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I hate that word!

“Assume”.  How many times do we hear that word in our business world?  And in the sales profession (many others, too I suppose), we all know what they say about that word and what it makes out of the parties “u” and “me”.    But when we hear that word from a brand, new client, it is particularly disappointing, true?  

I was on the phone with a new client of ours recently.  Although I wasn’t the lead sales person on the account, I had met them during their evaluation process.  My job over the next few months is to help enable them to be a reseller for my company.  During this recent phone conversation, I must have heard the phrase, “we had assumed” containing that word at least ten times.  And they expressed it within a connotation of disappointment.  I hate that word

Oh, we had tried during their evaluation process to set proper expectations. My sales team thought we were pretty good at expectation-setting, too.  Until Murphy and his network of unknown sages, seers and soothsayers reminded us of: 

Naeser’s Law: 

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

So, here we are playing the unpopular game of sales-catch-up, called, “resetting the customer’s expectations”.  Ever play that game?  Not fun.  No matter how hard we try, our new customer will still have a feeling of disappointment instead of delight, yes? 

Of course, there is the “u” in that word, not just “me”.  When we hear our customer say, “We had assumed”, we sometimes would like to say, “Hold on a minute…”  For the first miss-set expectation; and the second; sometimes even the third; I’m willing to accept responsibility.  As a sales professional, I do this for a living.  So I take responsibility for addressing things the customer doesn’t even know should be addressed.  After all: 

Answering the unasked question, what someone really wants to know – that’s a really special skill. 

                             Unknown Sage 

However, when our customer persists in being a bit “clueless” about reality; when our customer continues to state disappointment based on that word; we would like to reach the point of calling out the “u” in that word; but we don’t, do we.  No; funny thing about having that “really special skill”; if we claim to have it – then we have to stand by it; even when we start to wonder if our client has moved beyond a few miss-set expectations and is now actually re-negotiating. 

Yes, in the business world leveraging advantages in negotiations can appear even after the deal is done, don’t you think? Obtaining additional vendor-concessions can appear when a new client expresses disappointment about their assumptions and the sales rep tries to make up for their disappointment.  When we do that, the feeling of this concession moves back to the “me” in that word, and we start to hear the Aretha Franklin song, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” 

Yet in our profession, managing our customers’ expectations (and assumptions) comes with the territory.  As has been said many times by our unknown sages, seers and soothsayers: 

The customer may not always be right; but the customer is always the customer. 

And, I would add the words of a former colleague of mine, Gary Givan: 

There is no profit in putting a customer in their place. 

So I guess that means to us sales professions that the “me” takes precedence over the “u” in that word; that dreaded word! 

GAP 

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Written in Ink…

Who is it that said, “The Internet is written in ink.”? 

When you want to speak to the “Internet Customer Service Department”, who do you call?  For all of the amazing enjoyment of our technology; and all of our social media interaction; once in a while do you wish you could just call the Customer Service Department? 

The other day I had a glitch with Linked In.  After spending an hour searching through online help; texting a few friends; adding in some trial and error; and resorting to the obligatory device reboot; I finally gave up and tried contacting their Customer Service.  Yea – right.  It was an email template, and it really didn’t want to accept my service request.  It kept sending me back to the same help documentation I was in for the past hour. Hmmm, when you need to speak to someone in Customer Service, who do you call?  (The good news – I finally did receive a fix via email – two days later!) 

Permit me to digress… 

I lost a deal once; hoped the loss wasn’t written in ink; so I visited the client after his decision.  During a brief but pleasant “post mortem” the client shared with me the reason.  It was because he would not have to attend training class with their product; whereas we required our new clients to attend a 2-day, in-person training class.  A well-trained client; what a concept!  (And, my company’s training requirement was written in ink.) 

As I researched this competitor’s tactic further I discovered “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey said.  My competitor didn’t offer training!  The sales rep put a clever “spin” on his weakness, “Our application is so easy to use; you don’t even have to attend training class.”  (Which would be a good thing if true; but they didn’t offer a training class!) 

