Can you train someone to be warm and fuzzy or is this something you have to be born into? Hopefully by now you are familiar with the five articles I previously wrote on the topic of Customer Service. In those articles, I touched on the entry level issues that must first be addressed by a company, manager, supervisor and self, before you can now step into the next level.
This NEW level is dealing with the very rewarding experience of changing your customer service practice from “How may I help you?” Into “So happy to see you again and what can we do for you today?” Creating the situation that transforms your customers into clients.
What is the difference? A customer is someone that comes in once for business. Does not matter if they just have a question or spend thousands of dollars. They only come in once, that is a customer. You never see them again because you have done nothing to make them want to return. No business will survive on this, unless you’re the only one selling or doing that service in your area. If you’re not the only person who operates a coffee house in downtown Seattle, you have competition.
Most people are going to say, “I need that again, but did not feel warm and fuzzy from that other place, so let’s give the other place a chance.” And this is what every person who works in the service or consumer goods industry must focus on “THAT ONE CHANCE TO DEVELOP A CLIENT not just satisfies a customer.”
It seems many employees are just happy with the sale or commission you just made and that is all that matters to you. “Wow the boss is going to be so happy that we made quota today.”
“We were busy today and rushed those sales through so quickly.” But is that really going to be set you up for when times are lean and tough?
Why do most companies go out of business? It’s because they just rely on customers and do not invest in CLIENT DEVELOPMENT. Those are the loyal and dedicated customers that come back again and again and they also tell all their friends, co-workers, and anyone that can listen about you and your services. Your outstanding Customer Service professionals converted a customer into a CLIENT.
Whether it’s the best dang food this side of the Rocky Mountains, the outstanding selection of products you provided, or going above and beyond in customer service that no other business would of done for me, does not really matter if you don’t convert that customer into a client.
Was it the helpful and honest employee who told me you were out of the product, but said he would call me the second it came in, and actually DID.
Was it the employee who came back from the stock room, covered in sweat, cob webs, and dirt because he climbed to the top shelf, in the far back corner of the stockroom to get me the last of those sale items that were advertised?
Maybe it was just the way; the food server remembered my name and treated me as if I were that long lost relative everyone was happy to see at Thanksgiving. Those are those Warm and Fuzzes that develop clients.
Clients are the backbone of a healthy and successful business. So how do you make this change? As with everything in business, it starts with Company Training, Personal and Professional Attitude, and begins at the TOP.
Many years ago, I was stationed on the east coast and worked a part-time job with an east coast department store. I was just a part-timer who worked on the loading docks, but I still had to attend the week long Customer Service training academy that this high end department store required of all its employees. Not only was it 40 hours of philosophy and policies, but also hands on practice. It was those silly and sometimes uncomfortable role playing exercises that make big strong Marine feel silly. It was watching live examples, not scripted video tapes of want to be actors. It was taught from the Top to the bottom.
I questioned “why did a stock jock needed to learn how to sell and then of course develop the customer into a client, when my job was to off load the trucks at night and prepare them for the mornings?” The Store Manager explained to me that he expected everyone to be a Client Development Expert, just like he was. And I personally witnessed, he was. The Store General Manager was always on the three floors of the store and not hiding in his office. He was greeting customers by their names and if he did not know them, he quickly found out. He was not above helping a customer find just what they wanted and he explained, “If a customer approached me on the floor, it is my responsibility to initiate the client development training.” But I was stock jock. I did not wear nice suites and know all about the products in each department.
The General Manager’s reply was, “If you want to be part of my team, you will learn them.” My skeptical self, said yeah right (inside voice). But after working there a few weeks, department Managers took the time to teach me about products and their departments. I also continued to witness the outstanding customer service that was shown by the General Manager, Department Managers, and staff. The GM knew everyone’s name. When he escorted a client to a department, he would introduce the client to the sales person, both by names and would say “Ms, Jones, this is Jennifer, she is one of my outstanding sales associates and will do everything to exceed your expectations.” Then Jennifer would do everything that was needed.
Now I know you’re going to say, you don’t have the time. These high end stores can afford to do that. Well, normally that is true, but this was not in downtown New York City. This was Glenburnie, Maryland. Very similar to Renton, Tacoma, or Silverdale. Just another middle class suburb in America.
What made the difference was the fact that the General Manager was not going to accept that EXCUSE. Just because this was not the big city and his clients did not show up in limousines, he was going to accept a lower standard of professionalism. In fact, he had to kick it up a couple of notches. His dedication to training his staff and making sure they were turning customers into clients, made this store one of the best in sales for the East Coast. Many of the Department Managers went on to become General Managers of other stores during their expansion boom of the late 80’s. Not because there was a shortage of Managers, but because they had a proven track record of turning customers into clients. Even I was promoted to a management position and helped open a new store, because as a Stock Jock, I learned the importance of client services.
How do you do this for your company?
1. You have to come up with your Client Development Goal.
2. You must start with training that involves everyone from the Top to the Bottom. And this means SINCERE DEDICATION, not lip service.
3. Develop a means to track your development and also where your lacking.
4. Acknowledge the accomplishments and address the failures, but in a positive training way. If you fail to train, you train to fail.
5. Never settle for what worked in the past, always continue to adapt and develop your Client Development Training. Just as the seasons change so do the attitudes of the Clients. There is a reason January is slow in retail and service industry, but does it always have to be or is it because everyone accepts it to be?
Bottom line, TRAINING is the KEY to SUCCEED. If you’re not investing into your training, you will never succeed in your Client Development. It does not always have to be formal sit down lecture training, but don’t succumb to the lazy pop in a video and make everyone watch these outdated examples, unless you want outdated employees and sales.