Customer Experience News & Trends

Why smaller firms have the customer-service edge

A recent survey asked customers to rate the service capabilities of firms large and small. Customers gave higher ratings to the smaller companies. Why?

Customers said the reason for the higher grades was the higher level of contact and faster response by local salespeople. They can respond to a complaint or a need for service personally and timely.

Whether you’re next door to your customer or on the other side of the world, you can’t respond in an effective, timely manner unless you’re prepared. A poorly framed response may be more frustrating to your customers than no response at all.

The components of preparation

There are five main components of preparation related to customer response:

  1. Anticipating request scenarios. The best salespeople use scenario planning to identify specific customer issues they may be called on to resolve. By tracking the most frequent requests, they may be able to compete favorably with a local salesperson.
  2. Preparing for the unexpected. Customer requests for action may come out of the blue, such as unique information needs and problems. Unexpected customer requests are inevitable and can’t be foreseen. Preparation for the expected may enhance your readiness for the unexpected.
  3. Giving access to resources. The speed of response is impacted by the availability of the resource required to fulfill the customer’s request. It’s a good idea to create lists of resources needed to fulfill the most frequent customer requests. By having the resources they need at hand, salespeople won’t keep customers waiting for information or problem resolution.
  4. Offering a game plan. One of the most common and frustrating customer experiences is calling with a service issue or request and being handed off to one unprepared employee after another. This process requires the customer to retell the entire story at every stop. Top salespeople take over the management of the customer’s request and communicate an action plan on the first response. They have a plan in place to respond to the customer. When they’re receiving the customer’s call directly or responding with information, they have a series of action plans at hand from which to choose. Whatever response is required, the best salespeople are ready to get involved as soon as they accept their customers’  calls.
  5. Being personally accessible. Whether you’re local or managing a large territory, accessibility is the key when a customer has a problem. Top salespeople reach out to make physical and emotional connections when problems arise. They are constantly looking for customer feedback so they can improve their accessibility and response time. They communicate this information back to their companies where it can be used to streamline customer’s processes, improve products and services and prevent future problems.

Adapted from Achieve Sales Excellence by Howard Stevens and Theodore Kinni (Platinum Press, Avon, MA). Howard Stevens is chairman of the HR Chally Group, a leading sales development firm. Theodore Kinni is a business author and journalist.

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