By Troy Tommeraasen
Recurring business is a ‘must have’ for many dealers and distributors. Recurring business is a direct reflection on your company and a test of your dedication to customer service. If a consumer finds your service is less than impressive, the chances of them coming back is doubtful.
The same can be said for products. If you are providing subpar products because they service your bottom line better, then your chances of getting return business are void. The companies that are representing reputable products and provide incomparable customer service are the ones that reap the benefits.
The phrase ‘business concepts often read but rarely comprehended’ is a great eye opener. The reason is that while a lot of people are talking customer service, at the end of the day when the time clock is punched, it often has not been proven or shown in the field.
Customer service is not a monthly training meeting or remainder; it is a daily thought and progression. The old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ holds true. It needs to be done with every phone or service call.
Customer service is a major opportunity to build not only trust but to attain a trustworthy customer who will call upon you when they need future equipment or service. Why would any of us allow a customer the opportunity to check out the competitor?
Certainly, price is part of the reason why a customer might shop around; however, top-of-the-line products and their price tags require that additional attention. When customers feel that price is a specific consideration on a high-end purchase and they have been shown little or no customer support, they may decide to settle for the guy down the street.
Listed below are six basic and imperative principles in dealing either with new or existing customers.
1. Connect with the customer
This is a crucial step that cannot be ignored. It is the first step in building rapport and begins what could be a profitable relationship.
Communication is the foundation for building trust. Engage your customer by asking their name and giving them yours. Have a genuine interest in what they want or are asking.
Most importantly listen. Respond appropriately to the questions they have regardless how pointless you may think it is.
People know when you are legitimately interested in helping. If you are, they are more likely to respond positively and develop trust in you.
2. Establish what they really want
If you are listening and are genuinely engaged in the conversation, you will hear what they truly want. Clients don’t always know the best way to convey their needs or ideas.
But by listening you can assist their effort and build a foundation of communication. You are the professional and that is why they have turned to you.
By asking pertinent questions and paying attention to the answers, you can discover a lot about your customer. You can wade through their jargon and get on the same page with them relative to their actual needs. It allows them to become comfortable knowing that the professional they are speaking to really has an interest in and can assist with their needs.
3. Know your capabilities and availability
Giving customers everything they want is not the proper way to do business. They may want something that you cannot provide, or provide well.
By saying yes just to get the job, you often end up with a job that is not successful. This will lead to a bad reputation and will allow this customer to speak poorly to peers about your performance, which will affect future clients.
Know your niche and capabilities. Don’t allow yourself to get talked into something that is not your area or specialization. As the business owner, selects the best sales rep to help them; pick your customers based on what you and your company do best.
4. Follow through
This is the fulcrum upon which multiple businesses fail daily. You take all of that knowledge that you learned from many conversations and meetings and convert what they want into a developed action plan.
Once the plan is established, follow through with what you told them you were going to do. Leave no surprises to the customer.
If unexpected price or part issues arise, ensure that you speak with the customer and give them a detailed reason as to why this will need to be purchased. Far too often, people receive a bill for a final project and find that something was billed that was not previously discussed or disclosed.
This simple step is often missed once the project or installation is completed; your thoughts are already on the next customer.
Potential first-time clients are necessary; however, to gain recurring business, you need to follow up, see how things are working and if the client is satisfied.
You need not send flyers or customer satisfaction cards and incur more expense. This can all be done via a quick visit, phone call or e-mail.
It shows the customer that you truly did listen to what they want and that you are interested in their future business. This generates trust for future needs, parts and sales with them and their neighbors.
6. P’s & Q’s
Often forgotten or under utilized, don’t forget courtesy. Ensure that your empathy doesn’t sound rehearsed, like the same old line you have used one thousand times before.
Make sure your demeanor is authentic and sincere. Most often customers are not used to hearing the graciousness of these pleasantries, and may actually be surprised and thankful. And they will clearly know that you are grateful for and appreciative of the business.
Customer service values that cannot be taught:
- Enthusiasm (infectious, contagious and outright fun)
- Happiness (a personal improvement area for all of us)
- Commitment (ability to see any job from start to finish)
- Belief (everything is possible)
- Attitude (If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one. — Cavett Robert)
Treat all of your customers with respect. Form interpersonal relationships with your clients so that they feel comfortable returning to your company later in the year. Perfection is not an option; however striving for a similar goal is attainable. Ensure your company is well represented at all times, whether it is on the phone or in the field. People are watching and listening. And business is won or lost on those terms.
About the author
Better Water Industries’ Marketing Director Troy M. Tommeraasen is responsible for analyzing markets and proposing and implementing positive business strategies based on market research, product development, advertising and sales promotion programs. His efforts enhance the company’s 22 years of industry experience by providing insight to new trends and emerging markets. Contact him by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.