Beyond Customer Service

The days of “customer service” as the standard of excellence are long gone. In today’s competitive market, the only way to get ahead (and sometimes, the only way to survive) is to go beyond customer service to customer satisfaction.

The best way to prevent the customer or prospect from becoming unhappy is to provide excellent service BEFORE the problems are allowed to rise. Our interest in our customers after the sale plays a major sale in whether they will help us make additional sales. The professional who is interested in building a career will not forget the meticulous record keeping, following up when something of interest or benefit comes along that will benefit that customer. We can have everything in life we want if we will just help enough other people get what they want.

We can learn from the Bob Dunsmuir Shell Service Station example, providing extraordinary service is truly a win-win situation and those with the proper sales attitude can take life’s lemons and make lemonade. Another vital lesson to be learned is to do our best, regardless of how mundane or hopeless the situation may seem. Doing our best is our responsibility, we took up the job, now do the job and do it well. Secondly, every job is an opportunity. If we are not effectively and enthusiastically handling a “menial” or entry level job, our current and future employer would not believe we can or will handle a more demanding job.

Too many times those involved in a difficult sale or confrontational situation have a tendency to “prove” their side of the issue and point out where the customer is wrong. The philosophy is our job as professional salespeople – and especially as service-oriented sales professionals – is to work extremely hard at catching the customer doing something right.

How we deal with unhappy customers will determine to a tremendous degree our success in the profession of selling. Research indicates that roughly 90% of our unhappy customers simply doing business with us without saying anything at all about it to us. Unfortunately, they do tell friends, relatives, neighbours and complete strangers. Our value to our company comes basically from the skills we develop in dealing with everybody, including those disgruntled customers and prospects, in an effective and professional manner.

When we meet an angry person, we should just relax, force ourself to let our hands hang limply by our sides and hear the person out and do not interrupt. When we listen, we show the prospect or customer a courtesy, and allow ourself the great advantage of getting information about the problem or situation.

When the steam is released, our next strategy is to lower our voice and articulate each word clearly and deliberately, we can bring the individual to our level of calmness. The best way to stay calm is to remove ourself emotionally from the situation and if it becomes personal, we need to remove ourself from the situation physically. We must let the person know we are going to handle the matter professionally and courteously and continuing to assure and reassure the person that we are going to help. As we seek a solution to the problem (and not someone to blame) that very few people can really mad and even fewer stay that way with an individual who is sincerely trying to solve the problem and resolve the situation.

When a mistake has been made, do not get on the defensive. Acknowledging that the mistake was made is a major step in making things right and getting the customer cooled down. When customers or prospects cool down and collect their thoughts, we have a chance to retain them as customers and actually to increase our business with them. After the confrontation, if the customers and prospects are completely in the wrong, they will often realise their mistake and become embarrassed. It is critical that we get back to them in a friendly, cheerful, optimistic, upbeat manner and reiterate how much we appreciate their openness and their willingness to share and tell them how much we value their business.

One of the clear marks of a sales professional, and one that will lead to greater sales success, is class. A sales professional has class and the best way to tell this is to observe the way that “pro” deals with a person who has no class. One of least classy acts of any individual is to resort to foul or profane language. The primary reason for cursing is a language deficit, which is often revealed by immaturity and lack of emotional control. The second step in dealing with the angry person who curses and uses foul language is doing nothing, remain silent, say nothing. Absolute silence will surprise and more important calm the angry person.

To deal effectively with irate persons, remember the following information.

NO ONE CAN GET “UNDER YOUR SKIN” AND UPSET YOU WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION, SO:

  • Hear them our – let the anger erupt
  • Be patient
  • Be tactful
  • Empathise
  • Acknowledge their importance
  • Articulate our response slowly, quietly, and carefully
  • Never grant them permission to control us

“All sunshine makes a desert” – meaning that unless we have some difficulties along the way, we will never develop all of our skills and techniques that move us from the depths of mediocrity to the heights of enormous success. Look at those disgruntled clients and unhappy prospects as opportunities to grow and become even more successful in our career.

(Adapted from “The Ultimate Handbook for the Complete Sales Professional – Ziglar on Selling”, Chapter 12 –  Beyond Customer “Service” to Customer “Satisfaction” – Do You Give Up, Clean Up or Follow Up?, by Zig Ziglar)

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