I am more convinced every day that the most overlooked and under-rated sales function in most companies is their customer service department.
This extends beyond toll-free phone numbers and includes the people you meet when you walk into a company's retail locations too.
When was the last time you ended a conversation with customer service feeling thrilled that you were a customer of companies like Dell, Verizon, USAirways, Charter or Microsoft? Would that change if I typed Apple instead of Dell?
It's really simply. There are several customer service issues that, in essence, SELL or convince you to leave a company. They are:
- "you'll need to call this number instead"
- "let me transfer you to someone who can help" (again)
- "OK, so let's try something else and see if that works"
- "That shouldn't be happening"
- "Let me ask someone else and see if they've heard of this"
- "I'll need to get some basic information" (again)
- "Can I have your name and account number?" (again)
- "Sir, you have to provide this information - it's a rule"
- "You must enter your information in this kiosk"
- You'll have to answer these questions or I can't proceed"
Companies spend a lot of money on marketing and sales calls to acquire customers. Then they spend money to train and develop their sales teams to improve their effectiveness at finding and closing business. Then, because the people in charge of customer service simply don't get it, they encourage customers to walk away because they aren't wiling to address some of their customers' most basic needs.
On a recent visit to a Verizon company store to conduct a simple free exchange for a new, unopened, incompatible device, it took over an hour, required multiple calls to customer service, and ended with them wanting $85 for the free, preapproved (by Verizon Customer Service) exchange. When I refused to pay the fee (it was just $50 to simply buy the correct device outright) I left them with the device I was attempting to return and canceled my account. They sent me a bill for $185 for early termination!
If you have your own horror stories feel free to leave them here but don't miss the point of this post. Customer service must treat customers the way you want to be treated. It should not be a group of people whose primary function is to regurgitate your company's policies and rules. Retention is the key to growth. When you can retain and even grow your existing customers, new customers represent real growth. When you are losing existing customers, new customers only replace what you have lost and sales remain flat.