The Sales / Service Relationship

Sales = Service = Success

Many organizations like to segment their customer service function from their sales activities.  I believe this is a mistake.

The closer you can entwine your service and sales activities, the more successful you are likely to be. After all, the customer rarely segments a sales activity from a service activity. To him or her, all your activities are service interrelated!

The formula for weaving these two activities together is to:

  • turn customer service opportunities into sales opportunities, and
  • follow up on sales opportunities to provide efficient and appreciated service.

Another way of expressing this is:  SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS.

Some people like to argue that this expression should read “sales + service = success.” But that is where I disagree. That is the way of doing things today, with sales being one activity and customer service being another, with little or no integration.

Changing your mindset to SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS means you understand that success comes when there is no segmentation between selling and service.

In today’s age of consultative selling, one of the best services your organization can provide is to sell a customer the right product at the right time that provides the right solution for his or her particular need.

Now that’s a true service. One that every customer is likely to appreciate.

People often ask me, “How do you know if a customer is satisfied?”

The simple, and best, answer is: ask.

Be proactive. Call and ask the customer:

“Did everything go as expected?” 

“Have we delivered as promised?” 

“Have we met your expectations?”

Staff should be encouraged to never be afraid of having to deal with problems. What if you do call up and there is a problem? Well, at least you are now aware of it, and you have an opportunity to fix the immediate problem ─ before it grows into something larger and unmanageable. And by doing so, you not only show the customer that you care about them, but that you are also willing to make sure that they are completely satisfied ─ two concerns of customers that they will value highly.

Also, not following up always results in a missed selling opportunity.

After all, when is the best time to start the next sales cycle?

Anytime the customer is satisfied with you.

So, if nothing has gone wrong and the customer is fully satisfied, that is the ideal time to start working toward the next repeat order. Or, once you have corrected any problems and have achieved customer satisfaction through your servicing efforts, you are in an ideal position to start working towards the next sale.

The Golden Rule of Selling: keep the customer satisfied, not just sold.

I see this as a 3-step equation:

1) Quality results in customer satisfaction.

2) Customer satisfaction results in repeat buys.

3) Repeat purchases lead to customer loyalty.

By weaving together your sales and service mindsets, and being proactive in your customer care efforts, you will achieve the customer loyalty levels you are seeking.

Marketing is not rocket science. In fact, marketing success really boils down to two key principles:  understanding customer needs and delivering upon the promises the organization makes. You can achieve these two principles through a full understanding of the sales/service relationship.

KEY POINT:  it is important to weave together your sales and service activities so that they appear seamless to the customer.

TAKING ACTION:  are you sales people capable of superior service? Are your service people capable of superior selling? How can you fix any gaps that exist?

How can you make your staff more proactive in their customer care activities?

How can you inculcate the mantra SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS throughout your organization?

What steps can you implement to keep your VIP customers satisfied, not just sold?

This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

The Customer is (STILL) King.

We live in a world of change. As a matter of fact, the rate of change today is faster, and affects a larger portion of the earth’s population, than at any other time in history. And, as some pundits like to repeat, “the only thing constant in our lives is change.”

Tomorrow’s world will require marketing-driven approaches to generate the level of success known as market leadership. My personal market-driven philosophy is “if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™” 

Anything that touches your customers….that impacts your customers or your prospects….should be considered a marketing issue for your entire organization.

This marketing philosophy has led me to develop five customer-driven marketing strategies. Let me share the first one with you.

I call it the golden rule of marketing: the customer is king.

No, the customer is not always right. But the customer is still the customer, at all times. And as marketers and business leaders, it is imperative that we fully understand and appreciate the needs of each and every one of our customers.

Thus, it is mandatory that everyone in the organization who has contact with customers and prospects be taught how to investigate customer wants and needs. And, they need to be able to fully understand and appreciate these needs.

Then, your company needs to determine how it can best serve the needs of these customers ….. profitably, efficiently, and consistently.

Bear in mind, of course, that it will be our customers who are the judges of how well our organizations satisfy their requirements. Our internal measures don’t really matter, unless we are using the same measurement yardsticks as our customers.

I recall when I first joined a major international retail bank. On the first week on the job I was invited to a party, in celebration of the fact that the bank had just exceeded its own goals on the issuance of ATM cards to new account holders. The bank had achieved a 94% level of issuing these cards within seven days of new account openings for the previous month. It was the first time the team had surpassed the goal of 92%.

“Wonderful,” I thought. “We are willing to set a goal that leaves 8% of our customers less than satisfied.”  However, not wanting to damper the spirits of the team, I kept my initial thoughts to myself.

Later I enquired whether we had ever asked customers if seven days was satisfactory in their minds. Unfortunately, the reply I got was “no.”  Hence, I made sure that in our next regular customer satisfaction survey we included a question on “how many days should it take for you to receive your ATM card after you open up a new account with us?”

As I recall, something like 85% of the respondents selected either three days or four days in response to this question. Hence, not only were we will to live with a statistical service measurement that said it was okay to not satisfy 8% of our new customers….we didn’t have a clue (until the research findings) that in fact we were actually disappointing the large majority of customers by using a measurement criteria that was not in tune with their own thinking.

Please remember, while the customer may not always be right, he or she is still the customer.

And in their hands lie the future fate of your businesses.

Key Point: our customers are the judges of how well our organizations satisfy their requirements. Internal measures don’t really matter, unless we are using the same measurement yardsticks as our customers and have a full understanding of customer expectations on service delivery.

Taking Action: ask your senior managers to brainstorm and develop a list of the things your organization tracks in relationship to customer satisfaction.

When was the last time you checked these measurement yardsticks against the requirements of your customers?  If it’s been awhile, you should make it a high priority to conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey with your existing clients and ask them how you’re doing in relationship to their needs.

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