Posts Tagged ‘loyal customers’

Have You Considered Your Sales Solutions to Have These Two Qualities?

Sales solutions that are both efficient and effective have a far greater probability of turning customers into loyal customers or continued sources of sales referrals.  What happens is in the hurry to “close the sale,” some salespeople focus on the efficient and not the effective.

Efficient Sales Solutions

When the sales solution meets all the criteria as in investment, delivery, etc., it suggests it was efficient.  Things were done right.  The right answers were given to the right questions.

Effective Sales Solutions

To be an effective sales solution means doing the right thing.  Possibly the salesperson knows even though his or her solution is efficient, it may not be effective.  For example, sales training during the holidays usually lacks short and long term cognitive retention.  People have their minds elsewhere.

Another no effective example might be given 2 – 8 hour days of training knowing full well the “brain only absorbs what the butt will endure.”  Such a schedule may be efficient and yet it is not effective.  A better sales training solution would be 2 hours a week over 8 weeks.  Sometimes there is push back on this scheduling, yet a good salesperson can demonstrate how such a sales solution can deliver far better results.

Losing the Sale

Many salespeople are not willing to lose the sale for a variety of reasons. Several times in the past I have been asked to deliver one or two day sales leadership training.  Given the behavioral outcomes the clients wanted, I had to turn down the sales because I knew the attendees would not change their behaviors. The clients were convinced this type of sales leadership training could be achieved.  I suggested to the clients to reconnect with their past vendors because given my knowledge and experience I could not secure those desired behavioral changes.

Sales solutions that are both efficient and effective may take a little longer to earn or close, but the results are far more sustainable from loyal customers to more sales referrals.

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Tone Deaf Executive Leadership Ignores What Customers Value

Once again corporate executive leadership demonstrates how truly tone deaf it really is.  The recent Tweet war between Delta Airlines and Ann Coulter reveals that Delta leadership does not know what their customers value.  Hint for those in leadership roles – It is not the money.

When customer pay for something, they expect what they pay for.  Pretty simple.  In the case of Ms. Coulter she expected to receive additional leg room given she pre-booked and paid for a seat to give her that extra comfort.  Given her financial status, I am sure she would have paid more, but $30 was the going rate.

Tone Deaf Executive Leadership Thinks Only About the Money

Someone in an executive leadership role who offered her the $30 as a refund and then went on to defend the removal of her from her paid and pre-booked seat was beyond tone deaf.  I do not know the reason for her removal outside of the presumed fact she was not creating a problems with her fellow passengers.

Today, social media sites such as Twitter allow individual customers to have the power of the ink without any cost.  Possibly they have forgotten this quote attributed to Mark Twain as well as to Former Congressman Charles Brownson, Indianapolis Republican:

“I never quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

When executive leadership or even management believes customer service is all about the dollars and they forget customer loyalty is about how they treat people. To say Delta’s customer service was horrendous is an understatement. 

Being tone deaf now has disrupted customer loyalty. Loyal customers may think twice about the obvious disconnect between what they value and what Delta believes they value.

Sales and Leadership Coaching Tip:

Value is unique to each buyer (customer).

The tone deafness demonstrated by Delta Airlines executive leadership also reveals the total lack of emotional intelligence.  These leaders failed to recognize and understand a paid customer’s emotions, but only recognized their own emotions.  This is why they failed to manage both.

Want to know how your own emotional intelligence?  Schedule a short free call with Leanne by CLICKING HERE.

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Customers Leave People Not Businesses

You work hard to build your SMB.  You make the extra effort to show appreciation to your loyal customers.  And then poof, one of your people, with some poor emotional intelligence destroys what you worked so hard to achieve.


A True Customer Loyalty Story

An entrepreneur recently shared his customer experience about how one restaurant manager destroyed his customer loyalty. He then put that destruction into hard cold cash. This friend had a 40 year plus relationship with this particular upper end restaurant.  He was by all accounts a valued, loyal customer.

In the last eight months, he had given this SMB over $10,500 and he determined yearly expenditures were around $18,000.  Additionally he had booked his annual Christmas party for the another $7,000.  His annual sales at this particular establishment amounted to $25,000.  Even for established restaurants, losing $25,000 in annual sales is a significant hit to the bottom line.

The manager lacked the emotional intelligence to effectively manage his wait staff.  He also failed to recognize the importance of maintaining loyal customers.

