10 Great Examples - Customer Service as a Powerful Sales Tool

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 @ 06:11 AM


Last week, during my travels to Poland and back, I experienced how companies are using customer service as sales tools.  In most cases, customer service tends to be vanilla, bland, and although professional in its approach, it is typically highly unspectacular.  However, sometimes, customer service is so good, or so bad, that their brand statements go beyond what marketing or sales could ever do.  After all, what leaves a stronger and potentially longer lasting impression than your own experience with a brand?  Let's start with two great examples - experiences that make you choose to return for more.

Upon landing in Frankfurt on my first leg home from Warsaw, I received an email from Expedia.com telling me that my flight from Frankfurt to Boston was canceled.  My anxiety intensified and I began Googling alternate flights to Boston while deplaning, only to learn that the flight had not actually been canceled.  As I was about to board my flight to Boston, I realized that in my moments of despair, I had left my iPad in the seat back pocket on the previous flight.  I stopped at Lufthansa's Flight Services counter upon my return to Boston and they gave me an email address to contact in Frankfurt. Imagine my surprise, and relief (the iPad was not password protected, so someone could have had a free-for-all until I could change the passwords those accounts that my iPad apps connected to!) when I received this email response:

Dear Mr. Kurlan,

Thank you for your e-mail. Your iPad is found and registered.
Ref Nr xxxxxxx

Please authorize a shipping agent of your choice (DHL, FEDEX, United Parcels, etc)  to pick up your item at:

Deutsche Lufthansa AG and authorize them to deliver it to your address.  They could pick it up any day at our counter 284, Terminal 1-A, departure level, from 7am to 7pm.  There is a telephone at the counter that they should pick up. It is automatically connected to our office. We will bring the packet to the counter. They should mention xxxx and show us the written authorization they have from you.

Please send us the details.

Kind regards,

I will most definitely seek out Lufthansa whenever I have an international trip!

When I arrived at the Regent Warsaw Hotel at 14:30, I inquired about getting my suit pressed.  Their service promised that clothing picked up after noon would be returned by 9:00 the following morning.  I explained that I was speaking at 8:00 the next morning, so 9:00 would not be sufficient. They picked up my suit, pressed it and returned it 30 minutes later!  Guess where I'll be staying if I return to Poland?

People are convinced - every second of every day - to either begin doing business, continue doing business, or stop doing business with companies - based on the way they are treated by the company's employees.  The customer service I'm referring to is rarely performed by actual customer service reps. These employees actually have more of an impact on customers than customer service reps, but aren't trained, paid or treated like customer service reps.  It's one thing to get good or bad customer service from someone who is paid to provide it.  It's quite another to get the good or bad service from someone whose primary role in the company is not customer service.  These are people who either choose to be helpful, indifferent or worse.

Unfortunately, we experience many more examples of bad service than good.  Here are some that I've written about before. These are ten very short examples that you must read in order to fully understand the extent to which this impacts revenue:

Unbelievable at United Airlines

Volatile at Verizon and a Second Issue with Verizon and a Third Issue with Verizon

Unacceptable at US Airways

Poor at Paychex

Dumb at Dell but Awesome at Apple

Wrong at the RMV

Nuts at National Car Rental and a Second Time at National

While each article represented a good example and together they provide paths to retaining business, also notice that I tend to write about the bad ones.  Today, with social media, bad news travels further and faster than ever before, sometimes going viral.  Knowing that It also costs more than ever to acquire new customers, it's important to realize that companies could grow their revenue at exponential rates if they weren't so inept at retaining business! How much business do your employees cause you to lose?  It's not enough to train salespeople and customer service reps.  EVERYONE should be trained on how even the most insignificant interactions with customers can impact the business.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, customer service, Apple, Dell, Verizon, lufthansa, united airlines

New Book will Improve Your Account Managers' Relationships

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 @ 20:04 PM

people love youI wanted to let you know about a new book hitting the shelves today.

Most of the books that are written about great customer experiences only cite best practices by large, well-known B2C companies like Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, and Zappos. You know how I feel about studies that only cite big companies... 

Here at Understanding the Sales Force, we discuss mostly B2B relationships which are far more complex than B2C relationships. 

Jeb Blount, a leading expert on customer experience and account management, just published the new book, People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences.

