Relationship First, Sale Second

What do you offer that will help address a pain, a need, a problem, a wish, a dream or a goal that I have?  If you sincerely want to make my life just a little bit better by helping me relieve or achieve one of the above, instead of spouting off a bunch of statistics that tell me 78% of your customers like your service or product because (fill in the blank), you’ll ask me questions designed to help you match what you offer to what I want or need.

And if you don’t have what I want or need, instead of trying to get me to change so that what you offer works, you’ll tell me where I can find what I’m looking for, even if that means sending me to your competitor.  If you do that, I may not buy from you this time, but you will absolutely be my first stop when I do need what you offer and you will be the first company I tell my family, friends and colleagues to go to when they need what you have.

Why?  Because you demonstrated that you cared about me more than you cared about the sale, and when you do that, I trust you, I like you and I want to do business with you, even if that means I may need to change my expectations in order to do so.

Customer Service Insight: Make it Personal

I speak about the importance of customer service.  I am hired by companies to work with their service teams to create positive service moments for both internal and external customers. That means that everywhere I go, I am always assessing my service experiences and the experiences of those around me.  In most cases, the service I receive is fine; not great, but usually not that bad either.  So when I do have a great service experience, I really like to share those experiences with others.

First, a shout out to Leanne and the entire team at Enterprise Car Rental on Regent Avenue in Winnipeg. I walked into their business at 7:30 am on a cold day in January. Leanne was working that morning.  Leanne welcomed me and then reached across the desk, shook my hand and introduced herself by name!  That has never happened to me before.  She took an ordinary “moment of truth” and turned into in an extraordinary moment by personalizing the transaction.  Each and every moment of truth from that point on with Enterprise has lived up to Leanne’s initial “wow” moment.  The team at Enterprise opens the door for me, they call me while I still have the car to make sure that all is ok and they remember me when I go back.

Another great example of personalized customer service was during a recent trip to Thompson, Manitoba.  I was in line at the Winnipeg airport to catch my flight on Calm Air. The woman checking us in to our flight was an absolute joy to watch.  She made a point of looking at each and every person as they walked up to her counter.  There was a smile, there was a welcome, there was conversation and there was eye contact. When there was a delay checking in one passenger due to some missing paperwork, she looked at the rest of us in the line and apologized for the delay. She treated each and every person as an individual, not as passenger number 345.

Both of these amazing service professionals understood that great customer service is about personalizing the transaction.  There are thousands of people who efficiently enter data into computers, who process credit card transactions and who correctly supply information. The service professionals who make their customers feel valued and special are much harder to find.

If you have some of those special people working for you, thank them and value them as much as they value the people they serve.

Service: The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly

This title is a bit of misnomer.  I have two service experiences to share, not three and instead of merely good, one is amazing.  The downright ugly description is completely true for the other scenario.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit two very different service establishments. One was a large home renovation store  and the other was a food outlet.

Experience 1: I walked into a home renovation store prepared to spend money, as the dated 70’s bathroom in my “house with good bones” is in desperate need of an update.  One of the items on my list was a new bathroom vanity.  With flyer in hand, I headed straight to the bathroom department.  I could not find the vanity I was looking for so my second search involved looking for help.  One aisle over, two associates were in the middle of a personal conversation.  I walked up to them, waited for them to stop talking and to acknowledge me. After getting a glance but no offer of assistance,  I interrupted, showed them the flyer and asked where I could find that particular vanity.  After several “hmms” and “I’m really not sures”, one of the associates suggested that I try the flooring section and, if it wasn’t there, to look up front. I couldn’t find it in either area so I asked another associate if he knew where it was. He thought maybe it was in aisle six and if not, then I should go and check with the associates who work in the bathroom department!  It was in aisle six, but there was a reason it was inexpensive.  At that point, I was ready to walk out of the store, but curiosity got the best of me.  I walked back to where I had encountered the first two associates.  They were still in the exact same place, continuing their personal conversation!  I’m happy to report I did end up purchasing all the items on my list … from a different store.  Service experience 1 = Downright Ugly = No sale then or ever

