I often say, customer service is the best form of marketing. Customers are the reason we are all in business. Love them or lose them, it’s really that simple. Don’t let digital marketing fool you. It doesn’t matter what or where or how you are marketing, the fact remains that 100% of your customers are people and every customer has his or her own perception about your product/service.
Be it online or offline, it all starts from the promise you make via your sales and marketing efforts. What are you offering? How does it compare to your competitors? Why should customers choose you? And most importantly, why would they recommend you to people they know?
The opportunity to meet or exceed expectations are generally at the point of contact. The point of contacts can be categorized into four stages 1) Pre-sale 2) Sale 3) Post-sale and 4) Support/Warranty. I believe if you can WOW a customer in 3 out of these four stages consistently, you can turn a customer into a fan. So, let’s explore these stages.
1. Pre-sale Stage: Pre-sale is all about listening to the customers and understanding their requirements. The best way to exceed expectations at this stage is by paying attention to the little things that matter to them and to ensure that you understand their priorities correctly. Do not try to sell, instead try to help them in the most genuine way.
2. Sales Stage: At this stage, customers want to know if you can deliver what you promised. ‘Would you like fries with that?’ is not about exceeding expectations, it’s just an up-sell. This stage is about answering any questions they may have, about explaining the steps required and about building and reassuring confidence in their decision. When the sales cycle is long, many customers forget why they made the decision they made, so make sure you take the time to go over things again if needed.
3. Post-sale Stage: This stage is about delivering what you promised. Timely delivery and keeping customers in the loop (without getting annoying) is the key. Remember, nobody likes losing control. Even after the delivery, it’s always a good idea to check-in with them and ask how it’s going. You don’t have to go over the top. Simple things work.
4. Maintenance/Support/Warranty Stage: Depending upon the type of business you are in, the strategy for this stage will differ from one to the other. When things break down, it disrupts the rhythm of your customers and cause inconvenience. Most reasonable people will still look beyond that and understand that things don’t last forever. Try to take control of the situation and keep in constant communication with the customer. Where possible, make things easy for them. Support should be just that.
Make your customers smile. Great customer service will turn your customer into a walking advertisement.
Sam Gupta is the managing director of Synapse Worldwide.
Sam would love to hear your thoughts on this advice column.