A short time later, that client quit my competitor.  He didn’t buy from me though.  His bad experience with one company in our industry ruined the chances for all of us – he went in a different direction altogether.  Unfortunately, his poor customer service experience was written in ink. 

Back to today’s technology; is the social media perspective of, “Our application is so dependable and easy-to-use, you won’t need to call our Customer Service Department.”  written in ink?  (It would be a good thing if true; but there often isn’t a Customer Service Department to call!) 

And before we get too carried away with today’s world, it might be wise to keep things in perspective, yes?  Jim Collins offers: 

The truth is, there’s nothing new about being in a new economy.  Those who faced the invention of electricity, the telephone, the automobile, the radio, or the transistor – did they feel it was any less of a new economy than we feel today?                                 

The “those” he refers to are our parents and grand parents.  Think about it – they adopted electricity!  The technology advancements they lived through during the 1900’s, should impress us.  The patience, perseverance, and the ability to maintain a sense of humor that they displayed seems amazing. 

Of course, while technology in their world was speeding along back then, at least when they needed a little help they could always call the Customer Service Department.  (Which was a good thing because before the advent of our modern technology, there used to be a Customer Service Department!) 

I guess it just wasn’t written in ink. 

                                                                  GAP 

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Performing magic

Whether in a business-to-business, or a business-to-consumer setting, Client Service experiences can be a stimulating topic.  I bet you remember your favorite experiences (and maybe a few unbelievable horror stories).  Perhaps you will share one with us? 

Here’s a favorite story of mine.  Back in the days of selling for the nation’s leading payroll processing company, my desk was next to the Client Service team assigned to our largest clients in the Rocky Mountain Region.  These reps were tenured and very knowledgeable, as you would expect.  They were also unbelievably committed to providing a pleasant and professional service to their clients.  To them, delivering excellent client service was matter of personal pride. 

Our clients?  Well, when there was a problem with payroll (especially if the boss’ check was just blown out of the water) a client was not always equally pleasant and professional.  Here’s what happened one day: 

After exhausting every possible way to assist an irate client for the past 45 minutes, and then concluding her phone conversation in the professional manner she had been trained, the client service representative was heard to let out a pent-up, rhetorical question of frustration to no one in particular, “What does thiscustomer want me to do about their problem, perform magic”? 

Ah – magic.  Now there’s a creative client service technique.  Have you ever been in a situation where magic seemed to be the only way to resolve an issue?  I remember my gratitude when magic (or a miracle) saved the day.  And even if the client service representative was just lucky, I still appreciated the fact that my problem was solved.  According to an Unknown Sage, Finagle said this: 

            Finagle’s Sixth Rule:

Do not believe in miracles – rely on them.                                                

When a company’s leaders are committed to client service excellence, they do more than rely on miracles or magic.  They do all of the little things (and some of the big things) to insure our experience as a customer is effective and pleasant, yes?  Excellent client service doesn’t happen by accident; after all: 

If you want happy clients, first make sure that your client services employees are happy.  Everyone has run into that disgruntled client service rep who hates his job.

                                                                 Gary A. Pokorn

Unfortunately, a popular technique irate clients like to use when faced with service needs is to turn up the volume!  I confess – I’ve been there, too.  For me, this is often caused by an urgent situation; it’s occasionally caused by the apparent stupidity of a client service rep; and it almost always surfaces when I get one of “those reps” with “an attitude”.  I bet you’ve met that same rep, too; you know; the one who thinks we caused the problem and we’re bothering them when we call the Client Service Department. 

So even though I want my clients to do as I say, not as I do, working with irate clients is not for the faint of heart.  For some clients, they will be upset no matter what we do.  And when we are on the service-delivery side facing a particularly irate client who insists on turning up the volume, here’s a technique we’d all like to use: 

How to Manage an Irate Client Call: 

“I’m sorry you’re so upset.  I really feel your pain.  No, I don’t think we can fix the problem.  No, you can’t get your money back.  Well, I am the supervisor, but let me transfer you to Mr. Dial Tone…”

                                                                          Unknown Sage 

                                                                          GAP 

How’s your day?  When life gets tough you could get a helmet – or, you could buy my book The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please visit www.TheQuoteGuys.com.