Exceeding customer expectations leads to more of everything you want: repeat business, upselling and cross-selling opportunities, sales referrals, and outselling your competition. Whether service is defined part of your job or not, it is a huge part of sustaining and growing your business.
There are many things you can do to generate more sales by exceeding your customers’ expectations and creating legendary service. Here are some time-tested ideas.
Use as many as you can. Exceeding expectations is a function of your desire and your creativity. Be creative in how you serve your customers, and they will spread the word to others.
Call Customers with Status Reports
Depending on your business, you may have opportunities to call your customers between the time they place the order and when you deliver it. Schedule one or more status report calls to let your customers know that everything is on schedule. They will appreciate you checking on their order or project. And everyone appreciates a “good news” call.
Always “Install” Your Product
In “Relationship Selling,” Jim Cathcart says, “The most successful salespeople don’t just sell their product or service, they install it after the sale. No matter what your line of business, devise a way to make your client feel comfortable with the product or service after the sale.” Cathcart offers the following examples for installing a product or service:
- If you sell residential real estate, give each buyer an owner’s manual for the new home. Show buyers where the gas, water, and electric switches and meters are. Prepare a list of important phone numbers for their neighborhood. Give them a map that shows nearby schools, churches and stores.
- If you sell automobiles, take time to show the buyer how to operate the new car. Go over the manufacturer’s manual, and be willing to answer questions.
- If your product is clothing, show the customer how to use accessories with it to create a different look.
- If you sell insurance, prepare a summary emphasizing that this wasn’t a one-time purchase and that as their insurance needs changes over the years, you’ll be there to provide guidance and to suggest the right policy.
“The key to continued success,” Cathcart concludes, “is showing the customer how to maximize the use of whatever was purchased.”
If you sell an ongoing service like printing, bookkeeping or temporary employment services, introduce customers to people in your office with whom they are likely to come in contact. Your customers will be more comfortable and trusting each time they call a member of your team.
My speaking and writing business has been good to me. Recently, I felt lucky to be able to afford a brand new Lexus automobile. The whole experience was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before from a car dealer. In fact, one of the reasons I finally decided on the Lexus was because every time I walked into a Lexus dealership, I was treated with great care and respect. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the “games” I’ve experienced at many other dealerships.
My Lexus salesperson did just what I’ve discussed. After the sale, he introduced me to the service manager and a few other people with whom I might have contact. As my car was brought around for me to drive home, he carefully went through almost every detail of the car to make sure I would get the most pleasure from it. He even had a small but classy gift for me. Whenever I bring the car in for service or the free car wash, my salesperson and his colleagues take a moment to see how I and my car are doing.
I’ve already referred several people to that dealership. This shows how important the after-the-sale phase is, especially if you want your customers to give you referrals.
Be Careful How You Turn Customers Over to Customer Service
First of all, it’s my feeling that everyone in your company is part of your “customer service” department. Everyone should be ready, willing and able to speak to customers and satisfy their needs as best they can.
Since every customer has the potential to lead to you many more customers, you should always welcome opportunities to serve them — long after the sale has been made. Even if your company has a customer service department, be careful how you turn your customers over to it.
Several months ago I switched my long-distance telephone service to a small company that had great rates. The salesperson was great at showing me how I’d benefit from his service. I was happy with the prices he quoted and with his initial service. So when he asked me for referrals, I gave him three.
A month later, I began to have problems with the calling-card feature of the service. When I called the salesperson, he acted as if he couldn’t be bothered and said that I needed to talk to “customer service.”
This left me feeling burned. I’ll never recommend this service to anyone else, because the salesperson betrayed my trust. And since the problem hasn’t been resolved yet, I’m about to switch my service again.
Maintain Good Relationships with Your Vendors
Karin Collis is the owner of Karin’s Custom Images, an ad specialty business. She says, “In this business, normal production time is four to six weeks. But I’ve built relationships with factories that meet rush demands. A customer may call me in desperation because he needs something for a trade show in a few days. Because of the relationships I’ve nurtured, I can usually find something and have it in his hands the day he needs it.”
Find other companies who will help you be a hero to your customers.
Know Your Competition
When you know your competition well, it not only gives you a selling advantage early on but continues to help you serve and sell to your customer throughout the relationship.