Now this entrepreneur will take his business luncheons, business dinners and casual dinning experiences elsewhere.  He will no longer recommend this particular restaurant as he had done hundreds of time in the past. So the $25,000 annual sales from this one loyal customer could easily be doubled or tripled.

SMB owners so often fail to recognize the importance of their managers to effectively manage their people while ensuring loyal patrons stay loyal and employees are treated with respect.  In today’s world, we identify this ability as emotional intelligence.  To mistreat a loyal customer with decades of patronage is unforgivable especially if during all those years there was never an issue with the customer.

There is an old adage about employees leaving managers not businesses. This wisdom should also be applied to customers as well.  People make or break any business from the smallest to the largest.  As a SMB owner the question should be:

Can you afford to lose customers and their referrals because your people are unprepared to handle customer situations?

Schedule a time to speak with Leanne Hoagland-Smith (CLICK HERE) and learn how to build emotional intelligence into your employees.

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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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Always Remember Customer Service Is SALES!

How many times do those in B2B or even B2C industries fail to understand customer service is sales.  A new report just released by Astound Commerce through secret shoppers recognized seven retailers who excel in customer service through:

customer service

  • Must have website
  • Visibility
  • Overall customer service
  • Speed of delivery
  • Efficiency of checkout

One of the top seven performers was The Home Depot. I know from personal experience this firm understands how serving the customers within the store will increase sales.  Here in Valparaiso IN, the store has hired certified and licensed electricians, plumbers and carpenters to assist customers with their questions. Even though my husband is an engineer, he has been advised by these professional tradesmen of better ways to do home improvement as well as some of the new products.

For example, toilets for years had a wax ring that attached to the bottom of the toilet and closet flange.  Over time the wax dries out and cracks.  Several years ago through the plumber at Home Depot, my husband learned of a neoprene boot that is attached to the bottom of the toilet and then fits past the closet flange.  The end result is a far better seal and one that does not not replacement.  The cost of a wax ring under $5.00 versus the cost of the neoprene boot around $15.00.  Husband spent $30 instead of $10 has he replaced not just one wax ring, but two.

Today I read Home Depot’s quarterly earning were ahead of expectations. Much of this was due to improved housing market and I also believe much was due to increase sales by loyal customers.

All SMBs have a 7-step-sales-process-advsys Within these 7 steps are third phases:

  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Keeping

The third and final phase of keeping is one where both salespeople and customer service people work to keep those loyal customers.

Yes customer service is sales and if as a SMB owner or sales professional you forget this simple fact, you may be exposing yourself decreasing sales, declining profits and increasing stress.

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Buying Mistrust Is the Intersection of Expectations and Inconsistencies

Yesterday, I personally experienced how just one word creates buying distrust.  I also experienced how a seller recognized and overcame that buying distrust. Let me quickly explain.

buying distrust


Buying Mistrust a Short Story

Two weeks ago I made an appointment at my health care clinic. The intake person said I would be seeing Mindy. I asked who was Mindy and the person responded “She’s the doctor.” My doctor had relocated out of state and was no longer at this clinic.

Yesterday was the appointment. In completing the paperwork, a question was raised about my preferred pharmacy. I told the intake person that I preferred a written prescription so that I can check prices online. She said “you can talk to the doctor about that.”

When Mindy came into the room, she introduced herself as a nurse practitioner.  This caused immediate distrust because my expectation was to see a doctor. I had been told twice I would be seen by a doctor.

I voiced this concern. Mindy recognized I experiencing distrust and gave me the choice to see a
medical doctor or to just continue.  She demonstrated excellent emotional intelligence and I decided to continue with her.

Even after 40 plus years of dealing with customers and being in sales, I once again realized how quickly buying trust can be placed by buying distrust even with loyal customers.  Trust be it in business or one’s personal life can never be taken for granted.

In working with clients, I continually stress the importance of consistency in all aspects especially in behaviors.  Here just one word, doctor, spoken twice to a loyal customer planted the seeds of distrust.

As a side note,  my husband had visited the same clinic. On his visits he has been told he would be seen by the nurse practitioner.  My experience confirmed this organization has an inconsistency in communication behaviors.

Just imagine each day how many customers or patients experience this collision of expectations and inconsistencies?  Who would really appreciate how this collision has the potential to be caused by just one word?

Trust even with loyal customers can never be taken for granted.  Every interaction must continue to build trust.  To fail to ingrain this principle into the organization’s culture or what I believe is truly the sales culture can be the organization’s Achilles’ heel.


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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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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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What Sustainable B2B Model Believes Salespeople Are Unnecessary?

