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Who Am I?

I’m either your number one fan or your worst nightmare. How you treat me will decide which.

Permit me, please, to describe myself. I’m better educated, more individualistic and more discriminating than my predecessors. I expect a lot more than they ever did, too.

If I call you on the phone to make an inquiry, I expect you to give me an answer in ten seconds. I expect you to be easily available for me at any time, and I want a speedy response and efficiency.

I expect you and everyone who works in your company to be friendly—remarkably friendlier than your competitors—highly competent and knowledgeable about the products and services you offer. And I expect all of you to stand on your heads for me if necessary. I even expect you to anticipate my needs before I become aware of them. If you know how, you’ll be in a better position to keep me.

I expect you to not only know what I want, but what I’m willing to pay for it. And, if you cannot deliver what I want, when I want it, how I want it and at the price I’m willing to pay for it, I’ll go to one of your competitors who are working hard to entice me to give my business to them. Or I’ll find another source on the Internet. Or I’ll ask one of my colleagues to refer another source.

Selling to me is more difficult than ever. That’s because I’m more cynical and skeptical than ever. I’ve become highly suspicious as to whether you are giving me a really fair price, and whether you’re going to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, when you say you’re going to deliver it, and not give me some excuse when you call to disappoint me. Besides, I thought your advertising tagline says, “Five-star service guaranteed.” I often wonder if there’s any truth in advertising. Some companies have great systems and procedures in place, but the quality of service depends on who serves me! If you boast of five-star service, be sure to demonstrate it in every aspect of my experience with you.

Winning Me Over Is Tough
I remember when your salesperson delivered a presentation at my office. The person you sent was obviously well-trained on sales presentation skills. But when she boasted, “We have a very high level of customer satisfaction and are known for it throughout the industry,” my response was, “Who cares? Show me high numbers for customer retention, customer loyalty and customer advocacy!” Business is tough. If you have an abundance of loyal customers, then you must be doing something right. Your salesperson asked me all the right questions, provided all the right answers and showed me she cared about me more than writing up the order. I gave it to her, but keep this in mind: You and everyone in your company must remember that I’m very demanding. I want to be treated like a Stradivarius violin—precious, valuable and irreplaceable.

When the salesperson boasted, “We are known throughout the industry for our very high level of customer satisfaction,” my response was, “Who cares? Show me high numbers for customer retention, customer loyalty and customer advocacy!”

If I’m wrong or mistaken about something (How could I be? I’m always right, remember?), you’d be wise to simply say, “Perhaps there’s been a misunderstanding.”

By the way, if my origin is from a country other than the United States, I expect you to be able to communicate with me and understand that although my culture may be different than yours, my hard-earned money is still green and I want to be treated with the same importance as others.

If I become yours, I never want to have to worry about anything. I have enough worries with my business already. I’m impatient, too. As much as you want and need me, I can be dangerous to you. If my buying experience and every interaction with you isn’t positive, I can become your strongest critic. I think of myself as your judge and jury. Remember, I can be your executioner too. If my experience with you is not positive in every aspect of the buying experience, I’ll tell everyone about it.

On the Positive Side
If you do well by me, I can be your ambassador; I’ll tell other buyers about you. Keep this in mind: I want a flawless customer experience. That requires you to have what I call a “Sales-Service Excellence Culture” where everyone recognizes that they impact your bottom line. Everyone in your company should think and act as your ambassadors and do all they can to support your sales team. Creating a Sales-Service Excellence Culture is not optional, it is critical to your success.

Am I being too hard on you? I don’t think so. I believe I’m doing you a favor by being blunt with you. Why? Because I’m the customer! I rule. So get serious about the level of service you provide to me.

My advice to you is to take a good hard look at how I’ve come to you and where we are today. You captured my attention with your smart marketing and advertising strategy, and your sales rep earned my trust through professionalism, consultative selling and relationship building. I placed my first big order with your company. Now, you need to keep me. I hope everyone in your company realizes that without me, no one gets a check. They’d better act as brand ambassadors and treat me exceptionally well. If they do, you’ll earn my loyalty and advocacy and I’ll send other buyers to you as well.

Look at your products or services, your systems and procedures, and, most important, every person in your company, and then get serious about customer service!

How to Keep Me
If you are ready to get serious, I have made some recommendations on steps you can take to keep me and get me to become your loyal advocate.

  • Look at your mission statement and brand promise. Determine how well you deliver on your brand promise. Is there truth in your advertising?
  • Brand your service. Match it to your company name—“Scott and Company’s Scott Service Plus,” for example.
  • Make sure everyone in your company displays honesty, integrity, professionalism, accountability, respect, safety and the other core values you have established. Hold a meeting. You’ll need three hours. Have everyone write how, you should display those values. Be specific.
  • Involve your entire team in creating guiding principles on how you will treat customers and each other. For example, “We will have a sense of urgency to serve the customer.” Record them and consistently update them.
  • Uncover and eliminate service flaws. Seek ways to make it easier for me to do business with you.
  • Appoint (don’t hire) a “director of sales-service excellence” or “chief experience officer” to make sure I have a consistently great experience.
  • Train your management team on leadership skills. Adopt a “zero-tolerance for bad bosses” policy. If your management team doesn’t treat your people well, how do you expect them to treat me well?
  • Form a “rising leaders club” to groom potential leaders for management positions.
  • I am impressed when people communicate in a manner that is more caring and remarkably friendlier than your competition. Make me feel you have my best interests at heart, and be sure to call me by name. Provide more knowledge, more information and more expertise than your competitors.
  • Conduct an employee satisfaction survey. Ask if they’d recommend working at your company to others, if there’s a spirit of teamwork, and whether territorialism exists across departments. Chances are, if your employees are happy with your culture, then I’ll be happy in the long run.
  • Conduct the survey each year and strive for higher scores each year. Work with your leadership team to identify three key areas to improve the level of job satisfaction. (By the way, when’s the last time you told one of your employees how much you appreciate their hard work?) Empower them to make decisions to keep me happy without having to go to management for permission. Find ways to put the “wow” into the level of service you provide.
  • Develop an obsession to deliver your best performance with every customer every day.

Delivering world-class service involves a great deal more, but take these steps, and you just might keep me. Better yet, your business will grow and prosper in today’s changing world. For now, ask yourself this question: Would you do business with you?

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Christine Corelli Meet the Author
Christine Corelli is president of Christine Corelli & Associates, located in Morton Grove, Illinois, and on the Web at www.christinespeaks.com.

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