10 Great Examples - Customer Service as a Powerful Sales Tool

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

lufthansa.jpg

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

Customer Service Neutralizes Efforts of Your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 @ 05:04 AM

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:

  • Transferitis
    • "you'll need to call this number instead" 
    • "let me transfer you to someone who can help" (again)
  • Incompetence
    • "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"
  • Rude
  • Slow
  • Unresponsive
  • Repetitive
    • "I'll need to get some basic information" (again)
    • "Can I have your name and account number?" (again)
  • Argumentative
    • "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"
  • Scripting

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.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, Dell, Verizon, Apple Customer Service, Customer Retention

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six 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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