Posts Tagged ‘customer loyalty’

Truly Priceless, The First Customer Service Experience

In relocating from NW Indiana to NW Arizona, we have had to outreach to several businesses.  Once again I realized how truly priceless the first customer service experience really is.

first-customer-service-experience

Credit www.pixabay.com

Must Have Internet

My business depends on the Internet.  Having a reputable Internet firm is essential. I did my research and discovered Data-Max Wireless. The frontline person who opened the account and scheduled the service call was incredibly friendly and competent.  Then the service technicians also demonstrated outstanding professionalism from being on time and making recommendations for a better wireless router.

Must Have Working Oven

When we purchased our new home, we knew the built in oven was not working.  Again, doing Internet research product and reviews, I called Attwoods Appliance and scheduled a service call.  The serviceman was on time and again very professional. He only reaffirmed my first customer service experience with the Repair Department at Attwoods.

Unfortunately, the part needed for the 35 year old Tappan built in oven was no longer made.  So based upon our first customer service experience, my husband and I visited the store and ordered not only a replacement oven but a freezer as well. So a $75 service call turned into an over $2,000 sale. This is why the experience is priceless.

Must Have Working Plumbing

One of the challenges in buying a 35 year old home is there will be unforeseen problems.  We had an outside sillcock that would not shut off on a Sunday afternoon.  My husband did a temporary fix and  I called our realtor, Elise Harron of Dirt Road Real Estate for a recommendation. She recommended Truelove Plumbing.

Again, the first customer experience of scheduling the appointment and the subsequent actual service was exceptional.  Having 22 plus years in the plumbing industry, I recognized someone who understood plumbing.  The plumber also reviewed our pump and pressure tank (water storage system) and made some significant recommendations.  We took those to heart and he is coming back to install a new pump and pressure tank along with the necessary cut off value and pressure gauge.

Each of these local small businesses made that first customer service experience delightful and then backed up that experience with competent service personnel.  Unless these firms demonstrate some significant negative behavior, they have earned my customer loyalty and hence my business as long as we live here.

So far we have infused thousands of dollars into the local small business economy.  And these expenditures have all been fostered by that priceless first customer service experience.

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Lies Do Not Inspire Customer Loyalty

When will customer service people from wait staff to store clerks to everyone else in between realize lies do not inspire customer service loyalty. No lies do exactly the opposite. Lies build distrust and turn existing loyal customers into finding other solution providers.

customer-loyaltyRecently we had breakfast at a national chain that features home cooking.  When the waitress took my order, I asked for extra syrup. The waitress replied “Absolutely.”  Another waitress brought our breakfast and again I had to ask for extra syrups. This waitress replied “No problem.”

Our waitress stopped by when I was halfway through my meal and I mentioned the extra syrup. She replied “Of course.” Finally when I was finished with my breakfast, she brought the extra syrup.

Then told my husband and myself the reason for the delay was she was attending a mandatory staff meeting.  She apologized when I told her to forget the syrup as I was finished with my meal.  Again, she apologized and mentioned the mandatory meeting a second time. As a sales and management consultant, my first thought was “Talk about stupid management having a meeting during a prime time” and my second thought was “Hmm I wonder if the waitress lied to cover her own bad customer service?”

At checkout I was asked “How was the food?”  I replied the food was great, but the customer service not so much so.  The clerk asked me what happened and I responded.

She then asked me to tell the manager directly which I did.  The manager was nice enough not to charge us for the pancakes and said the meeting was not a mandatory staff meeting.  In other words, the waitress lied.  Requesting an item 3 times is not the fault of management, but the fault of the wait staff. And yes there was plenty of wait staff as this was the usual busy Saturday morning

Customer loyalty especially for service industries such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. where there is low profit margin is essential in today’s highly competitive B2C marketplace. Losing one customer can equate to hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the customer.

Very few people will fess up and acknowledge when they are at fault. This is human nature. Yet to lie to customer is not the answer for ongoing customer loyalty that is built upon expectations based upon past customer experiences.

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Sustainable Sales Success – Tip #15 Expertise

People buy from people they know and trust.  Your sustainable sales success can be directly traced back to how much people trust you.  Expertise is one of the crucial factors that works to build that trust.

sales-successSome industries such as real estate, financial and healthcare require continuing education units to ensure their members have a high degree of competence. What is interesting to note, the National Association of Realtors in its 2015 Danger Report stated the number one danger in residential real estate was the incompetence of real estate agents.

I believe there is a direct correlation between expertise and professional development. If salespeople do not invest in their own professional development, how can they confidently display expertise and trust when talking to sales leads.

