In September, I will be speaking at the American Equipment Manufacturing Association Customer Service Seminar in Orlando. So, as you might imagine, I have been thinking about customer service and its relationship to sales culture. I am also coming at this from the viewpoint of a consumer. I think we all have our own examples of when we have received good and bad customer service. For me, every time I get on a Southwest Airlines flight, I am reminded that airlines can in fact deliver good customer service and still make a profit. On the other hand, I think of the bank relationship I had for 26 years that I ended after some wonk in the loan department decided that I was not a worthy risk for a secured loan – never mind the 26 years of perfect payment record. Sadly, I have more examples of bad customer service than good, but that’s a topic for another day and column.
So what is the relationship between customer service and sales culture? I think they are very tied to each other in several ways.
- Customer service is about making sure clients are happy before and after a purchase…and that’s why people come back. Right? Delivering great customer service and taking care of people issues and complaints is a big reason for repeat purchases and more sales. Everyone who comes into contact with clients has a role in making them happy. That means that everyone’s in sales, which is sales culture.
- Making clients happy is usually not just the act of one person; it takes a team…and that’s sales culture. I talk often of the virtual sales team – the anchor of a sales culture – working behind the scenes to fix the problem or receive the compliment and acknowledge it in a meaningful way.
- Customer service is so MUCH more than answering the phone nicely or being measured on how quickly one responds to a client’s problem (duh). It’s about knowing that WHEN good and great customer service happens, it has a systemic effect on the company and the customer, who remembers it and buys more. One of my basic guidelines of sales culture is that everyone impacts the customer whether they know it or not, and it happens all the time.
- Metrics are not customer service, and they are not sales culture. Yes, I know things have to be measured so people can fill out some form and can say, “I did it.” What exactly did you do? Yay for you that you beat some arbitrary metric that says you delivered good service. The real measure of customer service is the proactive behavior that occurs when people know HOW what they do impacts the client, and that this leads to more sales!
- A great sales culture in and of itself creates a better company and therefore better products and more satisfied clients. The people delivering customer service have a direct impact on the clients’ desire to make referrals. When was the last time you made a referral because customer service messed up?
So you see that sales culture and customer service work hand in hand. The principles and building blocks of sales culture are alive and well in the workings of highly successful customer service departments. I have been saying for years that we are all in sales, and I can also say we are all in customer service because we all have a chance to make a client happy, more satisfied, and a strong referral source.