The Importance of Following Up

Let me ask you this: If you just met with a really hot prospect, how long would you wait to follow up with them? A day? A couple of days? A week?

Here’s my experience with a couple of real estate agents this week:

My wife and I are selling our home and have begun interviewing real estate agents to represent us. I got a couple of referrals from good friends in our neighborhood, and then I reached out with an email telling them that I’m ready to list my home and want to meet. I think I’d call that a hot lead, wouldn’t you?

So Tuesday night we meet the first agents – a husband and wife team – a very nice couple who have been selling real estate in our neighborhood (“South of the Boulevard”) and claim to be the Number One agents in this area (It’s odd that the other two agents we meet with also claim to be the Number One agents as well, but that’s a discussion for another article).

We spend a nice couple of hours together, really like them, like their recent experience and success on the next block and also love their strategy. We tell them that we’re meeting with another agent referral the next night but that we will get back with them the following day.

O.K., so now comes the test. When would you, if you were them, get back with me?

The right answer is 9AM the next morning. If I were them, I would have sent a quick email saying it was so nice meeting me, that I enjoyed and really liked the house and that I was confident that I could sell the home using the strategy I outlined. I’d say if there was anything I could do, just reach out to me, and that I look forward to speaking with them (me) very soon.

No brainer, right? Well, here’s what happened: Because I’m a Top 20% closer, it was ME that sent them an email thanking them for their time and how nice it was to meet THEM! I sent it at 9AM and hadn’t heard back from them by NOON that afternoon! How do you think that made me feel in terms of how they would represent me?

O.K. So the next night we had the other agents over – a team of two “Number One” selling agents in our area (they really used that term as well!). We really liked their pitch also and were impressed by what they wanted to list our house for. In fact, when they left, we were leaning towards hiring them! How long do you think it took for them to follow up with us?

We’re still waiting to hear from them two days later!

I’m still stunned because as we told them we’d have a definite answer by the next morning. Did we get a follow up email? No. Did we get a follow up phone call? No. Now two days have gone by and have we heard from them?? NO!! YIKES! What’s wrong with these sales people??

In the meantime, the first couple emailed us the next day wondering what happened with our other meeting and expressed their strong desire to work with us. We then spoke on the phone and negotiated a bit. Now they are coming over tonight to pitch us some more. They’ve redeemed themselves a bit and will probably get our business.

By the way – the other team? We still haven’t heard from them, and I’m thinking I never will. And that’s too bad for them because when we woke up the next morning, we were completely on the fence, and we decided that whoever got back to us first would probably win our business. We figured we’d wait and see who was more of a go-getter, and who would be more aggressive overall and that this would (hopefully) translate into who would be more aggressive in selling our home.

So here’s the lesson for all you sales reps and business owners out there – Don’t wait days or weeks to follow up prospects! Especially the hot ones or the ones you’ve either met with or spent quality time with over the phone. A simple email that thanks them for their time, acknowledges how much you learned and how excited you are to help them will go A LONG WAY to earning you their business. Especially since not many others have this kind of urgency.

By the way, I usually send a quick email right away when I get off the phone with a prospect and include something of value in the email – a white paper, an article – something that will help them and also help them think about me.

So start thinking about what you can send to someone when you reach back out to a prospect. And follow up more often and sooner than you think you should. Based on what the majority of other sales reps apparently do, it will mean more business and referrals for you…

7 Secrets to GREAT Customer Service

Introduction

In today’s inside sales environment, customer service reps wear many hats. Often a blend between pure customer service, where reps take inbound calls from existing and potential customers, to an order taking role where those same reps also take inbound customer orders, all the way to being tasked with proactive up-selling or prospecting into existing accounts, today’s customer service reps have to be adept at handling a number of customer interactions. Across these varying job descriptions, one thing remains constant: giving customers an outstanding experience. But how do we get them to do this?

The problem with most training

While training is crucial to the development of a customer service team, and to the overall experience a customer service rep delivers, the majority of conventional training falls short. Most customer service training is ‘top end’ heavy and focused on product education and services training, often neglecting the fundamentals of the customer interface experience. Companies tend to take for granted that reps should know intuitively how to make the customer feel welcomed and cared for, but, as many of us know who have had to call in to our cell phone company or cable TV company, these fundamental, common sense courtesies are anything but common sense intuitive skills.

The solution is in proper training and measuring consistency

In order to develop a customer service team that consistently delivers exceptional customer service, we like to start with a definition of customer service and then break this down into training areas we consider to be fundamental to creating a great customer service team. Our definition:

Customer Service is defined as how well a company is able to consistently exceed the needs of the customer.

