Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog post comes from Debra Ellis of Wilson & Ellis Consulting.
How hard is it to sell to an unhappy customer? If you’ve been in sales for more than a month, you’ve had the experience where a sales call begins with your customer saying, “Let me tell you what happened last time.”
A gap between sales and service significantly reduces customers’ willingness to buy again. It also affects prospecting because people in the same industry talk to each other.
Of course, no organization can provide “perfect” service all the time. Mistakes happen. Resources are limited. And customers’ expectations can be unreasonable. But before you start listing all of the reasons why you can’t resolve the service issues within your organization, stop for a minute and think about what you CAN do to help your organization deliver better service to your customers:
- Remember that good service doesn’t mean perfect service. Do your customers expect a perfect transaction every time? Probably not. Most people know that things happen. The difference between a temporary challenge and a major problem is communication. The same event, with good communication, becomes a problem that’s resolved — not a perceived failure.
- Give your service team the benefit of the doubt. They’re not intentionally creating problems. Poor service is seldom a product of bad attitudes. Bad attitudes result from the inability to delivery good service. Focus on removing the barriers, not assigning blame, and everyone wins. Begin by asking the service team what you can do to make their jobs easier. If there has been animosity in the past, it may take them a while to warm up to the idea of working with you. Don’t give up. The results are worth the growing pains.
- Consider your role. Are you doing anything to contribute to service problems? Be brutally honest with yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone, so don’t hedge. Do you sometimes promise delivery dates that are impossible to meet? Have you ever known about a problem and didn’t call the customer? It’s time to change.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. You’ve heard it a million times, but salespeople still tend to overpromise in the moment. Add a few days to the expected delivery date. When the order arrives early, your customer is pleasantly surprised. If the customer needs a rush order, check with your service team to see if it is possible. Explain that you are expediting the order, but don’t guarantee the delivery date unless you are 100% sure.
- Monitor service, beginning with the shipment and delivery process. The sale isn’t complete until the customer is happy. This means the orders have to be delivered and your customers happily using the items. How many people will reorder, if they don’t use the first order? The sooner they receive and consume the product, the faster they’ll place more orders.
- If there is a problem, stay ahead of the issue. Don’t wait for the customer to complain. Since you are monitoring the shipment and delivery process, you’ll know about challenges before they affect your customers. Tell them that there is an issue as soon as possible. If the problem occurs after delivery, respond quickly and efficiently. Keep the communication lines open with the service department and your customers.
- Be consistent about follow-up. Build it into every sale. Check with your customers after the sale to verify that the delivery is on schedule and they are happy. Do they need some training? Is everything working well? Always ask, “How can I help you?” and be prepared to assist. You are your customers’ partner. Work with them.
- Say “thank you” often and mean it. Everyone needs to feel appreciated. This includes your service team and customers. Let them know that you appreciate their contribution to your success.
Debra Ellis is the is a business coach and management consultant for multichannel companies seeking growth and profitability. She began her career helping catalog operations maximize effectiveness and efficiency. She is the author of Social Media 4 Direct Marketers, a guide for creating an integrated marketing strategy. You can read more of her work on her blog Multichannel Magic
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