Even the best company, with the best service, will
occasionally make mistakes. What matters most is how you handle the situation
when issues arise. Your response to a crisis or to your customer’s unhappiness
can make or break your relationship with that customer. Below are some of our top tips to best help a
1. If there’s a crisis, make sure you inform the customer as
soon as you can – they’re going to find out one way or another – and no news
travels as swiftly as bad news. Contacting them first allows you the
opportunity to set the tone and break the bad news in the most productive way
possible. This also allows you to maintain control of the situation and offer
ways that you’re already willing to help fix their issue.
2. Listen first, react second. You can’t solve the problem
if you don’t fully understand it. Listening to the customer also makes them
feel understood, and that you care for them. If your customer approaches you
with a complaint, don’t interrupt. Don’t become defensive or make judgements
until you’ve heard all the facts as the customer sees them. Take them
seriously, even if it seems trivial to you, and try to empathize with them.
3. Apologize sincerely. A sincere apology will go a long way with most customers. A simple, but genuine apology can prove that you’ve really listened to them, and you understand how frustrating or upsetting the situation is for them, and you’re going to try to remedy it.
4. Find a way to fix their problem that also works for you
and your company. There’s no point in playing the “blame game,” because the
customer has already decided to blame you and your company, which means it’s
time to take responsibility for the problem and solve it. Let your customer
suggest solutions or alternatives. Find out their expectations for a solution
and follow that if it is reasonable.
5. After resolving the initial situation make sure to follow
up. You should always follow up with the customer to make sure that they are
truly satisfied with your efforts and the resolution. It can also be nice to do
a little something extra for your customer. It shows that you recognized that
they were inconvenienced and you’re acknowledging that with something tangible.
Clients expect service, but agents, salespeople, and clients
often have trouble defining “service”.
Driving across town to deliver donuts often gets listed as a
service call. Dropping in to see how
things are going often appears on weekly call reports as service. To some sales agents, service is what they do
when they don’t feel like selling.
Service can be a way to put off more important activities. Servicing your customer is very
important. Just be careful. Don’t use service calls as a way to convince
yourself that you’re selling. A service
call should have definable objectives.
One problem with service calls is that there’s very little
short-term reward for doing it. Few
agents or sales managers greet returning salespeople at the end of the day
with, “Did you provide great service to your clients today?” Instead, managers ask, “Who did you sell
today?” There’s more financial reward for, and more attention paid to selling
than to servicing.
SERVICE as anything that builds trust and confidence in you, your company, and
the services you provide to the customer. The following is a list of potential
customer service and contact ideas that are specific and measurable. You can use
this list to plan what you will do right after you make the sale.
- Write thank you notes. I sometimes write as many as 10 thank you
notes per day. I’ve made sales calls
where I’ve seen my handwritten notes on my clients’ desk months later. Carry cards in your car and fill them out at
the end of the call while still in the customer’s parking lot.
- Bring coffee and donuts. It’s cheaper than buying lunch, and most of
the time easier for your client. Get
stickers to put on the box with the logo and your agency’s telephone
number. This gives you a dozen chances
to register name awareness. It helps to
be known by many people in the organization from the boardroom to the
- Help clients with long-term planning and
strategizing. Offer to participate on a
project planning team.
- Return all phone calls immediately. The simple act of returning a phone call can
differentiate you from the competition.
- Establish a follow-up schedule. Remember that last month’s no may be this
month’s yes. Try to touch base with
prospects regularly without being intrusive.
Also, group prospects according to when you expect them to buy (within
30 days, within 60 days, etc.). Consider
their unique shipping cycles. Is their
product seasonal? Do they have a
contract expiring soon with another carrier?
When will they accept bids? The
sooner you expect a prospect to buy, the more frequently you should stay in
touch. Design a follow-up contact
calendar to help you keep track of your prospects and the contacts you make
- Vary your modes of contact. A call or email will have more impact if it’s
reinforced with another form of contact.
Follow phone calls with an email outlining the highlights of your
conversation and confirming any action steps your prospect approved. Call your prospects and current customers
within a week after you send an email to confirm receipt and offer to discuss
any questions or issues they may have.
Personalize your method of contact and show your customers that you’re
persistent in your desire to help them.
- Send literature sparingly. Withholding literature selectively keeps your
service information (late pick-ups, customized billing, early delivery, etc.)
customized for each individual prospect.
Use your customers’ requests for information to gauge their level of
interest in your service.
- Make buying fun.
Selling doesn’t have to be all serious business. Relax; show them you’re at ease with what
you’re doing. Adopt an energized,
off-the-wall approach to show your customers you’re a forward-thinking,
innovative go-getter. You don’t have to
sacrifice professionalism to make buying an energizing, enjoyable experience
that will keep your customers coming back.
- Most importantly, do what you promised, do it
when you promised, and do it more often than the competition. Constant
communication is the key to building a lasting relationship with customers and
prospects. You must stay in touch.
- Many customers are suspicious of freight
salesmen. They think that we’re there at
the time of the sale but not when they need us if something goes wrong. Many people get buyer’s remorse. Soon after the sale they think, “Did I make
the right decision? Maybe I should have
chosen someone else.” When they get that follow-up email or phone call, or they
experience the other customer service techniques discussed here, it makes them
think, “Yes, I made the right decision.”
So start today— Make service an integral part of your sales
Customer service is an essential part of the sales process, even though it may not seem that way at first. Offering your clients and prospective clients excellent customer service is a great way to distinguish yourself from the competition – and it can help you win customers and keep the ones you already have. Below are some tips for improving your customer service and relationships with customers.
- Stop apologizing. Instead, start thanking the customer for their patience in letting you handle their issue and resolve their problem. This puts you in a stronger position to be able to keep the customer happy and let’s them know that you are sincere and going to help them.
- Use positive language. Each interaction with your clients and prospects is shaped by the language you use. Similar to the tip above to change the way you frame apologies, using positive language can influence the customer to feeling better about working with you and their experience with your company overall.
- Manage time appropriately. This pertains not just to managing your schedule to give clients and prospects the time they need, but also to using the time you spend with them wisely. You want to be respectful of their time and yours.
- Structure conversations and interactions. Remember that first impressions are important, but so is knowing when and how to close. Being able to end a conversation or interaction naturally, and without neglecting any important components is crucial to successful sales calls and customer service.
- Create a smooth experience for the customer. Don’t just be their contact for the sale and then leave them alone. Be available and in contact with them throughout their time working with your company so you can help ensure they have a positive experience. If you can help smooth pain points and transitions, it will not only showcase the value you and your company add, but it will also make them more likely to continue being a customer and to recommend or refer you to other people in their industry.
Obviously, customer service will always be a complex task that can’t be explained or resolved in 5 tips or even 500. It is always a process, and you can always improve your skills, but having a diverse set of tricks up your sleeve will only increase your ability to work with a diverse customer base.