-meeting recaps
- Presenting proposals versus simply submitting them, so that we help our prospects and customers sift through the boiler-plate and more easily understand the relevant benefits, terms and conditions
- Consistent post-sale follow-up to ensure satisfaction
- Added support in implementing our solutions…
The list could go on… maybe you have an example or an idea to add?
There are many components to business development and many ways to grow revenue; and strategic customer service is definitely one of the often-overlooked pieces of the puzzle.
When asked, most people say they do their best to provide good customer service. However, the methods vary significantly and tend to be inconsistent. To maximize the effectiveness of your organization’s customer service effort, it’s best to develop and implement a measurable, strategic approach that leverages your organization’s unique benefits and that can become both consistent and cultural.
Creating a plan, setting goals, enhancing communication and monitoring results are the key elements of the process. Here are some specific ideas on how you might get started:
- The first step is to learn three key things about your customers what they like, what they don’t like and how they feel about your organization
- Next, identify your organization’s unique offerings from a products and services perspective (what you offer/do) as well as a behavioral perspective (how you offer/do it)
- Note the alignment between these first two items, and then determine the things associated with your organizational behavior and unique offerings that your customers value the most the real benefits
- Define action steps that will exemplify and reinforce these benefits, as well as a communication style that expresses these benefits in terms that are relevant to your customers (rather than to you and your staff)
- Create and implement a system in which your organization consistently executes the action steps and communicates in the style noted above
- Monitor and measure results… recognize and reward behaviors that are aligned with the process, and continually discuss and refine the process regularly include this topic on staff meeting and sales meeting agendas