Years ago at a local lunch and learn for building customer loyalty, I asked the presenter, a local noted “expert” on customer service about “internal customers.”  He looked at me with a puzzled look and asked me to explain what are “internal customers.”  I did and he told me that was a “nice theory.” His response told me he lacked expertise and from that point forward I did not trust anything he said.

Sustainable sales success is possible.  Yes it does require dedicating time to reading the perspectives of others from blogs, journals and books. Also attending paid learning events devoted to one’s field of study as well as gaining additional knowledge about indirect fields of knowledge.  For example, salespeople today must know about their own solutions and then how to market those solutions.

I am fortunate to be connected to a group of sales professionals who share their expertise.  This sharing has helped me to gain additional knowledge about sales to technology.  Additionally, this sharing has saved me incredible amount of time because I do not have to research to find the best solutions.

My suggestion if you desire sustainable sales success is to schedule time for developing your expertise.  Read a book, take a class, do some research and your sales leads just might be more willing to know and trust you.

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Are You Suffering from the Sales Entitlement Virus?

Have you heard about the sales entitlement virus?  Probably not even though this sales virus has always been present.

sales-entitlementWhere this virus started is within customer loyalty.  From the executive leadership team to the sales team, loyal customers were expected to continue to buy from the organization.  I saw this over 30 years ago when I worked in the corporate sales world.

Here are the two basic rationalizations for the existence of the sales entitlement virus.

Rationalization #1 – The Business Is Ours

Why maintain relationships with lunches, dinners or supporting golf outings?   We do not need to continually drain our cash flow paying for these non essential expenses.

Rationalization #2 – The Business Is Owed to Us

Our solutions (products or services) are great otherwise these loyal customer would not buy from us.

Symptoms of this virus can be viewed when executive leadership and the sales team enter new sales meetings with a sales pitch.  These individuals probably have failed to connect with everyone at the table.  Their sales behaviors are viewed as one of ego and not one of support.

This arrogance of “the business is ours” or “the business is owed us” then can further harm the customer loyalty in personal interactions.  No longer is there an active marketing or sales strategy to build relationships. Salespeople become complacent.

There is no vaccination for this sales entitlement virus. Instead executive leadership and the sales team must continually work to build relationships not only with key decision makers, but with others within their customers’ organizations.

However there is a way to ascertain if the virus is active within your organization. By investing in an organizational and therefore a sales culture assessment that is aligned to a proven business criteria such as Baldrige can help to identify the presence of this sales virus.

Maintaining customer loyalty is essential to keeping any SMB profitable. By recognizing the presence of this sales virus and then actively working to reduce its impact through relationship building will ensure sustainable business growth for your SMB.

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How Customer Loyalty Can Be Destroyed by One Simple Action

Much is written about customer loyalty. Yet in speaking with a colleague yesterday he shared how his loyalty of 20 plus years was destroyed by one simple action.

customer-loyaltyHis financial institution, a national and well known bank, stopped taking in loose coins. The reason he was told by the teller for this was the maintenance cost to the coin counting machine had become cost prohibitive.  He was then told he must count and roll the coinage. Then he can bring it back to the bank.  Even though he was not told this directly, this specific banking service was no longer profitable.

As he learned of this, he saw tellers standing around, talking and not waiting on customers.  He told me, “They won’t take my fricking coins when people are standing around doing nothing?” Then to add insult to injury he later learned the coin counting machines in the grocery stores are owned by this national financial institution.

The end result was within 30 days he changed banks. He switched not only all of his personal accounts, but his business accounts as well.  Of course this was a little action, not accepting coins, but in the long run it probably did more damage than the cost of maintaining the coin counting machine.

To maintain customer loyalty is to understand what clients value. In this instance, it was a common service.

Additionally, transparency matters with regards to customer loyalty.  Don’t tell a customer you can no longer provide a free banking service and then sell a product charging a fee for the same service. This behavior usually upsets and angers loyal customers. Communication is critical when making changes to expected services.

I asked my colleague how many people he has told this story?  His response was many.  Again, unhappy loyal customers will tell a lot more people about a negative experience than a positive one. This fact is continually verified by customer behavior research.

So if your organization be it a SMB or a larger one is thinking of making minor changes, just make sure your have communicated your intent to your loyal customers.  Be extremely careful of what you communicate because transparency is a two way street.

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In Sales Discernment Is Always Present

Funny thing about sales is discernment is always present. Should I send this email message or post update on my social media sites?  Maybe I should just make a phone call or drop a short note via snail mail?

salesEach day salespeople many many discernments about what actions they should or should not take.  What I know is by investing 10 minutes of reflection at the close of business each day supports me in making those decisions for the next day.

