Depending on your selling situation, the industry, the product, and the competition, the following are examples to consider in putting together a customer service program. Each of the items are important in developing long-term relationships with the customer.
■ Develop a personal file: After the initial sale is made, develop a personal file on the customer and obtain as much information as possible. Below are some examples of the information you should try to acquire.
✔The customer’s name and address.
✔Name of spouse and children.
✔List of customer’s hobbies and interests.
✔Dates of important events like marriage, birth date, and children’s birth dates.
✔Organizations and club memberships.
✔List of the exact product purchased with the purchase date.
■ Feedback system: After the sale has been completed, solicit feedback from the buyer and have the buyer identify what he liked or disliked about the product and the presentation. Most organizations have a survey card which is given to the buyer at the end of the sale or sent in the mail a week later. Not only should you gain feedback after the sale, but obtain feedback months down the road.
■ Thank you letter: Write a thank you letter after the sale and send it to the buyer. Let the buyer know how much you appreciate his/her business. If you want to be very personable, send them a thank you card written in your own handwriting.
■ Follow-up on details: If the product involves delivery, installation, or any other activity after the sale, follow-up and make sure all these things are taken care of.
■ Be responsive by handling complaints and problems promptly: Don’t ignore any complaint or problem, no matter how small it is. They tend to grow into bigger problems with neglect. Make it a personal policy to react to every problem within 24 hours after the buyer makes you aware of the problem. Do more than the customer expects in satisfying the problem.
■ Be a friend: Do things for your customers as you would a friend. Send the customer a birthday card, a small present on his anniversary, and paper clippings from the newspaper that deal with members of the customer’s family.
■ Installation: Many of today’s products require some amount of installation after the sale. Except in rare instances, installation will be handled by people other than the sales professional. Get to know these people and develop good working friendships with them. If a product is to be installed on a specific date or time, follow-up on it for the buyer. Make the buyer aware of any problems that may exist.
■ Delivery: The role of delivery in customer service will differ according to the type of selling. In selling situations where customers take the product with them, many firms develop checklists. For example, the next figure shows a checklist used by a local automobile dealership. Notice that the checklist begins as soon as the customer signs the contract. It is suggested that you develop a personal checklist that is tailor-made to your product. Go over it each time a sale is made and use it as a follow-up to keep the customer happy. You may come up with items that will shorten or lengthen the list, but it serves as a reminder that closing the sale is just the beginning in maintaining a lasting relationship.
■ Educate: A very common practice for most sales professionals is to spend time with the buyer and teach him how to use and take care of the product that has been purchased. Spend time and educate the buyer on the proper use of the product. This will save you time with buyers that have a tendency not to follow operating instructions.
■ Send prospects to your customers: If your customers are also in business, send them prospects or supply leads just as you hope they will do for you. It is just natural to respond kindly to a person who has been friendly or has done us a favor.
■ Have on-going focus groups: Invite selected customers to come in and discuss what they like and dislike in an open forum. Try to make this a monthly habit.
■ Be reliable: Without question, excellent performance with consistency is what customers want. They want service, products, and sales professionals they can count on. Customers want the sales professional to do what he says he will do, do it when he says he will do it, and do it right the first time on the deadline given.
A Checklist for Creating Happy Customers:
✔Go over car prep, checklist.
✔Cover owner’s manual and service requirements.
✔Cover warranty and conditions.
✔Introduce customer to the service manager and service facilities.
✔Demonstrate all controls on the car.
✔Show how to check fluids, air, and so forth.
✔Review payment schedule.
✔Make appointment for checkup in future.
✔Recheck title, license, insurance and other paperwork.
✔Set a specific time and date for follow-up phone call.
✔Obtain prospect name and other important personal data.
✔Thank and compliment the customer on her choice.
COMPLAINING CUSTOMERS ARE GOLD MINES
It was discussed that you should always handle complaints and problems promptly. Customers that have problems and verbalize complaints are gold mines of future business or a blueprint for disaster. Success is totally dependent on how you handle the situation. A sales professional must learn quickly to recognize if the anger is against the seller, product, or the company. This knowledge will allow the seller to better understand the root of the customer’s problem. Some specific guidelines that are helpful in handling major problems and complaints that emerge after the initial sale are the following:
■ Take every complaint seriously.
■ Always welcome complaints.
■ Get the company’s top management involved in supporting, listening to, and resolving complaints.
■ Set up a system to document and follow-up on complaints.
■ Always listen to the customer with understanding.
■ Find out exactly what the customer wants.
■ Always follow-up with a phone call to ensure satisfaction.
■ Set deadlines and goals in satisfying complaints.
■ If the customer doesn’t like your solution, ask him/her what he would consider a fair settlement.
■ Never embarrass the customer
The bottom line to remember when dealing with customers who have problems, difficulties, and need adjustments is to realize that it is the customer who writes the check for the company. Never forget that complaining customers can be great gold mines.