How does this work?

For several decades we have been told that the level of customer service we provide will be the measuring stick that our customers will use to select and remain loyal to a supplier. Meanwhile the levels of “loyalty” have come under pressure to the point that many observers have insisted that loyalty no longer exists. Loyalty is a difficult area to measure as loyalty is driven from the limbic part of our brains; that is part of our brain has no ability to communicate. Communications comes from the neocortex. To make matters more difficult customer service is an elusive measure in that it depends on expectations and perceptions. What the customer expected to receive and what they perceive they did receive is what determines customer service. The customer owns these two elements and unless we ask we will never know how we did.

Along comes technology to assist us in our pursuit of being the highest value provider to our market place. We now have marketing tools which will record telephone calls and through voice recognition can evaluate the “quality” of the call and the “salesmanship” of the employee serving the customer. Imagine that.

We can have every telephone call received inbound or dialed outbound recorded. I want to set aside any privacy issues we might have in this discussion, a short disclaimer at the beginning of the call – “this call might be recorded for customer service purposes” will usually address the majority of the concerns, and deal with the opportunities with this new tool.

We now can track each call, the content of the call (using key word identification), and the result of the call. This can be a powerful revenue generating tools as well as a strong tool to use to develop employee skills. What could you do with such a tool? Well we will be able to know the volume of calls to each customer service employee and their individual results. What percentage of the inbound calls required a price check? What percentage required and availability check? What were the conversion rates for each of these inquiries? Does it vary by individual? We can also provide our sales history to customers and then the software suppliers can track revenue versus potential versus plan for each customer in your territory. Do I have your attention yet?

One of the many aspects in the capital goods industries that has troubled me is our low market chare for parts and labor. We are the primary supplier of the pump or the well or of water transportation yet how well to we manage the ongoing maintenance and repairs of the capital good? Who of our competitors also serve these same customers? How we deal with the market capture rates and our competitors goes a long way to determining our success.

We have to know the customer needs and wants that is true. From these needs and wants we can determine what we have to excel at internally to satisfy those needs and wants. But we can excel in all aspect of our business and still be severely challenged if we don’t know how effectively we are “selling” each time we touch a customer. We are dependent for our success on the individuals who I call your heroes. Your front line customer service personnel. What are we doing to help them succeed? How do we know how successfully they sell to your customers? In the past we didn’t really know. Now we do.

Today, we can provide, for each phone number, a range of pertinent statistics. How many calls? What type of a call was it? Did it generate an order? What are the ratios of calls to order? What is the average order value? Did we ask for an order? If we did what call to close ratio did we experience. You see now can perform serious marketing work; we can develop strong training programs, we can produce an objective personnel evaluation and provide improvement opportunities, we can provide powerful incentive programs, and much more.

So how do YOUR customer service people make out? Do you know? There are several consulting businesses which will come in and record your telephone calls and then play them back to your company. You can listen to the complete call. This can be very embarrassing. I can’t tell you how often I have listened to customers asking one of your employees for a price of a part and once they have the price the call ends. The same holds true with the customer asking for availability. This brings me to selling training. Have your instore personnel had training on selling? Typically not. Most businesses view them as customer support or customer service people. Why do we need to train them on selling? Well I believe it is obvious why I want to train them on selling. They are talking to customers all day long every day. They have more customer contact with your customers than any other group of employees. When a customer asks for the price should you give the customer the price or should you engage them in a discussion on value? I believe that answer is self-evident. Similarly when they ask if you have a part the question in response should be “when do they need to have the part.” Customer contact personnel also need to know how to deal with objections; to avoid smoke screens, to make the objection specific, to provide compensating factors, etc. And finally they need to be able to get the business, to close the order.

The customer service argument is an important one. Selling and revenue generation is a critical need of every business in the world. How well your “heroes” you customer contact personnel do their job is the critical element in both customer service and revenue generation. How well do they do their jobs? Now we have tools that can provide these answers. Check it out.

The time is now.

by Ron Slee
June, 2016
Water Well Journal

About Water Well Journal

The Water Well Journal is the leading resource for those working in the groundwater industry. The flagship publication of the National Ground Water Association is delivered to more than 24,000 people every month and covers technical issues related to drilling and pump installation, rig maintenance, business management, well rehabilitation, water treatment, and more.

Since many of the companies in the groundwater industry are small family-run businesses it is critical that Water Well Journal provide much more than technical content. That is why Ron Slee’s monthly columns addressing management, supply, and inventory issues are valuable. It is that type of information that helps the publication achieve NGWA’s mission of advancing groundwater knowledge.