People Love You will show you:

  • How to make your customers happy,
  • What to do to keep your customers from defecting to competitors,
  • Ways to get customers to buy more every year,
  • The secret to getting customers to love you and
  • How to deliver a great experience for every customer.

One of my clients lost just one customer and that loss was so significant for them that it meant layoffs, a plant closing, and the threat of bankruptcy.  Account managers are usually responsible for holding these relationships together.  In People Love You, you'll gain the insight, knowledge, and tools that you need to serve and engage customers in a way that will tie them to you, your brand, product or service.

Get your copy today!  You'll be glad you did.  When you order today, you’ll also receive instant access to over $500 worth of business tools from leading experts, including a gift from me. 

I don't endorse many books, but this is a good one and if you manage important accounts or relationships, this book is a must-read.

Start with Chapter 4: Put Customers First”  – it will change how people do business with you forever.  Check out People Love You now.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, customer service, jeb blount, account management, people love you

Unintentional Selling - Selling Customers on Defecting

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:10 AM

verizonI've hit on this topic several times before when I ranted about:

Today, Verizon Wireless gets the brunt of my wrath!
I'm a planner.  I make sure in advance that every detail has been covered because I hate surprises.  So before my recent trip, I purchased a new smart phone after I was assured that it would work in Europe and Turkey.  Then I called Verizon to confirm that my new phone would work in the three cities where I would be and I subsequently purchased Global Roaming.
Then, on October 9, it happened.  I landed in London and had no phone service.  How could this be possible after the precautions which I'd taken?  I was panicking because I had no way to connect and I desperately needed to connect.  I found a wireless network (that wouldn't be the case in the Turkey airport), got Skype working, called Verizon and was told that my phone would not work in London, Istanbul or Amsterdam.  And it wouldn't work anywhere else in Europe either.  Duh.  I had already figured that out myself.  But what was Verizon going to do about it?  Could they unlock it so that I could purchase a SIM card?  No, that would have been too easy.  Could they refer me to a partner in Turkey so that I could get a phone to use while I was there?   No, that would have been too complicated.  I could buy a disposable phone, but Heathrow airport didn't have any stores which  sold them.  There was literally nothing that they could do.  The people who needed to connect with me were out of luck.  They couldn't connect with me, nor could I connect with them.  My entire trip was in jeopardy.
Companies make mistakes.  People make mistakes. We judge them not by their mistakes, but how they solve the problems which they caused.  Not only could my entire problem have been avoided, Verizon could have had someone meet me at my next stop with a working phone.  I would have paid for that.  A small company would have found a way to do that because they cherish every customer and wouldn't want to lose even one.  However, once companies get to a certain size, they race to the bottom, don't care about churn and their support people care little about anything except meeting call number quotas.  'Uh-oh. I've had Dave on the phone for 10 minutes. I'm 5 minutes over. Need to get to the next call. "Sorry sir, there's nothing I can do to help."'
Companies still don't seem to understand that it doesn't matter if their marketing is good.  It doesn't matter if they they sell effectively.  It doesn't matter if the product or service is good.  At the point when they show their customers that they really don't care about their customer's experience, the customer will have been well sold on defecting.
Put as much effort into keeping your customers as you do into getting your customers and your business will grow from word-of-mouth!  We often help companies whose sales have been flat for several years.  The usual reason is that their salespeople are failing to bring in new business.  On the flip side, the one thing these companies seem to be doing well is keeping the business they have.  Kudos to them!

Topics: sales blog, Dave Kurlan, sales management, customer service, unselling customers, customer defection

Non-Salespeople - Assets or Liabilities When They Face Customers?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

Customer Facing Non-SalespeopleNearly 18 months ago, I posted an article about my experience with National Car Rental.  Please read that for background before reading this article.  Pay particular attention to the comments where Elizabeth, from National Car Rental, reached out to me and provided me with a free rental day.  That changed my impression of National!

I didn't have an opportunity to use that free day until this weekend when, following the instructions on the email they sent prior to arrival, we entered their area of the garage in Orlando.  This time, there wasn't a man in a green booth who didn't want to wait on me.  This time, while browsing the cars from which to choose in the Emerald Club aisle, a miserable lady chased us down and demanded to know what we were doing.  I told her.  She pointed to three cars and started to walk away.  I said, "Thanks, but I reserved a luxury car."  She said, "Why didn't you say so?  Those are in the next row." and she walked away.