The word discernment means “the ability to judge well.”  Additionally, this may require the ability of being able to grasp and comprehend what is unclear. Clarity is the immediate result of discernment and impacts the ability to judge well.

This action of discernment comes before an actual decision to take action or not to take action is made.  What has happened is the individual has invested the time to reflect as to what happened, what is happening and what may not be happening.

Sales is all about discernment. Grasping and comprehending what is unclear to the buyer and also what is unclear for the seller.

Of course in our crazy busy SMB world, time is of the essence.  Some believe time is the primary driver for business growth. Since time is a constant, I do not believe this to be true.  Salespeople and that means everyone in the SMB are the drivers for business growth.

How each person discerns what he or she must do to increase revenue, customer loyalty or quality is up to him or her.  Their ability to discern reflects the overall sales culture and the results for that SMB.

Top sales performers invest time to ensure their discernment of the current situation for a qualified sales lead or the recommendation for a current customer are based upon clarifying what is happening now and potentially in the future.  If you are a salesperson,  a SMB owner or an executive and not satisfied with the results, then maybe some time might be directed to improving this always present reality.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at 219.508.2859 central time USA to solve your disengaged employees and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your own sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Sales Leadership and Sales Culture Partners in SMB Sustainable Growth

Probably for SMB, sales leadership and sales culture are more critical for sustainable growth than for larger firms.  With fewer people and in many instances the same operations being performed as in larger firms, everyone must embrace a sales leadership role and foster a sales culture of high performance.

sales-cultureUnfortunately, for a variety of reasons, SMB fail to recognize the partnership between sales leadership and sales culture.  People being people are allowed their own “turfdoms” where no one can venture without permission.

What would happen if all employees would ask the following questions?

  • Who pays my salary?
  • Who pays the bills to keep the doors open?
  • Who pays my retirement and other benefits?
  • How does this company grow financially?
  • What can I do to make this company profitable?
  • What can I do to contribute to the sustainable growth of this SMB?
  • How can I help others make this company profitable?
  • What can I do to help others contribute to the sustainable growth of this SMB?

A forward thinking sales culture begins from the inside out. Systems, strategy and people are united together to create and strengthen internal customer satisfaction or better yet active engagement.

From this internal perspective, points of connection are made with external customers leading the way for improved customer loyalty.  This way everyone is rowing toward the same direction and with the same energy.

As in any organization, executive leadership must take the helm.  However in some instances, executive leaders may require assistance to further develop their talents.

By the way, would you agree that most leaders do not know what they do well?  Think about your recent efforts toward self improvement.  Did you focus on further developing your strengths or were you focus on your weaknesses.  If the later was your focus, does this make sense?

Sustainable SMB growth happens through assessing, clarifying and executing and then continually repeating this three step process.  If you want to increase sales, then consider the existing partnership between sales leadership and your sales culture.  Remember, each and every employee is in sales, not just the paid salespeople.

Want better results, more sales with less stress?

CLICK HERE to reserve a time to speak with me.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at 219.508.2859 central time USA to solve your disengaged employees and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your own sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her

 

 

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How to Use Your Business Data Better in 2016 Part 1

During the last few days I have been reviewing the business data from this leadership and sales blog along with my main website.  My focus was the downloads and most viewed pages because this blog and my website are incredibly important marketing channels for my executive coaching and workplace culture (organizational development) consulting.

business-dataFor many SMB owners, they fail to invest the time to review and reflect upon this particular marketing silo of business data.  If there is any time invested, it is probably directed to financial statements while data from marketing is ignored.

By reviewing this business data I learned there was an incredible amount of articles, tools, brochures and curriculum outlines downloaded, far more than in previous years. Believing in supporting readers of this blog, today’s posting shares those top downloads for the first quarter of

  1. Making Accountability Personal 
  2. 7 Tips to Stop the Dripping Faucet
  3. KASH Box and Sustainable Change
  4. Rising Stars Executive Summary – Youth Self Leadership Curriculum
  5. Do You Know and Plan for the 3Rs in Business?
  6. 7 Step Sales Process
  7. Time Management Curriculum
  8. What Is Passion?
  9. First Contact the Source of Customer Loyalty
  10. Ten Universal Laws of Learning

Upon further analysis of this business data, I realized that personal accountability is consistently a barrier to SMB and sales success.  Time management or rather self management is an ongoing challenge along with sales and customer loyalty.  This knowledge allows me to further niche my postings and other articles to address these people and process problems.

