Don’t Lose Your Customer Before You Get Your Customer

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Like many of you, a lot of sales professionals reach out to me. Some drop in, hoping for a chance to introduce themselves and their product. Some call or email, with the intent of scheduling a longer phone call or face-to-face in the near future.

Regardless of how they reach out, I try to respond personally to all of them. They have a job to do and I respect that. Very recently, I had two very different experiences from two company representatives that wanted me to consider the product they offered.

In the first example, a folder with information was dropped off for me at the front desk of the hotel.  I received the folder at approximately 3:00 pm.  With a very full schedule that day, I made a note to review and respond the next morning. That evening, I received an email from a member of my front desk team.  It turns out this sales person was a guest in the hotel.  His reservation had been made about a week prior to his arrival.  He was quite upset I had not responded by end of day, made reference to me flying out to visit him at his office and then questioned the quality of the guest experience at the hotel, from the product offered to the level of service.

That same day, I received a note in the mail from Debbie, an account manager for Classic 107, a local radio station. Debbie and I had spent time together the week before. She asked me lots of questions to ensure she understood our priorities and customer demographic and provided initial suggestions on how she could help us achieve our marketing goals. Even though Debbie left without any immediate new business, she sent me a lovely, handwritten note, thanking me for my time and promising to follow up later in the year.

Debbie and I had a scheduled appointment, but my team knows to call me if someone drops in.  If I am available, I make the time to meet with the person, even if only for a few minutes.  I used to participate in sales missions, from a city and a brand perspective, so I get it.  By far the majority of our calls were planned, but sometimes along the way, we would simply drop in on the off-chance a decision maker would be immediately available to see us.  It rarely happened.  At that point, the gate keeper was our decision maker. The gate keeper’s impression of our professionalism was vital. What he or she said about us directly impacted the possibility of a response or what type of response we would receive.

Ensuring a positive pre-sale experience is important.  A 2011 Consumer Report’s survey indicated that customers who bailed on a transaction did so because of poor service. That’s potential customers who were ready to purchase but chose not to.

There are a lot of touch points in between first point of contact to signing a deal. Each of those moments can make or break a potential sale.  Be as careful of those touch points as you are about each and every one after the first sale is made.

And in case you are wondering, I did respond to the first salesperson the next morning as planned, expressing disappointment his guest experience was not the positive one our entire service team is committed to providing and extending an invitation to share his concerns with me personally. To date, there has been no response to my email.

Then I called Debbie to get her permission to mention her by name at a future date, knowing at some point a blog would be written.  She graciously agreed.  I look forward to our next conversation.

Scammers or Spammers: Which are Worse?

Nigeria is getting a bad rap.  We’re all familiar with the scam emails, supposedly from the Nigerian consulate or some other Nigerian business, providing us the opportunity to help someone and make a whole lot of money.  Did you know there are more internet criminals traced to locations in the United States than Nigeria?  I have one of them trying to scam me.

About a month ago, I was added to a circle on Google +. Then the emails and messages started. They were long, they were riddled with errors and they asked for my help with a customer service nightmare he was going through.  He referenced one of my blog posts and included just enough true information to make me start doubting my gut instinct.  I admit it … I responded to one of his emails.  I know … always, always, always listen to your gut. That’s when I got another email, again long and riddled with errors along with a request to open the attached .pdf and the potential to receive tens of thousands of dollars if I helped him fix his problem.  I did not open the attachment.  Instead I blocked his email address and reported his Google account as fraudulent.  He then phoned my business and left a phone number along with a message to call him.  I did a reverse look up on the phone number and surprise, surprise … it did not match the name left.  A search for his company name turned up absolutely nothing.  His phone number is now also blocked. The next step is reporting him to the internet fraud line a friend of mine told me about.  (As an aside, I have since found out that because gmail accounts are free and easy to get, scammers are using them more and more often.)

These scammers are good. With the huge amount of information available on various social media sites, they are able to customize their messaging.  The company he said he was having a problem with is real and the problem he mentioned fit the company profile. That, in addition to the references to specific blog posts, caused me to second guess myself for just a moment.

Just as frustrating as the scammers are the spammers.  For a few days last month, my IP address was blocked because someone on my shared server was sending out spam. Fortunately, that was an easy fix.  I purchased a dedicated IP address and seeing as I simply do not spam, that problem should be resolved.

Now if only it was that easy to get off spammers lists.  From a customer service perspective, why do you want to give your company a bad name by sending out unwanted and unasked for emails? Why do you assume that because I gave you permission to send me one piece of information that gives you permission to add me to all your lists? Why do you assume that just because we exchanged business cards, you have my permission to send me your newsletter and promotional emails?  In my humble opinion, that is a breach of trust.

I’ve had marketers tell me that I’m missing out on touch points, that I’m not being aggressive enough. I refuse to buy into that.  Here is my promise to you.  I will never put you on any mailing list without your permission. I will not try and trick you into opening my email by adding Re: into the subject line to make you think I am responding to an email you never sent.  I will not start sending you multiple messages and emails through social media sites because you were gracious enough to include me in  your circle of friends or business acquaintances.

