ASSURING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
by DR. TONY ALESSANDRA
"Those who enter to buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain, teach me how I may please others so that more will come. Only those who hurt me are displeased but do not complain. They refuse me permission to correct my errors and thus improve my service." -- Marshall Field.
The attitude of the professional is summed up in this statement. It establishes the customer as the person to whom you are responsible. Customers support you; therefore, they deserve VIP treatment. When your customers are happy, you are happy. When they complain, you are unhappy, but you examine the complaint calmly and see it as an opportunity to learn as well as satisfy their needs. The quote echoes the fear that customers will not vocalize their dissatisfaction, but instead take their business elsewhere.
Thereís another quote thatís even more important to salespeople and companies immediately upon making a sale--"The Sale Begins When the Customer Says...Yes." In the old days, It used to be, "The Sale Begins When the Customer Says...NO," but that's a totally Inappropriate attitude to embrace In today's customer-driven business environment.
KEEPING YOUR CUSTOMERS HAPPY
Since your first concern is customer satisfaction you should be aware of some emotional stumbling blocks in your path: selective perception, user error and buyer's remorse.
Selective perception is the process in which a person sees only selected details from the entire picture. This attention to detail is sometimes petty. For example, a customer may have a new copying machine that works like a charm, but he is irritated by the sound of the motor. He focuses only on what is wrong rather than what is right.
This occurs because buyers expect their purchases to be perfect. Regardless of the purchase price, they figure that for what they spent, they deserve perfection. When you encounter someone who practices selective perception, evaluate the situation to determine if the complaint is reasonable or exaggerated. If it is exaggerated, try to resolve the problem by pointing out benefits and features that compensate. Put the negative detail in a different perspective for your client so that it becomes one small part of the total picture.
Many sales involve the installation of a new system or piece of equipment, and the buyer or their employees must be trained to use it. their successful use of the equipment depends upon the effectiveness of the training, and it is imperative that the salesperson follow through after the training period to make sure the client uses the purchase properly. It is not uncommon for people to forget 75 percent of what they hear after two days. This can cause "user error", which will significantly affect the outcome of your test and may prevent your client from reaching his success criteria. Often a client will be unhappy about a purchase and not realize that it is due to improper operation. the more complex something is, the more training it requires to use it properly. In the interest of implementing the product quickly, users may settle for incomplete training or become sloppy in their application of good training. In any case, look for user error whenever a success criterion is not reached.
"Buyer's remorse" refers to the regret that a buyer feels after making a purchase. It could be caused by selective perception, user error, or the client's error. Whatever the reason, the full benefits of the product are not realized. Buyer's remorse can also be caused by the economics of the purchase: until the benefits prove themselves to be cost-effective, a buyer regrets having made the purchase. It is the responsibility of the salesperson to assuage these fears by assuring the client that his investment is wise and sound. Reiterate some of the selling points which convinced him to buy it originally, present data, and put him at ease.
HANDLING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS
Whether your customer's complaint is legitimate or not, follow it up with a service call. Whenever possible, do it personally instead of sending someone from the customer service department. It provides the personal service that your customer appreciates and it may obviate the need for a technician or serviceman to call. As an alternative, both of you can go together to handle customer complaints. Keep the following guidelines in mind:
1. Don't procrastinate making the call. Often the problem is not as serious as it sounds. Some customers "read the riot act" when
they call about a complaint. A delay in responding will only
irritate your client more.
2. Admit mistakes and apologize. Just because you made the sale does not mean you can become defensive about your company,
product or service. Even the most reputable companies make
mistakes and have problems with their products. You may
want to restate the customer's complaint to show that you are
listening and have an understanding of the problem.
Show compassion for your customer. Whether the complaint proves to be true or false, show your customer that you are concerned and will investigate the problem immediately. Help the customer calm down by saying "I can understand why you feel they way you do."
Actively listen to your customer's complaint. Talking will make him feel less anxious about it. Let your customer "vent" his feelings before you react to the situation. Be sympathetic and encourage the customer to "blow up." Afterward, he'll feel better; this means he'll be in a better frame of mind.
5. Don't pass the buck to your company or someone else within it. This may take the blame off you, but it undermines the integrity and organization of the company, and your customer will lose confidence in your firm.
MAINTAINING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
The philosophy behind maintaining your customers is simple; now that you have them, maintain them. When you consider the amount of time and money invested in them, you cannot afford to lose them. this investment goes beyond your personal expenditures. It also includes your firm's advertising and marketing costs to reach that particular market segment. Your customers, therefore, should be treated as if the life of your business depended on them -- which it does!
15 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR CUSTOMER SATISFIED
1. Show them that you think of them. Send them helpful newspaper clippings or articles, cartoons related to their business and "Here's an idea I thought you'd enjoy" notes. Send your clients Christmas/ New Year's cards, birthday cards, and thank you notes.
2. Drop by to show them new products and brochures and offer additional services. Always make an appointment before making your call! Respect your clients' time as you do your own.
3. Offer a sample gift to enhance the use of your product. See how they are utilizing your product or service and suggest other ways that they can benefit from it. they may not be realizing its full potential.
4. Offer "customer discounts" on new products or services to encourage additional business.
5. When new employees are hired, offer to train them free of charge in the use of your product.
6. Repay or compensate them for lost time or money caused by problems encountered with your product. If you pinch pennies, your customer may do the same.
7. Be personal. Record details about your client's life and enter these in your file. It's so much nicer to say to someone, "How is Bob?" rather than, "How's your husband?"
8. Tell the truth; lies have a way of coming back to haunt you.
9. Accept returns without batting an eyelash. In the long-run, they are much less expensive than finding a new customer.
10. Be ethical. Keep all your information about the account confidential.
11. Be certain that your company follows through on its commitment. this includes delivery, installation, packaging, and so on.
12. Show your appreciation for their referrals by reporting back to them on the outcome.
13. If your company has a newsletter, obtain permission from your successful clients to write about them in it. Naturally, you would send them a copy.
14. Keep track of their results with your product and meet periodically to review the entire picture (their business, industry, trends, competition, etc.)
15. Keep the lines of communication forever open. As in any relationship, you must be able to exchange grievances, ideas praises, losses, and victories.
What all of this comes down to is that you should be willing to "go the extra mile" for your accounts. They extra effort you expend now will be repaid handsomely in the future.
The bottom line in maintaining your clients is service, service and more service. Be there for your customers and they'll want to stick with you. If you meet their needs, they'll think twice before switching to another company, even if they've voiced some serious concerns. "Make new clients, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." Develop the "gold" you have and the silver may take care of itself.
ARTICLE TAGLINE FOR DR. TONY ALESSANDRA
Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 13 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976. This article has been adapted from Dr. Alessandra's workbook, Customer-Driven Service. If you would like more information about Dr. Alessandra's books, audio tapesets and video programs, or about Dr. Alessandra as a keynote speaker, call his office at 1-800-222-4383 or visit his website at http://www.alessandra.com
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