Think like the customer, not just about the customer

Think like the customer, not just about the customer

Continuing my series of answering questions sent in by you, this weeks question asks about the intersection of sales and customer service.

Our customers are reluctant to switch over from dealing with their salesperson to customer service. How can we get them to deal with customer service?

To bring a customer centric approach to what you are doing and how you are doing it, in short, thinking about the customer is very different from thinking like the customer.

There is no way to move what people do without really considering the things influencing it – what they are thinking and how they are feeling. So to figure out how to help the customer happily make the switch and answer the question, it’s important to start with why the customer is reluctant in the first place.

What is the thinking and feeling behind their continued preference to call their sales contact instead of customer service?

This kind of scenario plays out in all kinds of different organisations, but is particular to businesses where there is a specific and dedicated sales function. The sales person is the one to make first contact. They are the initial bridge to and the face of the company, and what is being sold. They are often working to understand the prospect’s needs, answer questions and gather information so they can provide a price.

In short, they are putting in the time and effort required to build a relationship. And a good salesperson will build confidence with the person they are dealing with. So is it really any wonder that the transfer of this confidence over to an unknown person is often unwelcome?

The prospect is suddenly put in the position of uncertainty, which can translate to being uncertain about the whole experience with the company.

For example, they could be thinking:

“I like working with Sam, he’s a great guy.”

“Sam knows about us and what we need, I don’t know about the new person.”

“What a pain, now I have to get used to dealing with someone new.”

“No one told me this was going to happen.”

The uncertainty and worry underneath what they are thinking is the reason that they don’t do what you want them to. And while there are probably very good internal reasons why the now customer needs to deal with customer service instead of sales, the customer doesn’t care.

So the question is not how do you “get” the customer to do what we want them to do. The real question is how can you help the shift in a way that builds confidence so they are happy to call customer service and feel good about doing so?

Going back to the things they could be thinking and combining them with this question will give you a whole range of ideas and options that will build a stronger, more aligned experience.

  • Use the relationship with the salesperson to facilitate a personal introduction to their customer service person, a bit like introducing two of your friends to each other. The relationship with sales is a personal one, so the hand-off has to be personal to work.
  • Demonstrate that critical information is being shared, make the hand-off visible so the customer can see it has happened.
  • Make it part of the sales process to explain that the handover will happen once they are a customer. Build a story around it so they see it as a benefit, not a pain.

Of course it’s not just the sales and customer service handover that can cause problems. Think sales to finance, or customer service to technical support, or any place where an established relationship has to be transferred to another person in the company.

A sense of relationship can be built quite quickly, so it’s important to think about not just the direct engagement experience but also the spaces in between. Both are important to the overall experience the customer will have.

To do this, try to always take a few minutes to think like the customer – what are they likely thinking; what are they feeling and how does that relate to what they are doing or not doing. If you want a different result you’ve got to start there.

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Don’t miss the opportunity to get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at [email protected].

See you next week with (your question here).

Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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