We then break this down into what we believe are the fundamental elements to effective customer service training:

• “Is able to” = Customer Service is a set of skills that can be learned.
• “Consistently” – Great Customer Service means doing it all the time (Not just when you feel like it).
• “Exceeds the needs” – Wowing the customer, not just giving them satisfaction.
• “The customer” – Great Customer Service treats the customer as an individual, rather than as a group or company.

In addition to fundamental training, follow up mentoring, coaching and measuring adherence to a set of best practices are also essential for the development, integration and delivery of a ‘GREAT’ customer service experience.

7 Secrets to GREAT Customer Service

While many elements make up an effective customer service training program, here are 7 Secrets we use as a base to introduce customer service reps to the fundamentals of delivering a great customer experience:

Secret #1: Consistency is the secret to great customer service

Think about where you consistently receive GREAT customer service. How about a high end department store like Nordstrom? Or a luxury hotel like the Ritz Carlton chain. How about your local retail shop, coffee shop or favorite restaurant? If you were to choose one word to describe what makes these experiences great, wouldn’t it be consistency of experience?

All customers have a baseline expectation they expect to be fulfilled on every interaction with your company. Consistency of a positive experience creates feelings of predictability, trust and feelings of security (your customers know you’ll be there for them and that they will be taken care of). The more consistently you’re able to meet and exceed your customer’s expectations, the more they will want to do business with you and recommend you.

Consistency of experience is the first Step to GREAT customer service.

Secret #2: Personality is more important than knowledge

Whenever a customer service rep picks up the phone, you immediately know whether you are in good hands or not, don’t you? Their tone and attitude projects what kind of experience you’re going to have. And which customer service rep would you rather speak to:

1: A customer service rep who knows everything but who is not friendly, or

2: A customer service rep who is warm & friendly and willing to help you and will find the answers you need?

As customers, we would rather speak to a friendly, helpful customer service rep whose attitude is: “Would you mind holding a moment while I find the right person for you to speak with?” rather than with a rep whose tone is unfriendly or disinterested. In customer service: Attitude trumps knowledge.

How do you get your personality across the phone? In one word: Smiling. People can hear it in your voice when you’re smiling, and they can hear it when you’re not. The secret of pushing your personality across the phone is to “Never stop smiling.”

If one of our customers comes into the store without a smile, I’ll give them one of mine. -Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart)

Secret #3: It’s O.K. to make the occasional mistake or not have all the answers.

Too many customer service reps feel like they have to have all the answers and are afraid to make the occasional mistake. And when they do make a mistake, they tend to defend or deny they were wrong. Both are incorrect.

The true is, we don’t have all the answers all the time and we are going to make mistakes or give out incorrect answers occasionally. The key is how you handy this. What to do when you make a mistake:

Admit it. Denying it only makes it worse….
“You know I think I may have given you the wrong (part #, extension, etc.). Let me try that again, please.”

Apologize sincerely.
“I’m truly sorry for that.” “I apologize for that.” “That was my mistake…”

Offer to try to help them again or to re-do what just went wrong.
“Would it be O.K. if I tried that again?”

Thank them for their patience…
“I want to thank you for your patience with this…”

Secret #4: Prevent a customer who is having a problem from becoming a problem customer

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates of Microsoft

A big part of a customer service rep’s job is to handle customers who are having a problem. From a company stand point, the key to dealing with these customers successfully is to prevent a customer who is having a problem from becoming a problem customer.

Here’s how you create a problem customer:

• You don’t acknowledge their problem or urgency of situation

• You don’t empathize with them

• You pass them off to voice mail

• You don’t update them on the solution

The key to preventing problems from escalating? In a word: Be proactive.

Proactive steps to follow:

• Acknowledge the problem

• Empathize with the customer

• Clearly lay out the next steps for the customer

• Regular contact with the customer in need of service

• Update them on the progress of the solution

• Check back to make sure the problem is solved to their satisfaction

Secret #5:: Focus on building a relationship rather than making a transaction

What would you say is the most important aspect of any relationship? We believe that trust is essential to developing an atmosphere of caring and competent support. And how do you build that? By consistently & courteously guiding your customer through every step of your interaction with them. Starting with:

The Opening

Make your customer feel welcomed with a warm opening:

“Thank you for calling (Your Company) today”

“It’s a great day at (Your Company) …”

“Good afternoon, this is (Your Name) with (Your Company), how can I help you today?”

Continue this in: The Middle of Conversation

After your customer has stated their problem or the reason for the call, reply with:

“I can help you with that.”

“I’ll be happy to help you with that.”

“That’s something I can take care of for you.

And End by: Leaving your customers with a smile

“Thank you for calling us today.”

“Thanks for calling and you have a great day.”

