In the long run, a skilled salesperson generates far more business from existing customers than from new prospects. Highly satisfied customers lead to years of repeat orders, upsells, cross-sells, and referrals – all resulting from delivering what is promised plus great customer service. But the INTENT to give great customer service is not enough.
We all want happy customers. We get them when we establish and follow through on practices to convert that goal into tangible customer service actions. Here is Part 1 on a two-part article on how to accomplish this.
Your attitude of service becomes a commitment to service when you put it into action. Are you truly committed to your career as a professional salesperson or entrepreneur? Then customer retention must be among your top priorities. Harvey Mackay, author of “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” writes, “It’s one thing to get the first order… it’s quite another thing to get the re-order.” If you’re not getting re-orders, then you’re not creating a situation where you can successfully collect referrals.
Almost every business has a repurchase cycle. Most people buy a new car within three to five years, a new copier every two to three years, a new computer every two to three years, and so on. Cycles vary, but most industries have one. Yours may be less frequent, or much more frequent.
If you’ve sold someone an item to give as a birthday or anniversary gift, then about 330 days later, you want to call them for the next opportunity. If you served them well the first time and did a little follow-up throughout the year, then your call will be well received, even appreciated.
The point is that if you are in it for the long haul, you will do what you need to do to make sure that customer buys from you next time. Most truly successful salespeople depend on repeat business to sustain their success over many years.
If this is what you want for yourself, keep reading. If you’re only in it for a few years, to make a few quick sales, then click your BACK key now, because these ideas won’t mean much to you.
Your integrity will be tested
In business, integrity means at least two things:
- First, it means doing what you say you’ll do.
- Second, it means never violating your own standards of behavior.
Every time you tell a customer (or prospect) that you will do something, you’d better do it. This is how trust is built. Let your customers know from the very beginning that your word means something. Show them they can count on you to do what you say you will.
This is not always an easy standard to uphold. Often we agree to something without thinking it all the way through, only to realize later we misjudged our ability to deliver on our promise.
There are two ways to avoid this problem:
1. Be careful what you say you will do
Be thoughtful with how you give your word. Take an extra moment to look at your schedule or think through the situation.
My customers have become accustomed to my making careful decisions. And since I follow through on my word, they appreciate my thoughtfulness. Robert Schuller says, “Those who fail, fail to follow through.” If you say you will have a project done by 4 p.m. Monday, get it done. If there is a good reason why it won’t be done by then, don’t wait for the customer to call you. Call him as soon as you know you won’t be on time.
Keeping promises is essential to maintaining your integrity and building trust.
2. If you do make an error in judgment, tell your customer immediately
If you tell a customer you’ll have something ready at a certain time and later you realize that was a poor decision, call him immediately. I can guarantee that if time passes and you don’t call, he will remember it. And even if he forgives you later, he’ll withhold his trust until you prove yourself all over again.
The second aspect of integrity has to do with your word to yourself. A person with integrity never engages in behavior that goes against his or her own standards. Your customers will respect and trust you when they see that you have high standards for yourself, even when that means not giving them exactly what they want.
Don’t get me wrong; you need to be infinitely flexible in how you serve your customers. No service policy should be written in stone. But your personal standards should never be violated.
True, you may lose a customer now and then who asks you to do business in a way that violates your personal standards. But compromising on what you hold important does not allow for a win/win selling situation. Every sale must be a win for both you and the customer. Customers who don’t let you have your half of the equation are not good customers.
Setting your personal standards for business (and the rest of your life) is an ongoing process. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of a standard until it is tested. It’s a process worth your thought and energy.
Integrity is your foundation for creating trust with your customers, not to mention everyone else in your life. When people talk about you behind your back, you want them to say, “I can count on her,” or “He’s a man of his word.”
Following are some steps you can take to demonstrate your integrity and commitment to service:
Tell the truth
Never lie to a customer. Keeping track of the truth is hard enough. With that said, when to tell the truth in certain businesses is something of an art form. Situations may come up where the customer does not need to know every detail all at once. However, make it a general policy to tell the truth to your customers.
Record every service transaction
Most effective salespeople document their prospecting efforts. They keep track of each contact and each conversation. However, most salespeople stop there. They don’t usually keep good documentation going once the sale has been made.
A printing sales rep I know uses his laptop computer to keep a running log of every job. Every time something happens, he puts it into this temporary document. Once the job is completed, he prints it out and then erases it from the computer. This helps him keep track of the job and comes in handy if a problem arises later.
How can you apply this idea to your customer service situation?