Our industry has always been about relationship selling.
Customers buy from people who they know, like and trust. Relationship selling isn’t a strategy or a technique: relationship selling is the heart of what we do.
We count on our distributors and consultants to establish and maintain good relationships with their customers, but what happens when a customer or a distributor contacts your company?
My first career was in the food service industry. We used to talk about “The Rule of 200”:
If a customer has a great experience, they’ll tell 2 people. If a customer has a bad experience, they’ll tell 200 people.
Today, if a customer has a bad experience with a company, they’ll tell many hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people through social media. All it takes to trash your online reputation is one rude customer service agent.
To a customer or distributor who calls your company, the person who answers the phone IS THE COMPANY.
We train our consultants and distributors, and in some cases, we spend big bucks on distributor training. What is your customer service training program like? Chances are, you don’t have a customer service training program!
For small companies, the entire customer service staff is most likely the company owner(s). They’re already wearing many hats, and they may not be available to respond to call from a customer or distributor with a problem.
For growing companies, the customer service staff may be people who helped you in other areas of your business, and now they’re taking calls and responding to customer and distributor emails. While all company administrative users need training to use the company’s system and follow the process, your staff may have no customer service skills, or even worse, poor customer service skills that they picked up in other jobs.
With relationship selling, every contact point with your company is an opportunity to secure your positive relationship with your customers and consultants. Every contact point is also an opportunity to destroy the reputation and goodwill that you’ve worked hard to establish.
Consider some of these strategies to strengthen your customer service people:
- LISTEN to them. Listen to them on the phones, and listen to them when you ask them how you can help them. Really listen to what they say. What you hear may shock you.
- KEEP your word. Make keeping your word easy by under-promising and over-delivering, which is exactly how you want your staff to handle the people they deal with every day.
- EMPOWER them to make decisions. For example, your company may have a return policy. Give your employees the discretion to allow for exceptions to satisfy an angry customer. You may give them the ability to make decisions up to $20, but still require approval for anything above. Monitor how they’re using this, and adjust as needed.
- REWARD them for exceptional service. Run contests to see who can get the most customers to “like” the company’s Facebook page. Call the customer or consultant directly after hanging up with your customer service rep and ask for feedback. Note the positive and the negative – reward the positive and find out why the negative went negative – adjust as needed.
- DE-ESCALATE CONFLICT proactively. If you observe that a conversation with a customer is escalating and you sense conflict, intervene before the staff member says something that could ruin the relationship.
- TRAIN them. It’s your company. How do you want them to treat your customers and consultants?
These strategies are merely a few examples of how you can strengthen your customer service team. Yes, sometimes a solution may cost you a few bucks, but the cost doesn’t come close to what it costs you to acquire and keep a loyal customer – or to lose other current and potential customers when an angry customer posts all over social media.
When you turn an angry customer into an advocate, you’ll have a life-long customer.