Believe it or not, there are B2B models once again  rearing their ugly heads that believe salespeople are unnecessary.  No what is critical to these yokels (executive leadership) is decreasing the cost of doing business by cost cutting. Eliminate the salespeople and the business will have greater profits and somehow magically increase sales.



What is prompting the increase in these B2B models is technology and call centers.  Forget the personal touch that the salespeople have nurtured and developed. Forget all the sales referrals from existing loyal customers. Forget the salespeople’s efforts to educate and attract new customers.

Now  the questionable wisdom of executive leadership appears to believe in “we have built it and they will come and stay.”

These “clueless” leaders will infuse technology and call centers to optimize the bottom line.  Unbelievably stupid and I rarely use that word in this blog.

There is one thing to challenge the status quo with creativity, intelligence and innovation.  There is another thing to think your loyal customers especially in the B2B world come to your business because of an executive leadership’s hair brain idea probably advocated by some number crunching accounting and consulting firm.

If salespeople are unnecessary, why in the U.S. is there over $5 billion annually spent in sales training?

When executive leadership adopts this B2B model eliminating salespeople, it usually reflects the existing workplace culture where salespeople were never adequately trained or developed. Additionally, salespeople were always thought as a cost, a liability along with other employees, never as assets.

This attitude of employees being liabilities is quite common among financial institutions.  From my personal observations, I have encountered very few effective salespeople within the banking industry as well as financial industry overall.  Those I have observed who have been successful understand the sales process and leverage that sales process to their advantage over their counterparts. They also appear to have forward thinking managers, another rarity.

Of course, there are other B2B businesses that believe customer loyalty is to the business and not the salespeople.  Eventually, when the salespeople leave either voluntarily or involuntarily and are not replaced, the business will stop growing.  Again, the attitude by executive leadership “we have built it, they will come and stay” is one that leads to shrinking marketplace position.

Good salespeople are the lifeblood of any organization for they are leaders who lead customers to that business.  To eliminate salespeople reflects a scarcity mindset and not a mindset of abundance.  The adoption of this B2B model is probably the first step to a downward spiral of less revenue growth and worse yet any sustainable business growth has been removed from the future.

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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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A Tale of Two Clueless Companies – Part 1

Charles Dicken’s fans may remember the beginning lines of his book, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”


I was reminded of these words when observing two local clueless companies in how they were dealing with their customers.  And the sight was not pretty.  In fact it was quite ugly.  From my perspective with all the information regarding voice of the customer, customer loyalty, cost of acquiring new customers, I am quite incredulous.

The first of the two clueless companies was in the industry of media (journalism).  With the Internet changing how people receive information, many newspapers and other media publications have been struggling to maintain readers. (Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)

In this particular instance, I was reading an ongoing Facebook posting that had well over 1,500 comments.  The posting started as a complaint about not getting the local newspaper delivered.  Through the ongoing discussion, I learned the following:

  • Rate of pay had been reduced by 50% for the carriers
  • Carriers had to sign a contract
  • The contract could be changed without notification by the paper
  • The carriers had to give 30 days notice or pay fees for cancelling their contract
  • Routes had been changed without rhyme or reason
  • Carriers were delivering more than one paper
  • The paper’s customer service was either not responsive or made false delivery promises

What I also learned is many of the customers were really, really upset.  These were loyal customers for years who now were experiencing bad customer service.  Additionally, the paper appeared not be be phased by these unhappy campers.

Again, the words of Dickens came back to me because for many the Internet has made access to the news the best of time, but for printed publications it now is the worse of times. There is now more wisdom about business growth, customer loyalty, social media, etc. than ever before, yet this publication appeared to engage in a lot of foolishness.

Today is the epoch of belief where businesses should know not to be clueless companies yet we as customers experience incredulity.  There is light in having this knowledge and yet darkness exists because these clueless companies fail to embrace the light.  They continue to live in their status quo world.

Loyal customers do live with hope even with clueless companies.  The social media postings revealed many customers had hoped the service would improve and actually stuck around waiting for that hope to materialize.  Many did become discouraged and did quit sharing their disgust, disappointment and outrage on social media.

The lessons learned are many:

  1. Your workplace culture can make or break your business
  2. Loyal customers can be loyal to a fault
  3. Companies still remain clueless about customer loyalty and workplace culture
  4. Social media can be the Achilles Heel for many businesses
  5. Irony a publication that advocates minimum wage pays it contracted employees (independent contractors) far less than minimum wage

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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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