Let me set the scene. It’s 11.59pm, the job is due out tomorrow for a customer who is super picky about the packaging, and he won’t…
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… well in Cairns anyway, I had three different casual jobs in different restaurants around the place, as was the style at the time, and I saw a job in the paper for a salesperson in a catering equipment business. “Well”, I thought, “that sounds like it is for me… no more working nights, being on my feet all day and no more peeling potatoes and cleaning prawns”.
So, I borrowed a pair of dress shoes from my landlord, along with an old double-breasted green suit he had lying around, and a tie with print of Salvador Dali’s time warp on it (well it was the 90s and I thought I was very cool…) and one of those shiny dress shirts, and off I set in my series 2A 1968 Land Rover for the interview.
“I’m a chef and so are your customers” – that was basically my pitch. “I know what they are thinking, what’s important to them, what floats their boats.” A good approach I thought, though perhaps a little bold for a 24-year-old a long way from home.
Well, I got the job, and what a learning ground it turned out to be.
I was making the transition from cooking in a restaurant, where your order cycle is 10 to 15 minutes, to an environment which had a sales cycle that could be months or even years long.
One day, early on, my boss has all we eager, fresh-faced 20-something sales people in one of our weekly sales meetings and then – I don’t know if he invented this or borrowed it from someone else – but here it is: “Tell me guys. Who is the most important person in the business?”
Various answers were given by the Dali and Mickey Mouse tie-wearing salesforce: “Ah. You boss, or the guy that owns the place…”
The correct answer is: the customer!
It was amazing that none of us had come up with that answer.
When you come into your office tomorrow and you sit down on your chair behind your desk and turn on your computer remember who paid for the chair – the customer.
And look at how all of our businesses, no matter the ilk, have changed since the 90s – competition, the Internet. We had computers back then, but the idea of sitting at home or the bus stop or wherever you like and shopping on your phone was unimaginable.
We live in a world of infinite choices and shopping is easier than ever
The choices consumers had back then were more limited. Think about the amount of effort it previously required to buy something. You had to go to a shop or call them up and order. Now you just tap a few keys and your purchase is done and paid for.
Goods and services
Everything we buy is a mixture of goods and service. While goods can sometimes be the same from many different vendors, it’s the service that can make the difference and create value for the customer. And it’s that value that keeps them coming back.
There is no better way to create value for your customers than by providing customer service excellence.
Think about the last time you made a major purchase, or minor for that matter. You got the goods you wanted and they probably performed the desired task, but the thing you will remember is the service.
For me it’s the reason I will go back to the same place every single time I buy the goods or service. Or, in some cases, never give my business to that company ever again.
Let me give you an example from just last week in my business.
To set the scene… it’s 11.59pm, the job is due out tomorrow for a customer who is super picky about the packaging, and he won’t use labels with a UV varnish, as it doesn’t fit with his brand; so they mark every time that you touch them.
My solution is white gloves for all the staff and to put some foam netting around the product before it goes in the shipper, sort of like the stuff around a papaya.
Of course, I don’t have this on hand but need to find some in a hurry, and it’s 5.01pm on a Tuesday. Job is due out to customer on the Wednesday.
I ring supplier A: “Yeah well. It’s after 5, and I’m not sure we have that. But I can ring my supplier tomorrow and find out what the lead time is and get you a price”. Her tone was something like my request had been, “Please cut off your left arm”.
“Okay. Let me know”, I say.
So, I ring supplier B: “Okay. Will call you back in five”. He rings back, four minutes later, “I can have three boxes tomorrow am. I will pick them up from the supplier on my way in and drive them out to you myself. I will be there by 10am”.
Wow! That’s the kind of experience I want my customers to have with my business. You may have noticed, I didn’t even ask the price because it was the service that mattered.
Think about the service
Make the customer service you deliver in your business the best, and it will be the reason they keep coming back to buy from you, no matter the length of the sales cycle you are in or the nature of your goods or service. It’s the service that people will remember.
How do you provide this? For me, it’s a simple mantra: communicate, communicate and then, when you have done that, communicate some more.
By communicate I don’t mean meaningless spam email (that is called permission marketing and it’s actually negative). I mean communicate something meaningful at each key touchpoint in your process – your order has been despatched; here is the tracking number; thanks for your business; here is 10% off your next purchase.
The other key to customer service excellence is people with the right attitude who are empowered to make customers happy.
Remember we don’t buy off companies; we buy off people.
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