To me, success is defined by integrity, honesty and a positive reputation.  If that means the money comes in a little slower, I am good with that.

Wondering Why Your Sales are Down?

Friday night was date night with my husband.  Between our two very busy schedules over the last month and a half, we were overdue for a nice dinner out.

We decided to go to the Beachcomber Restaurant at The Forks Market.  Arielle was working our section and was an absolute delight. She is personable, knowledgeable and very obviously enjoys what she does.  You’ll learn more about her in a later blog, but for now, if you ever get to the Beachcomber in Winnipeg, with any luck you’ll get to sit in her section.

After a very enjoyable dinner, we spent some time in the market.  As we slowly walked by one kiosk, I commented on the super cute hats and how I’d like to have one.  The young lady working in the kiosk was sitting on a chair, staring into her laptop and wearing earplug headphones. She didn’t see or hear me.  We kept walking.

My husband wanted to check out the yummy cannelloni at one of the pastry shops. We walked up to the display case, pointed to the ones that looked particularly tasty and tried to remember our favourite flavour from last time.  The young lady leaning behind the counter glanced up at us, then went back to chuckling at whatever was on her smartphone.  We decided to skip dessert.  (Actually, we wished we’d said ‘yes’ when Arielle asked if we wanted dessert.)

Through no fault of her own, Arielle didn’t sell us dessert.  Another customer may have wanted a knit hat or cannelloni more than we did and so persevered in spite of poor service.  But I am willing to bet that in the long run, Arielle closes more sales than the other two service providers we met.

Wondering why your sales are low?  Perhaps it’s poor service.  Sales and service go hand in hand. Enthusiasm sells.  Indifference doesn’t.

 

Is Your Reward Program Boosting or Busting your Bottom Line?

Sales, sales, sales.  The person that sells the most specials today wins a prize.  For every room upgrade you sell, you receive $10.  Sell x amount of widgets and the bonus is there.

Here’s the problem.  When you reward based on how many widgets are sold, the focus becomes the widget, not the customer.  And when the focus is the sale or the widget instead of the customer, customer satisfaction goes down.

If you are looking to increase revenue, focus on measuring and rewarding excellent service.

John McCormack of Visible Changes, a chain of hair salons in the US, proves that measuring and rewarding service works.

To encourage excellent customer service stylists at Visible Changes are expected to build a ‘request-by-name’ clientele. When requested by name the stylist receives an extra 10% commission. When that happens 50% of the time the bonus increases an additional 10%.  Finally, when a stylist is requested by name 75% of the time, the bonus kicks up another 10%. Once the particular hairstylist is among the top 50 requested in the chain he pays another super-bonus.

Result:  McCormack’s operations outperform the industry in almost every measure and his hair stylists earn three times the industry average.  

By the way, there is also a bonus program related to product sales.  I could not find any stats to prove my next statement, but I would venture to guess that the stylists with the highest ‘request-by-name’ clientele are also selling more product. Why? Because they care about and know their customer and their customer’s know that; therefore, when a stylist recommends a product, the likelihood of closing the sale is higher.   Relationship first, sale second.

Visible Changes does a lot of things differently than the ‘normal’ salon. Perhaps that is why they also enjoy employee retention rates unheard of in the industry.  After all, in addition to the final rewards, there is the intangible ‘feel good’ of having a fan following.  To find out more, read here.

What are you rewarding?  Is your employee reward / incentive program building relationships and profits or is it annoying customers and pushing them away?

Something to think about ….

4 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Fail

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when many people start thinking of all the things they can and should be doing to make their life, their business, stronger and better than it was the previous year.  All too often, the resolutions are a repeat of previous year’s failed attempts at change or progress and this time next year, will be pulled out again to try just one more time.

Here are four reasons why resolutions fail so often:

1.  The resolutions are based on someone else’s definition of what will make your life or business better.  

Now, sometimes those people may be right, but unless you personalize the benefit of change the chance of success is slim at best.  Instead of resolving to be better at promoting the business, clearly identify the personal benefits of doing so.  Better promotion = more business = a week away with the family during the  holidays.

2. The resolution is undefined.

What does “better at promoting the business” mean?  Is it more sales calls?  Is it different marketing activities?  How much will you give to charity each month?  A clearly defined goal or resolution provides direction and purpose.   Clearly defined outcomes provide the structure needed to create a plan.

3. It’s an all or nothing proposition.

Reality check .. significant change generally involves set backs along the way.  Very often, we abandon a goal or resolution the first time we don’t hit the gym or don’t complete our call quota.  When developing your plan on how you are going to achieve your goal, develop your contingency plan at the same time. Recognize that there will be moments when  you struggle or fall back. Identify the stressors or triggers ahead of time that could potentially derail your good intentions and plan for them.

4.  You’re trying to change everything all at once.

Instead of creating a long laundry list of change, identify which changes have the potential to make the greatest positive impact on your life or your business?  Focus on those first. There is always next year to focus on the others.

What are your thoughts? Do you make resolutions and if so, what do you do to increase the odds of success?