Experience 2:  I  needed four gift cards from Subway.  I went to the nearest outlet but they didn’t have four available.  If either one of the associates from the first example had been working there, I’m pretty sure they would have told me to try somewhere else. Thankfully, they weren’t.  The associate working at Subway apologized for the inconvenience, asked me to wait and then started calling nearby Subway stores to find one that had cards.   It gets better. Not only did she find an outlet that had cards, she had them delivered to her store and then called me when they arrived.  I would have been satisfied with her providing directions to a store that could help me, but she and the associates at the other outlet “wowed” me by going the extra mile.  Service experience 2 = AMAZING = Sale and future sales.

What kinds of moments are your team members creating with their customers?  Are they pointing customers in the general direction of a needed product or are they actively helping them look?

Your associates are the face of your business.  What are their actions saying about you?  One bad service experience can and will cost you money. Can you afford that?

Quick tip to increase revenue… return phone calls!

Last week I was working in my home office and went to the kitchen to grab a coffee refill.  As I walked by the the patio doors in the living room, I noticed a wasp had gotten into the house.  I quickly grabbed my fly swatter and did what had to be done. Over the next 15 minutes, I killed 24 more wasps!  At that point, I put down the fly swatter, googled “Winnipeg pest exterminators” and called the number to a well-established company in Winnipeg.  After leaving a message explaining my problem, I went back to killing about 20 more wasps.

That company has still not called me back.  When there was no call back that day, the first thing I did the following morning was call AAA Plus Exterminators. Rob answered my call, quoted me a price and told me that he would be there that afternoon to fix our problem.  And then he was and he did.  Rob found where they were getting in the house, both from the outside and then the inside, he sprayed the nest and then advised on what we needed to do to close off the entry points, all in about 1/2 an hour.

I hope I never need to call a pest control company again, but if I do, guess which company I’m going to call?  And guess which company I am going to recommend to anyone who needs those services?  Rob at AAA Plus Exterminators has also given me an excellent story to use when I conduct my customer service training sessions and that means a lot more people are going to hear about him and his company.

Whether requests for information or pleas for help are coming to you by email, on your Facebook page or on the telephone, make sure that you are responding in a timely manner or you risk losing that customer to a competitor … not just once but for life.

Following Up …. A Key to Sales Success


I used to be the Director of Sales and Marketing for a national hotel company in Canada.  One day, I received a delivery from a marketing agency.   The beautifully wrapped box was address to me personally.  How could I not open it!?  Inside the box was a small logoed jar shaped like a light bulb filled with white jellybeans.  Included in the box was a handwritten note from a sales rep, a brochure outlining the various services the agency offered and a business card. Wow, right?  A personalized delivery, a hand written note and a customized container filled with candy.  This company must know what it’s doing.

The delivery certainly grabbed my attention.  The box got past the usual quick glance and file under my desk.  I took the time to open that box and see what was inside. After that the little light bulb of jelly beans stayed on my desk for a long time, with the company’s logo clearly visible to all who entered my office.

The only thing is, the reason the little jar stood on my desk for years, being refilled with new jelly beans on rather inconsistent basis, was because it was such a great example of how not to spend limited marketing dollars.

That little light bulb, along with the packaging and courier charges, probably cost the marketing agency about $8.00.  That $8.00 was spent with no pre-qualification phone call and even worse, no follow up phone call!  I was working with a design agency I was very happy with and my budget did not allow me to outsource other marketing or branding services.  Our marketing, branding and promotional strategies were managed and directed in-house and that was not going to change anytime soon.  In other words, my potential as a client did not warrant an $8.00 promotional spend.

To make matters worse, after the agency spent that $8.00, their sales rep NEVER reached out to me.  Never mind the fact that I shouldn’t have been on the distribution list in the first place, the fact that there was no follow-up is the best example of how not to generate new business and land new customers.

Whatever activities you incorporate into your sales and marketing strategies, make sure to pre-qualify so that you are spending your limited resources (both time and money) on companies that demonstrate real potential.  And then, whether a potential new customer or an already established customer, always, always, always follow up!