“We appreciate your business and have a great day.”

“If there is anything else we can do for you, just give us a call.”

Always do more than is required of you. -George S. Patton

Secret #6: Courtesy is the #1 tool of every customer service rep

How do you feel when someone lets you in the lane in front of them in traffic? Or how about when someone holds the door open for you at the market, or lets you in front of them when you have just a few items? Probably pretty good. And that’s how every customer service experience should make you feel as well. Being courteous and polite are the most important tools to becoming a great customer service rep!

Your Top Courtesy phrases:

“Please…”

“I’ll be happy to help you…”

“Would it be O.K. if I put you on hold?”

“Thank you very much for your patience.”

“Could you please hold while I check that for you?”

“Thank you for calling us today!”

And the Key to using them effectively is Consistently!

Secret #7: Make Every Customer Experience a WIN

How would your customers describe their experiences with your customer service team today?
Would they feel underwhelmed, dissatisfied, satisfied, happy they called, or ‘this call was a WIN!’

The goal of all customer service training should be to get your team to consistently deliver the kind of customer service that will keep your customers coming back and recommending your services. Here’s how to Create a WIN:

• Be consistently courteous

• Make your customers feel welcomed

• Listen to and respond appropriately to their problem/request

• Present the solution and get their buy in

• Go the extra mile

• Make them feel special at the end of the call

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach

Conclusion

As we mentioned at the beginning of this white paper, great customer service is a culmination of a set of skills that can be learned and measured. It starts with the proper training of these fundamental skills and then coaching their use on a consistent basis. The good news is that once these skills are internalized and become habits, these habits will then take over and the result will be the kind of consistent customer experience our customers expect and deserve.

Three Customer Service Secrets – True or False?

How would you rate your cell phone company’s customer service? How about your cable TV customer service or your computer company’s customer service? What word or words would you use to describe your feelings when you have to make one of those calls to either change a service, question your bill, get technical support or even buy an additional service? To get the answers to these questions, we conducted a survey and here are some of the words consumers used most often:

Dread
Frustrated
Anger
Hope

I’ll bet you can add some of your own words to that list, but the end result would probably be more negative ones than positive. In the training we conduct with companies who provide customer service as part or all of their primary function, we often start with a quiz to uncover some of the truths about customer service. What we are attempting to discover is why such a seemingly simple service – what is so hard about asking, “How can we help you today?” – is so difficult to consistently deliver.

Take the following quiz yourself and see how many you and your team get right:

True or False: You either have the right personality or disposition to be a good customer service rep or you don’t.

Answer: False. Good customer service isn’t as much about personality as it is about learning and consistently using a set of proven skills. Anyone who wants to get better at consistently meeting and exceeding the needs of customers can learn and then apply – consistently – a set of skills that includes the proper opening, middle and ending of a customer service call.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough people with the right personality out there, it’s that most of the customer service reps operating today haven’t been given the right training, nor the right follow up coaching, to be consistently good at consistently exceeding the needs of their customers.

True or False: Customer services reps with the most product and service training will result in the best customer experience.

Answer: False. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on product and service training hoping to put the most educated customer service reps on the other ends of the phones for their customers. The sad truth is that this doesn’t always translate into a positive or entirely satisfied experience for the customer.

We have all had an experience where the attitude and tone of the customer service rep over powered the knowledge or help they were able to offer, and we also have had the opposite experience of dealing with a pleasant or eager to help customer service rep who had to find the help or answers we needed. Which would you rather deal with? While product or service training seems more direct and measurable, basic customer service skill training is just as – if not more – important for the overall customer experience.

True or False: It is hard to find and train good customer service reps.

Answer: True AND False! Let’s face it – good help is still hard to find. Finding good people to hire can be a time consuming and difficult process. The saying “It’s a numbers game,” is an accurate way to describe this process. There are a number of variables that come into play in finding good candidates including your location (city, part of the country, etc.), your company and pay scale, the available talent pool of candidates, etc. While it is true that finding these candidates is sometimes hard to do, training them doesn’t have to be.

Training people to excel at giving great customer service is possible if you focus on providing people with the skills it takes to exceed your customers expectations and if you then coach adherence to those skill sets. Unfortunately, this is where many companies fall short.

While there are many good resources and training available to teach these skills, many companies still focus on product and service training. Hopefully, after a careful review of your own customer service team’s skills, you’ll decide to provide the kind of training that gives your customers the kind of experience that will keep them coming back.

If you or your company are interested in learning the kind of skills that enable your customer service reps to consistently give GREAT customer service, then visit our website: www.MrInsideSales.com, or call us at: (818) 999-0869. We look forward to helping you soon!