Customer service redefined as a sales tool

by Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey

“How can I reinvent myself, or my company to better serve

and provide for your changing needs?”

Is there some service or additional product I should be providing that would make ‘your’ experience easier, more rewarding, or user friendly? Just one of the questions you need to ask yourself and your customers on a frequent basis.

Remember, if you aren't asking these questions -- your competitors are! And if you are taking care of your customers needs, your competition will be selling them.

Here are some tools, which will help you keep and expand your market edge. Use these sales tools to keep your customers happy and coming back for more.

Each of these tools provides a valid ‘reason’ to touch base with existing clients, and a chance to do additional, repeat business. Why not invest time to develop an easily managed account management system that incorporates one or more of these tools? It may provide insights on how to retain, retrain or remain a long-term supplier or vendor of choice. As sales professionals, repeat business is great!

• Customer surveys. Checking in on a regular basis to ask a few questions will work wonders. Take a look at the survey answers for some tips to make your business more responsive and profitable. Perhaps do an exit poll as a spot form of on-site customer survey? Why did they buy? What did they think of your sales and service? If you don’t know how they perceive or receive your products or service, how can you make changes to your mix to better serve them and keep them as customers over a longer period?

• Telephone polls. I’ve found a quick phone call to selected customers will be enough to keep you informed and current as to how well you are doing. How about actually calling a month or so after you've delivered your service or product to see how it is going and how the customers are enjoying it? Can lead to additional sales and referrals. You can bet, not too many businesses are doing this! I used to do this when I was designing and selling kitchens. It amazed my clients and kept them thinking about my firm and me. It also gave me some valid feedback and a chance to keep them satisfied and talking about me.

• Service calls. These are often a neglected form of information as to the true satisfaction of your customers and the serviceability of your products. Make your service team part of your information gathering team and apply what you learn to make your business better. Often they hear things that you will never hear. And sometimes what they hear can be critical to your ongoing success and relationship with your customer.

• Focus groups. Take some time and invite a few of your best customers to sit down and discuss honestly what you offer and what you deliver. Put your ego on hold and listen carefully as they give you a very valuable gift -- a gift that will help you succeed in your sales career.

• Product sampling. What a great way to find out what your customers want and what you can provide professionally and profitably. This allows you to test market and adjust before you go full tilt into selling a new product or service roll out. I remember the story of a company who came up with a new dog food. They had developed a great product, a great package and a great promotional campaign. Only problem was dogs didn’t like it and didn’t eat it. They were able to go back to the drawing boards and re-create it as a cat food, who did like the fish based product for some strange reason.

• Web site feedback. This is emerging as a great way to allow your clients to tell you how you are doing, what they like, what they don't like and what they would like. It's a great way to share suggestions, changes and updates with your customers at their convenience. Often they will share ideas that will solve problems for each other as well. There are even websites that provide a free service for on-line surveys of your customers.

• Others. There are a multitude of great ideas. Why not add yours to the mix and let me know.

Invest in your business' future by asking questions, and then acting on the responses your customers give you. This might just be the competitive ‘sales’ edge you need as we navigate the turbulent and volatile field of business in 21st Century.

© Copyright 2006 Bob ‘Idea Man’ Hooey


Canadian Ideaman, Bob Hooey is an acknowledged expert who will equip and motivate your leadership and employees to grow and win! Bob is the author of 10 business, leadership and career building books including two on sales. He is a frequent contributor and columnist for North American consumer, corporate, association, on-line trade publications on diverse topics, eg: productivity, creativity and innovation, leadership, teamwork, sales, management, training, motivation, customer service, and m...

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