I was impressed by a brief, but excellent story on ABC-TV’s The Business about the impact of social media on a business’ reputation and brand, especially when things go wrong and that to reduce or eliminate negative publicity issues to begin with starts with something rather old fashioned – delivering service.
This got Peter Finkelstein, our sales strategist, and I musing about and the importance of good ol’ fashioned customer service and what it really means today in a digital world. Peter has proposed we adopt C.A.R.E. as our mantra. Here is what he has to say about C.A.R.E.
Everyone knows that delivering good customer service is a fundamental building block.
Here’s the challenge: If everyone knows about it, and most organisations are doing it (or at last trying to), then how can the delivery of “good service” be used as a differentiator? Or is the question more likely to be: “How does one use service to create a competitive advantage?”
The reality is that delivering “good” service just isn’t good enough. In today’s competitive market, delivering good service is passé! To gain any advantage from service, companies will have to find ways to delight their customers. The best way to give sales a boost is to learn to live by the message hidden in the acronym C.A.R.E.
Following these fundamentals will help make C.A.R.E. a strong, lasting and profitable connection with customers:
1. Create a learning culture in the organisation
However long companies have been in the game and no matter the experience level of the customer-facing staff – sales, service and production – there’s always something else to learn about the products, services, customers, techniques, company and competition that will contribute to an improvement in both selling and customer support efforts.
Stimulating a culture of innovation, where everything to do with customers is constantly challenged to find ways to improve information, ideas and strategies, helps develop the techniques that delight customers.
2. Give away advice freely, but make sure it is good
Make it a goal to become a trusted adviser and business resource to customers. Most of the time, new and repeat customers and increased sales will follow. Customers should regard the company, and its sales and service people, as people they can turn to for sound advice that helps them improve their own operations without worrying about having to pay for assistance.
3. Map and communicate customer touch points on the value chain
No one really likes surprises – let customers know what is going to happen to them when they work or partner with you. What are the touch points in the relationship? What can the customer expect to happen and when? If you are in any form of long-term arrangement with your customers it helps that your salespeople clearly communicate these touch points up front and that the rest of your organisation along that value chain knows their role in delivering your promise of value to your customers.
4. Be consistent
The single most important aspect of brand equity (i.e. that magic ingredient that makes a brand strong and valuable) is consistency. Potential customers are always sizing the company and its customer-facing staff up.
Credibility, achievements and even the delivery of outstanding service in the past can be obliterated in the blink of an eye by the failure to keep promises. It is now more important than ever that companies commit to and live by the mantra of professionalism – “Make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make…” Make sure you have the tools in place to monitor and measure turnaround and response times – because your customers do. Make sure that your actions match your words.
5. Continuous improvement
Customer-centric organisations stay flexible and open to change. They follow the lead set by their customers in a segment. When buyers are informal they develop a culture of informality. When customers are business-like they create a culture of unity by reflecting that characteristic.
To be able to delight customers, organisations have to size up the situation and circumstances in a segment and adapt their service delivery to a level higher than the expected. It is no longer good enough to have a standard service ethic. Whatever the current level of service is, that’s good enough for today. Tomorrow it has to be better.
6. Think resolution and closure
The constant goal of any customer-centric organisation should be to resolve any customer concerns or obstacles as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Provide customers with all the information they need to make an informed decision and reassure them why a decision to buy from or support the organisation is a wise choice.
In any customer interaction, service is the backbone of success. Most customers will not buy the cheapest product or service if they have to pay a higher price for dealing with an insensitive, uncaring or unreliable service or salesperson in an organisation.
Incorporating the C.A.R.E. philosophy – i.e. Customers Are Really Everything – into the fabric of the organisation goes a long way to building the competitive advantage that rivals will find hard to emulate.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au