Posts Tagged ‘loyal customers’

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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Sales Does Require Sticking Out Your Neck

Believe it or not:

  • The phone does not automatically ring
  • Sales do not automatically fall from the sky
  • Coveted referrals do not automatically come in from loyal customers


You as a salesperson must be like the turtle James B. Conant described in these words:

“Behold the turtle.

He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”

All the sales training in the world will not help if you do not take action. Taking action by sticking out your neck is the only way you will apply that sales training, fill your prospecting funnel and eventually increase business growth.

Unfortunately, technology has provided a comfort zone, a turtle shell, for some salespeople who think just by stroking the ivory or the ebony keyboards they will magically find sales leads, build relationships and secure business growth.  Yes sometimes that does happen, but usually more action is required.

Sticking out your neck also means being willing to change, to view your world with new eyes that see the same landscape.

Some may call this having an attitude or a mindset of abundance instead of having one of scarcity.

Even more importantly, when you stick out your neck you may make a mistake and that is okay as long as you do not make the same mistake twice. We as human beings learn from our mistakes or as John Maxwell calls it “Failing Forward.”

The question beyond sticking out your neck is determining where you will go.  Predetermined actions through written goals within these marketing and sales action plans support you in your daily progress. These goal driven maps keep you from becoming Captain Wing It where you spray your actions all over the place and then pray something will stick.

There is a whole new world when one takes the opportunity to leave the shell, however you define that shell, and to embrace the day regardless of weather or circumstance. When we truly believe in making today better than yesterday, we will see progress be it increase prospects, new business or just new friends. And all it takes is for you to stick out your neck.




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Stupid, Damn Sales Scripts @#$%&?!!!

When will organizations learn that sales scripts are stupid when they fail to engage customers and worse yet tick off customers?

sales-scriptsYesterday I went to visit my mobile phone carrier because I received an email notice of a FREE upgrade to a new iPhone 5C. Of course, the store did not have it nor was I told any other stores.  So, I decided to order the phone and wait the 2 weeks.

I realized early on into the conversation with the salesperson she was “sales script” trained.  However, I also noticed she lacked active listening skills because her sales training was driving her behaviors.

When  we were discussing shipping the phone to my home address, she asked me “Do you want the device insured?” Coming from a 20 plus year inside sales career, I always stayed with the current conversation until I confirmed agreement and then was very specific in moving to a new topic.  So I asked “Why should I insure the phone? Doesn’t Verizon pay for insurance shipping?

Her response was “Do you want the device insured?” 

She did not answer my question.

Damn sales scripts @#$%&?!!!

Strike #One

After several additional moments of conversation, I finally was able to confirm the insurance was for after receiving the phone and not for shipping. Then she provided me with the total that was $30 more than I had originally expected. The extra $30 was for the upgrade. When I questioned the additional $30, she told me “Everyone charges for the upgrade. After all, you are getting a $200 phone for $30.”

For me free is not free plus $30. The email message did say upgrade, but also said free. What the marketing message should have said is “Upgrade your phone for $30 and receive this $200 5c iPhone at no additional charge.”

Also, personally I do not give a rat’s behind what everyone else charges. That is not my problem. And I really, really hate surprises when I am making any purchase regardless of price.

Damn sales scripts @#$%&?!!!

Strike # Two

This young salesperson was quite taken back with my reluctance to buy this free phone for $30 as evidenced by her repeated statement of “You are getting a $200 phone for $30.” And when I said “Please cancel the purchase,” she said “Okay” and did not have any further response.  She was letting a qualified sales lead out the door because she did not know how to deal with some basic sales objections by an unhappy customer.

Strike #3

Now I am researching other carriers because my business is being taken for granted and my ten plus years as a loyal customer does not count for a hill of beans. No I would not recommend my carrier.

When salespeople stick to sales scripts and fail to truly engage the customer especially those multiple year loyal customers, this reflects poor sales training, poor sales management and overall poor leadership.  As I was leaving the store I truly felt like:

Can anyone hear me now?



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Good Marketing Prepares for the OOP$

Being an ardent believer of preparation for business and life, a recent post about Keurig’s belief about good marketing and preparation caught my eye. Crystal King, Social Media Manager for Keurig at the Social Media.orgs Blog Conference in Boston explained the reason behind a recent “delight and surprise” marketing campaign. In this campaign, Keurig delighted and surprised three different neighborhoods ( New York, LA and Miami) with brand new Keurigs.

good-marketingMs. King then went on an further discussed how when customers are venting on social media they are already very upset. Also, she noted to keep loyal customers loyal, it makes sense to give them more reasons to be loyal. Her final point was to be prepared when those OOP$ happen by discussing all the possible worst case scenarios.

What Ms. King said makes perfect sense because when businesses are prepared their responses to their customers and potential customers are viewed more positively than negatively such as “those guys are just covering their butts.”

Even though Ms. King’s remarks were directed to good marketing specific to social media, her observations are true any business in general.

Venting Upset Customers

How many times do customers or potential customers become upset when they cannot reach someone in a business to answer a question?

No answer may results in taking to social media through Tweets or speaking to friends and family through negative word of mouth (WOM) advertising. Either action can be disastrous for any business.

Keeping Loyal Customers Loyal

Just as the cost to hire a new employee is more expensive than keeping an existing one, the same is true with customers. The problem is some businesses provide incentives to new customers while forgetting their existing ones.  Rewards programs such as by Family Express, FE Perks, continue to strengthen those loyal customer relationships while simultaneously reinforcing good marketing.

Anticipating Problems

Wouldn’t it be great if all businesses ran without problems? Unfortunately, problems are part of the daily experience. By investing the time to anticipate known and unknown (what if) problems, provides a competitive advantage. Good marketing can leverage that advantage along with sales.

Good marketing happens with planning and should begin within the overall strategic plan.  What happens for many small businesses is they lack a strategic plan and consequently fall into reactive behaviors, putting out fires.  This type of behavior drains the limited resources of time, energy, money (profits) and emotions by all involved.

Oh and if you are wondering about the dollar sign in OOP$, OPP$ always cost money, somewhere, somehow.


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