Customer Service: The Real Solution Selling
Interesting to note that no matter how
the economy turns, or how industry trends rise and fall,
there is always one item that remains as most important
for success – customer service. Yet, so many companies
neglect this vital part of business.
Customer service is really nothing more than solution
selling – meet the customer, listen to them, identify
their needs, get a buy-in that you understand their needs,
find a solution to satisfy those needs, present the
solution, do a trial close, then close the account.
Let’s look at how we can apply those
sales tactics to customer support via telephone:
Greeting. Introduce yourself
by name and tell the customer what you expect to accomplish,
i.e., “Hello. My name is George and I am here to answer your
questions today. “ Ask for the customer’s name and e-mail
address (if an online issue) in case you get cut off.
Listen. Let your customer
talk and tell you what is their problem. As an example, a lady
calls and says “ My name is Mary, and I went online to your
site, and can’t seem to access my account. “
Identify their needs. Take
notes. Write down the issues that the customer states, so that
you can repeat them back.
Buy in. When the customer
has finished, read back the points discussed. Then ask for a buy
in, i.e., “If we get you into your account, will we have solved
your problem? “
Solution. Solve the problem,
preferably while the customer is on the telephone. Explain, in
detail, how to access the account.
Trial close. Ask if the
customer is able to access her account.
Close. If the customer is
able to access the account, ask “Have we solved your problem
today?” When the customer says yes, you are both in agreement –
the problem was stated and resolved
If this is an online
issue, send the customer an e-mail as a follow up. If you can’t
solve the problem while the customer is on the telephone, be
sure you send them an e-mail and ask them to tell you if the
problem is solved. A typical follow up note would be:
happy to hear that you are now able to access your account and
that we were able to solve your issue. If you have any other
issues, you may want to try our “How do I…” section of our site
will go ahead and close this case as resolved since the "account
access problem" is now gone. If you should have any future
difficulties with our site or our products or services, please
let us know.
know you have a choice in doing business, and we thank you for
Customer Support Specialist
Satisfying our customers is our top priority. We welcome your
comments and suggestions about how we can improve the support we
provide you. Please email us at csrmanager(at)yourcompany.com. You
can also contact my manager, Phyllis Mathews by emailing
phyllism(at)yourcompany.com. For more information about Your
Company, please visit http://www.yourcompany.com/follow-support/
the message at the end of the e-mail. It strongly states your
position, as you solicit their comments – you are
customer-oriented. It gives them the ability to contact your
boss, either to praise you or to complain (which should alert
management that additional training is required). And by
directing them to a specific directory at your site, you are
able to monitor how many people take your advice for further
How do you handle those real irate customers? You know the ones
who call screaming and calling you every name in the book. The
first thing you need to do is listen. What is the real issue? Is
it poor delivery? Wrong product? Poor accounting? Many years ago
a client got a very irate call from a customer who was very
upset after receiving an invoice from them “Why did I get this
blankety, blank invoice? I haven’t done business with you in two
years!” To which my client calmly replied “Oh? How come?” Which
threw the customer completely off guard. To him, this invoice
was the issue. My client knew he could solve that easily, but to
him the issue was what had they done to lose this customer. PS:
He got the customer back.
One of the nicest things you can ever do is to follow up after a
sale and after a customer support issue. It shows that you care.
And don’t believe that adage that lawyers live by in court -
“don’t ask a question where you are afraid to hear the answer. “
If you are afraid of the answer you might hear from your
customer, you shouldn’t be in business. Everything you do should
satisfy the customer – the quality of the products/services,
staff, convenience, responses – every detail.
support. With the
latest downturn in the economy, many companies are cutting back
on staff, which turned out to be a blessing with one company.
Frontline (AMEX: FNT) reduced their customer support staff, and
had their managers, engineers and operations people handling the
support calls. Well, the result was that they learned so much
more about their customer service operations and what was really
According to Stephen J. Cole-Hatchard, Frontline chairman and
chief executive, call waiting times are down and customer
problems are escalated up the chain of service much more
quickly. "I watch our customer service call queue every day,"
Cole-Hatchard said. "There were always three, four, five calls
waiting before we made these changes. Now, more often than not,
no calls are waiting and there is a customer service rep
is mandatory for success.
The executives of global digital payment solution company
Standard Transactions all take one day a week answering customer
support calls and e-mails. It has given them the ability to
understand some of the issues customers face, and how to direct
the resources to resolve those issues. “It is quite surprising
to our customers, when they discover they are talking to our
President, or VP/Controller or our CTO or even our CEO,” said
Dr. Elwyn Jenkins, CEO of Standard Transactions. “More
importantly each of us learn what it takes to satisfy our
customers from a different perspective – technological,
operations, accounting, product development and marketing. It is
truly a win-win situation for all – us and our customers.”
What are we all really selling? COMFORT! Making the customer
feel comfortable doing business with us.
In the early part of the last century, retailers catered to
customers personally. They went to market to purchase specific
items for specific customers. As department stores and chains
came on the scene, that level of personalization went away.
Instead merchandise managers and buyers told the customers what
they needed. It’s time to go back to the “god old days” except
with modern technologies.
What can you do in your brick and mortar store to satisfy
customers and to make them want to come back? Have you tried
asking them what you can do? While surveys may be a start, they
are impersonal, and they slant the customer’s opinions to
respond to what you think they need. Instead, train your sales
staff to ask the customer what they would like to see. Then have
the staff member record that information in your computer system
for analysis later. Numbers (surveys) are great for
statisticians but not for personal service.
When a sales associate is waiting on a customer they could say:
“I am looking for ways to advance my skills and to become a
better employee and would like your help. What should I or the
store do to make you feel more comfortable about shopping here
and make you come back soon?”
That statement is very general, and gives the customer the
opportunity to respond as they see fit, not in a manner that you
suggested with a survey. It also makes it a more personal
discussion, giving the customer the opportunity to help the
associate, or to complain about the store or product selection,
or management, etc. It’s human nature to help somebody, and
folks like to help a young associate succeed. The associate must
listen and be prepared to ask more questions.
When the customer leaves, the associate should go to a computer
and record the information gathered for analysis later. If the
general responses show a pattern, i.e., the product selection is
bad, or the store is messy, or specific products should be in
the store, etc. then action can be taken to improve.
By the way, the owners and managers should also ask the same
questions independently. Customers will tell management
something different than what he/she tells a sales associate.
And, probably the most important issue – know your customer by
name! It is so frustrating to shop at a store for years and
never be acknowledged by anybody in the store. That is cold and
impersonal, which means you lose the loyalty of customers. Keep
in mind, you will lose 10% of your customers each year, without
you doing anything wrong. Why add to that with poor service?
Finally, don’t forget to say thank you. If you really want to go
out of your way, you could learn to say thank you in other
languages. At E-Tailer’s Digest list members worldwide
told us how to say thanks in their language http://www.etailersdigest.com/resources/saythanks.htm
There is no magic to customer support. It is simple courtesy and
caring for your customers, and your ability to help them.
Customer service never goes out of style.