I believe excellent customer service is centered on a salesperson’s understanding of what the customer truly needs and then continues through the process of helping them achieve those needs.
Too often, salespeople become so excited with the prospect of making a sale that they focus on what the customer wants instead of what they need. The eventual result is a customer that is unhappy and blames the salesperson for not selling them what they needed. It may be tempting to move quickly in providing the customer with what they want, but it will eventually come back to haunt you and potentially eliminate any hope of future sales. Take the time to understand the need and then make a recommendation for the correct solution.
Excellent customer service requires that you help the customer understand the relationship between price, quality and service. In challenging economic times, customers tend to focus more on low price than quality and service. No one wants to pay more than they should for any product or service, but paying too little may cause them to compromise on quality and service. Ask probing questions to help you truly understand which of the three components of the value equation are of most importance to the customer. If the customer needs the best quality, but they tell you they need the lowest possible price, you will be blamed if you honor their price demands but compromise on quality and service. The old adage, “You get what you pay for.” is still true. It is impossible to receive the lowest price and get the best quality and or the best service. It can’t be done! You may get the lowest price, but it will be delivered after all the higher paying customers have received their products. It is not uncommon for someone paying the lowest price to receive a product of lesser quality than they expected.
Who among you, needing major surgery, would seek out the lowest priced surgeon with whom to trust with your life? Which of you suffering a life-threatening illness would postpone treatment in order to save a few dollars on your medical bill? Salespeople need to ask the questions necessary to encourage the customer to reveal their true perspectives relating to price, quality and service. Have you ever purchased a product for a low price that wasn’t delivered on time, and then you ended up having it shipped “over-night” at a shipping premium just to get it when you needed it? You have to know which is more important, price or delivery. Make it a point to have these discussions with your customer. If you don’t, you may believe that you have met the customer’s expectations, when in reality they are not happy with you, the product, or their decision to purchase from your company.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that emphasizes the negative instead of proclaiming the positive. If you don’t meet the customer’s expectations, you run the risk of them publishing their feelings somewhere on the internet telling the world not to purchase your products or services. To avoid this unwelcome attention, there are two things you must do as part of your sales process.
- Ask probing questions to truly understand the customer’s expectations in these four critical areas:
- Needs versus wants
- The importance of lowest price
- Quality expectations
- Service and delivery needs
- Needs versus wants
- At the conclusion of the sale, after the customer has received the product or service, conduct a survey to ensure their utmost satisfaction. If they are not satisfied to their original expectation, fix it. Resolve every concern and make them totally happy.
Your customer expects quality service and occasionally talks about it with others. But miss the mark on their expectations and they will share their dissatisfaction with everyone they meet. Let me share a personal example relating to the importance of customer service. I decided to sell my iphone 3GS on ebay so I could buy the new model. Within just a few hours of my listing, more than two hundred phones, just like mine, were listed on ebay in addition to the hundreds of iphones already posted. I started the bidding at one dollar and also gave a “buy now” option. In what seemed an almost unbelievable stroke of luck, a young man from New York accepted my “buy now” offer within just a couple of hours of my listing. When I contacted him relating to the shipping of the phone, I asked him what influenced him to purchase my phone from all the others posted on ebay. In addition to my professional listing, he said that it was because of the number of sales I had made on ebay while maintaining a 100% customer satisfaction rating. Don’t ever underestimate the value of customer satisfaction. Remember the principles of understanding the customer’s true needs, followed by a satisfaction interview after the sale and you too will be rewarded for your excellent customer service.