You should always serve your customers with the knowledge that they are under pressure to move their business elsewhere. The pressure may be internal, though more likely it’s external, from all the other salespeople calling on them every day.
Do you know what pressures your customers are under to move their business? Do you know what they say to all those other salespeople? If you don’t, I suggest you get to know your customers better and find out. The more you know about your competition, the more you can do to make sure you are better than they are.
Your customers may also use one or more of your competitors. When you take your customers’ satisfaction temperatures, find out what those competitors are doing well, and learn and improve from them. Find out what your competitors aren’t doing so well, and learn from their mistakes.
Get to Know Your Customers
Whenever possible, get to know your customers beyond just the buying/selling/serving relationship. Get to know them as people. Take a genuine interest in them better. Not every customer wants you to do this, but most will appreciate it.
The customers who give me the best referrals and continue to give me referrals long after I’ve served them are those I now count as friends. If your attitude is strictly business, you are probably missing tons of opportunities for referrals, not to mention more business from your customers.
Getting to know your customers better helps to create stronger loyalty. And the more you know them as human beings, the more you’ll be able to exceed their expectations.
In Swim With The Sharks, Harvey Mackay tells about a selling tool he and his salespeople have been using for years. He calls it the “Mackay 66” because it’s 66 questions about your customers. If you know the answers to them all, you have great customer relationships. Collecting this kind of information leads you to deeper relationships and helps you serve your customers better.
Besides the standard stuff like their spouses’ and children’s names and birthdays, the Mackay 66 asks about customers’ educational background, business history and lifestyle. (For example, favorite foods, favorite places for lunch and dinner, hobbies, vacation habits and sports interests.) The list also asks, “Whom does the customer seem anxious to impress?”
This is not a list of questions that you put in front of your customers. It is your very private list that you keep lively in your awareness. I highly recommend that you get a copy of Swim with the Sharks and check out the Mackay 66. Either use Mackay’s list or create your own. The important thing is that you have a tool that will help you deepen your relationships.
Guess why golf is such a popular tool for doing business in America. It’s because people get to know each other in ways other than the buying/selling/servicing relationship. If you don’t play golf now . . . don’t start! It’s much too humbling a game. (I’m just kidding. I’ve just started playing after all these years. I’ve taken some lessons that have made a huge difference. And guess what? I’m using it to develop stronger relationships with customers and prospects.)
Get to Know Your Customers’ Companies
Get to know your clients in ways that go beyond what you sell. Find out what their collective goals are. Find out what problems they are having in areas that, at first glance, have little or nothing to do with what you sell. This will help you serve them in many ways over time. You will become a much more valuable resource and can even occasionally provide them with other resources.
For instance, if you sell printing and you view yourself as merely a vendor or supplier, you may never get to know your customers well. If you see yourself as a partner who is not just selling printing but helping them communicate information, then you will get to know them much more deeply, and you will be in a position to create many more win/win situations.
Help Your Customers Really Know Your Company
Don’t get pigeonholed. Your customers usually purchase from you based on their need at the time. Even though you told them about the full range of what you offer, all they probably saw was the specific product or service that would help them with that specific need.
You serve your customers better when you keep them informed of everything you offer. If you sold them life insurance, make sure they also know you handle disability insurance and other financial services. If you sold them two-color printing, make sure they know you do four-color as well.
If you’ve created a good working relationship, customers will thank you for reminding them of other ways you can help make their life easier.
Become an Expert in Your Field
“Knowledge of our business is vital,” Shep Hyken says in Moments of Magic. “We never stop learning. We must continually read and study to keep abreast of new developments. When you become an expert in your field, you will gain the respect of your customers, both on the outside and within your organization. You will be looked upon as a source for information.
“Why are consultants constantly writing articles and giving seminars? They want to share their expertise and position themselves as experts.
“Present yourself as an expert and offer to be a source of information. Customers will come to respect you, and you will be more likely to come to you for business.”
How can you become an expert? Noted speaker Brian Tracy says if you read on a subject for an hour each day, within two to three years you will become an expert. If you continue to read on for an hour a day over three to five years, you will become an authority. After five to seven years, you will be an international authority. He adds that if you read just one book a month you will join the top one percent of the population.