If you’re not selling, you’re supporting someone who is

Last week I wrote about ‘making promises you can keep and keeping the promises you make’ and when the rhetoric and reality do not coincide thus leaving customers disappointed at best, and downright cynical and mad at worst.


No business is perfect that’s for sure; however, if the intention of the business and its people is to genuinely help and serve customers for a fair exchange of value (whatever that is deemed to be) then everyone in the company needs to be trained in what is relevant to each role: how to sell, serve and/or communicate to a standard commensurate with their promise and value proposition.


Customers have the right to expect a certain level of service and value based on the promises made by company.


This expectation does not stop at the sales desk or front of house when the sale is made; this is just the start of the customer relationship.


The customer-organisation relationship does not usually revolve around one person (unless you are a sole trader), the relationship is often multi-faceted relying on a myriad of people to deliver on that promise.


There is no excuse for anyone in any organisation saying “I’m not in sales”, or “It’s not my job to deal with customers”.


In today’s hyper-connected world the chances a client may end up speaking with anyone in any organisation are much higher than in the past.


And even if some people in organisations do not deal directly with customers, are they aware of the impact their actions and attitudes have on the flow of customer-centric effectiveness and value delivery? What about internal customer centricity? Helping colleagues deliver excellent service.


This reminds me of the Moments of Truth book written by Jan Carlzon, former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) who tells the story about the company’s baggage handlers who were notorious for losing passengers’ baggage or taking a long time to bring the baggage to the carousels.


You can imagine the feelings of resentment and frustration felt by SAS customers. So disconnected from the customer experience were the baggage handlers that no amount of cajoling and instruction in how to behave correctly changed their attitudes.


So, Carlzon decided to fly all the baggage handlers to a conference far away. Landing at their destination the baggage handlers discovered that their luggage had gone missing – no underwear, tooth brushes and toiletries, no spare change of clothes for three days of the conference.


Now that hit home. The baggage handlers couldn’t deny the brutal consequences of their actions on SAS customers and how they felt each time they were let down.


No one should have to go to those lengths to prove the customer-centric point. You’d think people would understand how important it is to have a customer-centric focus but sadly that is not always the case in many organisations.


There is still an ‘us and them’ approach and blame shifting happening all too frequently.


So how do we engage the whole value chain in the sales process?

While we cannot mandate and legislate a customer-centric sales culture like we can with safety, having a customer-centric sales culture is just as as important to the health and well-being of our businesses and our customers.


Making everyone aware of the whole sales and service value chain and where each person’s role is in the sequence of events and how they affect the outcome of the delivering of a sales promise is critical.


Greater transparency and high levels of visibility of the impact of our actions needs to front of mind i.e. how long I take to process a claim, how I speak to and treat debtors and creditors, how much interest I take in implementing that new initiative, how distracted I get with busy work forgetting to follow up on that information I promised that frontline person over a week ago, and so on.


Creating a customer centric sales and service culture starts at the top. The CEO should set the standards and be the chief sales officer leading by example.


The C suite should follow suit and ensure that everyone in their teams delivers on a customer-centric measure internally and externally from front of house to back of house.


Sales and marketing can lead the way by regularly reporting to the rest of the organisation on the customer service and sales outcomes of the collective effort of the organisation.


Organisational value Chain


Remember everybody lives by selling something.


Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward-thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform www.salesessentials.com.


This article was originally published on SmartCompany.


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