Category Archives: customer service

Customer Service is Marketing?

Simply deliver what you promised 

customerserviceA recent Linkedin article argued that Customer Service is the new method of Marketing – do it right and traditional marketing is unnecessary.

I would argue that it’s an essential element of a three part process – Marketing, Sales and then Customer Service – to deliver the objective of attracting, satisfying and keeping loyal, long-term profitable customers.

The three elements must be complementary and consistent to be effective. Promote what you can actually deliver. Do not under-sell it, but do not promise and hope that it can be delivered. Or that the customer will not notice the deficiencies. That never ends well.

The sales effort has to be part of the process after marketing has introduced the customers. Continue to qualify and confirm that you can meet their needs and desires while avoiding the easy sale by telling them whatever they want to hear. The truth is better, even if it’s a disappointment.

Then customer service makes sure that the promises are met with competence, helpful support and a friendly smile that says, “Y’all come back now.” And they will.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Exceeding expectations

Even if you’re not working for tips 

bartenderGood waiters and bartenders get it.

Prepare a good product and meet the minimum expectations for delivery, quality and price, then add the personal friendly touch, demonstrate your expertise and dispense your worldly wise advice to create a more knowledgeable buyer, who appreciates it all.

It’s good for tips. Even better if you’re not working for tips. You’ll win loyal customers and raving fans.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

Marketing, Sales or Customer Service?

Are choices to be made? Do we need to deliver on all three?

Bplan strategy“First let’s define better the three elements of this process to build long-term valuable customer relationships:

Marketing – understanding the market and defining the target customer; building awareness, interest, and attraction; and, identifying prospects.

 Sales – converting interested prospects into qualified, buying customers.

 Customer service – delivering products and services as promised to ensure that each customer is a satisfied, repeat customer.

Each step has to be done consistently well for the results to be achieved. But a choice still has to be made – which element are you going to be best at? Will you win from competitors on marketing, sales, or customer service? You cannot be best at all three.

In my experience managing a second-tier brand name in computer hardware, we knew that we couldn’t possibly out-market the multinationals, but we could out-sell them, one customer at a time. We spent a minimum of time and effort on marketing. Respecting basic principles of clear and consistent messaging and being creative at avoiding large expenditures worked for us.

Winning on customer service was also a challenge – it’s expensive for any manufacturer to compete on warranty terms and technical support.

So we went back to salesmanship, even in the service department – coaching staff on persuading the customer to be reasonable, patient, and give us another order, please! We carefully explained to our service technicians that the best result from a call for tech support was to turn a complaint into a compliment and then pass the call to a sales rep for another order.

You can achieve success by being selective, instead of trying to be good at everything.

So take a look at your strategic positioning, your performance and your options in marketing, sales and customer service – then choose, focus and build one of them into your competitive weapon.”

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book. 

Be Prudent not Paranoid

checking youSoon after starting my business in computer products distribution, I got burned by a couple of retailers passing bad checks. Whether they were dishonest or just bad managers, the result was the same:  Whack, NSF!

I was still an inexperienced young entrepreneur, so it was easy to over-react and go beyond caution and become suspicious and distrustful of every customer. Not a good idea. I started to notice that the sales reps and customer service staff were following my lead too well. Aggressively pushing for cash-on-delivery or making unreasonable demands before accepting sales on credit.

Now we had a new problem. Customers were getting turned off and going elsewhere to competitors who were easier to do business with.

We adjusted our attitudes and went back to dealing in good faith and treating customers and other business partners with more respect. That means trusting them implicitly and expecting the best of intentions. Then if things ultimately go badly, we can still be friends and work it out.

It does not mean blind faith or being naïve. Prudent business practices are necessary and that includes clear terms and conditions on every sales order and purchase contract.

Be aware of the risks of doing business and then manage them.

Unfortunately, they cannot be avoided. Unless you lock the doors and don’t answer the phone.

 

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Choices to be made or all part of a continuum?

I believe they are the three elements of a process required to build long-term valuable customer relationships. Which is the primary value proposition of most businesses. (Buy once and goodbye forever is not a business model that works for anybody. If you can find one, please let me know.)

The three elements defined:
  1. Marketing – to build awareness, interest, attraction and generate customer initiated action in your direction.
  2. Sales - converting interested prospects into qualified, buying customers.
  3. Customer service – ensuring that each customer is a satisfied, repeat customer.

Each step has to be done consistently well for the results to be achieved. But a choice still has to be made – which element are you going to be best at? Will you win from competitors on marketing, sales, or customer service? You cannot be best at all three.

From my experience as a second tier OEM brand name in computer hardware, we knew that we couldn’t possibly out-spend or out-market the multinationals, but we could out-sell them -one customer at a time.

Winning on customer service was also a challenge – it’s expensive to compete on warranty terms and technical support. So we went back to salesmanship in the service department – coaching staff on persuading the customer to be reasonable, patient, and give us another order, please!

So take a look at your own performance in marketing, sales and customer service – then choose, focus and build one of them into your competitive weapon.

Sometimes we get so preoccupied with marketing and sales activities and all the associated details that we forget the original strategic objectives.

The basic objective, of course, is to generate and grow sales revenue. But to have sales you need customers. And to have sustained, profitable and growing sales, the best strategy is to develop loyal, long-term customer relationships.

So the marketing, sales and customer service activities should all be aligned to deliver a customer experience with you, your company and your brand that evolves from a first time buyer to a loyal, long-term customer.

The customer experience typically evolves through four levels:

1. Satisfaction with price and availability

On the first exposure to you and your business, customers will quickly, maybe even subconsciously, compare price and availability to their expectations based on prior experience with your competition. There will likely be no sale, and maybe no second chance, if this minimum expectation is not met.

2. Recognition of superior service levels

The first point of differentiation and the first step to building a stronger customer relationship will be when the customer recognizes that you offer superior service. You can demonstrate it in many ways – faster response to inquiries, easier access, more stock, better prices or terms, better delivery, better warranty service and support.

3. Appreciation of the value of your knowledge and experience

After the basic needs of price and availability are met, and you have distinguished yourself with superior service, the customer experience should then lead to an appreciation of the added value of your knowledge and experience. This will be demonstrated by applying your product knowledge, training, education and experience to educate the customer and give him/her the confidence to make better purchasing decisions. Now you are building a valuable customer relationship.

4. Connection on values, mission and vision

The final step in cementing loyal, long-term relationships will occur when the customer recognizes a common sense of values, mission and vision in the way you both do business. This connection will be developed over several interactions, particularly when problems are solved together, or you meet on non-business related issues.

The sooner you can meet customer expectations at these four levels, the faster you will build lasting and loyal customer relationships.

A quick comment after another demonstration of what distinguishes good customer service.

I’ve always said the essence of good customer service is simple; not easy, but also not complicated. And for it to be reflected consistently on every customer contact is the real challenge for management. Instead of trying to explain it, just think of leaving every customer with a positive impression of the company, every time.

TD Waterhouse does that for me. As a discount broker that I use online regularly, I occassionally need to talk to them or meet someone in their office. Always prompt, personal, polite and efficient. The real test is when a problem arises. A transfer request that didn’t happen as promised caused me to call today. Even though I started with a complaint, it was quickly corrected and I was again a satisfied customer. Congratulations to TD Waterhouse for continuing to impress me with excellent customer service. I’m a tough critic, but they are the best among all the large companies I know.