How impressive is your customer service? And how much better are you and your service levels when compared to your competitors?
I’m Jim Pancero. I’ve spent over 30 years as a sales and sales management consultant and trainer, helping sales teams like yours to increase their competitive advantage and selling success. I’d like to share with you a three stepped process you and your entire sales team can work through to improve your current and future service levels and even your competitive advantage.
You can complete this three stepped evaluation alone…but you’ll get the best results when you work both your sales and service teams through this simple process using this video.
The first step is to build a list as a team on a white board or flip chart of all the great things you do that impress your customers. No critiquing or disagreeing as you build your list at this point. Just build your bragging list. What do your buyers most value in how you support them? What do you do best? What are the services you provide that keeps your customers loyal to you and your organization?
Your next step is to now take your completed list and cross off anything you’re sure is being said and promised by the majority of your competitors.
When I lead sales and service teams through this exercise some of the lines commonly crossed off are things like “Our experienced sales and service people," “Free shipping,” "Our next day delivery” or “our trained technical experts.” Those are things that all of your competitors already promise and are talking about on their sales calls to these same buyers.
What do you need to cross off your list? After all…why would you want to spend time talking about and promoting a level of service that your buyer already assumes is already offered by everyone else?
So what needs to be crossed off your list?
By the way, don’t be too discouraged if you eliminated almost everything on your lists because your competitors are already offering and promising the same things. Keep working through these steps because we’ll get to what you and your team can do in a few minutes to help make you more competitive and of more value to your buyers.
Your third step is to now evaluate your list from your buyer’s perspective.
Forget what you’re promising or proud of with your customer service, instead we want to now take a look at your service and support levels…but from your buyer’s perspective.
You have two types of competitors you need to worry about. The first group is your traditional competitors, anyone selling the same products, equipment or services that you do. But the second set of competitors we need to consider are the influencing competitors…they don’t sell what you do…but they’re still influencing or biasing what your buyers expect and how they’ll evaluate all other vendors they deal with.
How impressed will your buyers be with your promises of next day delivery…if all the other suppliers to that buyer have been promising same day delivery if ordered by 1:00 pm?
We need to look at your buyer’s current expectations about all their suppliers or providers and assign what level of impressiveness or impact each of your service items left on your list will have on them and their company.
There are four levels of customer service when evaluated from the buyer’s perspective.
The first level of service is you did something for your customer, that they assumed you were going to do anyway.
How impressed would you be if a car sales person told you "We’re running a special sale this week…buy a new car and we’ll throw in a fifth tire free…we call it a spare.”
Talking about services or extras to a buyer, that they assume everyone is already offering anyway, can actually hurt your persuasive conversations and competitive positioning.
Your second level of service, from your buyer’s perspective, is you offer something they’ve already expected you to be promising.
How many of your buyers already expect all of their suppliers to offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee? How impressed do you think a buyer would be hearing in depth about your guarantee and return policies when they expect that as a minimum support level from any vendor they buy from?
How many of your support offerings and “added value” services fall into these assumed or expected categories when evaluated from what your buyer sees being offered by everyone else in today’s hyper-competitive environment?
Your third and fourth levels of service from the buyer’s perspective now moves into the competitively positive level of uniqueness and competitive differentiation. They’re either impressed…or even amazed with what you’re offering.
Notice how the majority of service efforts buyers take for granted and view as either assumed or expected tend to also be the reactive things you do…things everyone assumes or expects you to do when asked, or when they complain. Things like "We respond to your calls immediately” or “We’ll do extensive set-up and user-training on every piece of equipment we sell.” No one today gains a competitive advantage just supporting a customer…you gain a competitive advantage when you initiate efforts that impress and amaze your buyer without them having to ask.
Look at the difference between your reactive and proactive service levels. Reactive service would be the sales person following up after a sale with a phone call to make sure your buyer is satisfied, proactive service would be to have a manager also call a buyer to ask how your company did and what you could be doing better. They expect a sales rep to call, that’s reactive service, but a manager calling when it happens so rarely to them, now that could be seen as impressive…or even amazing.
Other things that can be seen as impressive or amazing include you offering end of year inventory or service planning for the next year, additional product or usage training, that they didn’t request or private time with your product or solution experts.
There’s a simple rule of thumb with this, the more surprised a buyer is with your offer and the more you initiated the idea instead of waiting to be asked by them, then the more impressed and amazed they’ll be with your offering and competitive advantage to them.
So what do you do that’s assumed, expected, impressive, or amazing to your buyers? And more importantly what else can you now add to your list that’ll move you into this competitive edge of them being impressed and even amazed?
It’s time for you to now work with your team to brainstorm ways you and your entire organization can identify and develop more support or customer offerings your buyers’ll see as impressive or amazing.
This is also a great time to go interview and research some of your most important buyers…to see if you can uncover more ways to impress and amaze them…and to keep their business…without having to cut your margins.
But I also want to warn you of the reality of today’s hyper-competitive markets. What’s amazing today…is impressive in a few months…is expected next year…and will become assumed as soon as your competitors start copying you and offering the same things to your buyers.
A competitive advantage today is a constantly moving and changing goal…and one you need to keep talking about with your team…and researching with your buyers. It’s also critical to continually evaluate and observe your markets…so you can identify the next service or support offerings that can provide you with a competitive edge, at least for a little while.