Businesses can have complex problems, but most best business practices can usually be summed up fairly simply. In my time in sales, I have found that doing the most basic of tasks in a consistent manner can set you apart from the competition.
Simple task #1: Follow up with customers when you say you will
This seems like a no brainer, and it is. But follow up can win you new business and help you keep your current customers. When working in commercial truck rental, I once notified a customer that his truck that had been brought in for routine maintenance was completed and ready for pick up. I didn’t think much of the call, but the customer responded that he was very pleased with my call and that we were easy to work with compared to the local competition. In another event, we were able to bring on a new customer who confessed to me that the competitor did not even respond to his initial request for service email.
Even in my own personal life, I find it fascinating how poor businesses can be at following up with you. I’ve experienced poor communication at car repair facilities, banks, etc. and I’m sure you have too. Someone who does end up reaching back out in a timely manner definitely stands out as a top choice when I am looking for a place to spend my money.
I am still blown away at the fact that simple and personalized follow up can be such a differentiator at times. Consistency is key, as is calling or emailing at or before the time that you said you would. It drives me crazy when someone tells you they will call you back at noon with an update, noon comes and goes, you end up calling them at 3pm because you have not heard from them, they make an excuse that they were too busy or did not call because they did not have any new info, and then you end the call frustrated. If my car is being fixed, and someone says they will call at noon, then I would rather them call me at noon to tell me that they are still working on it and it is taking longer than they thought. At least then at that point I am not in the dark and know what is going on. Furthermore, “I was too busy” is typically code for “You are not a priority.” If you commit to a specific time then keep your commitment, otherwise tell the customer that you are not sure when you will know more but will be sure to update them when you have additional information.
Simple task #2: Don’t make it difficult to do business with you
Another thing that amazes me is the fact that some places do everything they can to get you to spend money at their establishment. Then when you want to do business with them, the process is painful.
I once needed to pick up a piece of equipment from a vendor of ours. My main contact was out, but due to lack of cross training amongst the other employees, I was not able to pick up what I needed the same day that I needed it, even though I called during business hours. I can’t say it was the best customer experience I’ve had, as the ease and convenience of sale were lacking.
How you differentiate yourself does not have to be rocket science. It might be as simple as coming in prior to opening hours to get a customer what they need at the time that they need it… use common sense and think creatively. I used to have customers that needed rental trucks at 4am the next day. Instead of saying, “We’re not open at 4am, sorry about that.” I would instead ask them if they were able to pick up the truck in the afternoon the day prior, and I would delay the start time of the billing to reflect the actual date and time that they began using the rental. Typically they happily accepted, and since neither of us wanted to be at our shop at 4am, both parties were sufficiently satisfied.
Let’s remember that without customers, businesses would not exist. I realize that some customers require more work than others, and I don’t think a company should allow a customer to mistreat their employees, etc. But I am surprised in my life at how often I have heard professionals in various roles complain about customers. Yes, at times account management and solving problems can be stressful and difficult. Again though… no customers = no business. A business serves its customers and its employees. And customers that pay a business for products and services support the business as a whole financially and indirectly support the personal lives of the employees that make the business run.
- Follow up when you say you will and keep customers informed
- Make doing business with you as pain free as possible
- Don’t complain about customers, appreciate them