Tomorrow I will share the top 10 read blog postings from January of 2015.  In 2016, I have decided to share this business data with you respective to downloads (quarterly) and blog postings (monthly). Possibly if you are a new reader to this leadership and sales blog you may find something of interest that will support you in your ongoing efforts to take your SMB or professional role to that next level.

Finally, may 2016 be a year filled with incredible peace and abundance to you and yours.  Thank you for your ongoing support. As always please feel free to reach out to me.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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The Intersection of Sales Failure & the Entrepreneurial Success Ego

Have you ever witnessed those entrepreneurial businesses that seem golden.  They start one small business and then jump to an entirely different industry with equal success.  Eventually as you watch them, something happens and usually around their third to fifth venture sales failure begins to take over.

sales-failureDuring the last 30 plus years within the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana regions I have personally seen this intersection of sales failure and success ego. My sense is these entrepreneurs are suffering from “success ego syndrome” and believe sales failure is not possible.

Just in the last six months, two very successful local entrepreneurs have allowed their success egos to overrule common sense.  One small business has already experienced sales failure and the other is well on its way.

In the first instance, the entrepreneur had two successful businesses in entirely different industries.  The executive leadership team ventured forth into a third different industry.  They rushed in and made dramatic changes to the building as well as the services being offered.

In that process, loyal customers began to go elsewhere and sales failure happened.  Additionally, the well known established brand had been extremely weakened.  Before experiencing total financial ruin, they sold this formerly successful business to another entrepreneur with an equally if not stronger success ego.

The new entrepreneurs came in and decided to totally eliminate the established brand by forcing a new solution onto existing loyal customers by removing both the name and established brand.  A real world example would be McDonald’s removing hamburgers from all of their stores and changing their name to something like “The Busy Bee Bistro.”

The reasoning of the new owners appears to be their approach had already worked in three successful businesses (all in the same industry) and it would work here.  Maybe they possibly subconsciously thought they were too successful to fail? This success ego syndrome may also explain the sales failure in second to fourth family owned businesses.

As I observed these changes, I remembered the quote about “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” What appears to be rushing in is the success ego turning these entrepreneurs into fools.  The end result is sales failure not too mention some backlash to current established brands.

Lesson Learned

The lesson to be learned is even the most forward thinking leaders can be doomed to sales failure when they allow their success egos to override common sense as well as basic understanding of human nature when it comes to customer loyalty and established business branding.  True and sustainable forward thinking leaders make change in small steps to ensure the change will stick and be well received by their customers especially when there is already an established brand with loyal customers.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Are Salespeople Really Expensive?

First glance at this headline many mid-size to small business owners to even sales managers probably internally believe “heck yes, my salespeople are expensive.” Possibly some may even have a second thought about how to reduce that cost.

salespeopleCost is the word that determines if those in leadership roles have either a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality.  Good salespeople should be expensive because they are an investment. If the salespeople are not performing, the cost is because of poor hiring decisions, poor leadership, poor sales management and a poor workplace culture.

In the past 48 hours I heard two unbelievable stories regarding the treatment of those in sales roles. After just publishing this post, What Sustainable B2B Model Believes Sales People Are Unnecessary?, I wondered if something is happening in the mid-size to small business world?

The first horror story was the firing of the sales manager because he was too expensive.  This individual consistently brought in the majority of high value accounts for a $50-100 million dollar businesses. The CEO fired him because he cost too much money and a cheaper salesperson could be found. Of course the cheaper sales team already in place accounted for only 20% of all orders.

Another story involved a top performing salesperson who consistently increased sales by 30% to 55% each year.  The small business owner started changing her job description to reduce her cost to his bottom line.  These changes eventually had her making 70% less dollars while doing the same amount of work.  She was no longer allowed to travel and meet face to face with the customers.  This particular individual finally quit because the stress was too much.

While I was in corporate, I also witnessed this “scarcity mentality” by the third generation of family leadership.  The outside salespeople were 100% commissioned and the “young college educated” new leadership looked at them as costs because those commission checks were”too expensive” and rightfully belonged to them.  Yes I know convoluted thinking.

Greed is a scarcity mentality.  Top performing salespeople are hard to find.  They should not be viewed as a liability, a cost to the profit and loss statement.  No, they are an asset, a gem to increase sales while strengthening existing customer loyalty through relationships.

If you want your mid-size to small business to go beyond just surviving to actually thriving, then lose the “expensive” and “cost” thoughts and start thinking investment about not only your salespeople, but all the other employees in your business.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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