On our way out of the garage, I wasn't smart enough to follow all of their exit signs and the twists and turns that went along with them.  I ended up in another rental car's exit lane.  The guy in that booth nicely explained that I was in the wrong place, got out of his booth, helped me back up without injuring anyone, led me back to the correct path and made sure I was headed in the right direction.  Then, I came across another National employee, who should have been directling me to the exit lane, but instead asked, "What do you want?"  I told him I was exiting and he nodded.  Nice touch.

In the end, just like 18 months ago, the man inside the exit booth and the lady, who received my car when we returned it, were both wonderful.

I never would have used National again if they hadn't provided me with a free day.  After another unacceptable experience, I don't plan to use them again even if they provide me with another free day.

This is a tremendous example, and not the least bit unusual, of how non-selling, customer-facing employees, sell.  Despite two effective customer-facing people doing their part on selling us to return, one was horrible and not so subtley sold us on not returning.

Companies must be certain that ALL of their customer-facing employees, not only salespeople, always create favorable impressions that sell their customers on returning.  National Car Rental still fails to do this.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, customer service, non selling, customer facing

How to Lose Customers Under Contract

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 @ 12:07 PM

You know that your competitors' top prospects are your existing customers that you have under contract, right?

I spent the good part of this morning at the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles.  I spent 25 minutes waiting in line just to get to the person who gives out the number with the estimated wait time on it.  While I was in line, I noticed a sign that read:

"Today's RMV takes drivers beyond our branches to deliver quicker service through cutting edge technology...Our new fees (no, they weren't lowered) reflect our commitment to service, integrity and innovation..."

Wow - sure glad things have improved at the RMV.  Anyway,  I had an estimated wait time of an additional 28 minutes which, in reality was 55 more minutes.  There were about 125 people ahead of me, 15 counter positions and only 7 clerks.  

In total, it took 90 minutes to conduct a two-minute transaction and it wasn't to land tickets to hear the resurrection of the Beatles in Concert!  Why do they get away with such terrible service?  We don't have any choice.  Just like your customers who are locked in to a contract.  Call your cable company, phone company, or computer or software technical support line.  In most cases, the service is comparable to what I just described.  This level of service helps your competition take your customers away!  Make sure that you work even harder to keep the customers that you worked so hard to sell in the first place.  If you don't, they'll be somebody else's customer as soon as they can arrange it.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, customer service, Customer Retention, Registry of Motor Vehicles, RMV, losing customers

Sales and Customer Service are Just Like Steriod Use in Baseball

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 10, 2009 @ 21:02 PM

Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest hitters, if not the greatest hitter in baseball, admitted that he used steroids when he was with the Texas Rangers.

Last year, it was Andy Petite admitting to using and Roger Clemens denying.  Barry Bonds continues to deny while Jose Canseco was the first player to blow the lid off of the steroid scandal with his book Juiced.

The lesson here is that Andy Petite disappeared from the news the day after he admitted using steroids and apologizied.  Rodriguez will be out of the news by next week too.  Yet Bonds and Clemens, because of their repeated denials, will not only fail to make the Hall of Fame, they continue to be in the news despite no longer being active players.

Sales is just like Steroid use in Baseball.

If a customer attacks, complains, whines, demands or points fingers and you simply say, "you're right.  I'm sorry," the issue goes away.  However, if you get defensive, place blame, make excuses, deny the issue or fail to apologize, your customer will never forget and as a result, may no longer be your customer.  The customer is always right - even when they're wrong.

How many times have you experienced the thick-headed customer service or sales person that simply didn't care about your problem enough to apologize and fix it?  I've posted about these very issues with Verizon, United, US Airways, and Paychex over the last several years.

Many salespeople have a problem with doing this the right way.  Their ego gets in the way.  They cite principles.  They won't allow themselves to take responsibility for something they didn't do.  They let the truth stand in the way of the relationship and, in essence, ruin the relationship.  While some people hold grudges, most people have a short memory and if you simply allow them to vent, it somehow clears the cache and then both parties are able to move on.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, ARod, Clemens, Petite, Canseco, Bonds, customer service, steroids

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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