Create A Sales-Service Excellence CultureChristine Corelli
Article Date: 12-01-2006
Copyright (C) 2006 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Boost sales, control costs, increase profitability, and establish superior customer loyalty.
Competition is brutal. There are more companies than ever working to win over your customers. To make matters worse, customers are more demanding. They are highly cost-conscious and less loyal, and they have more places to buy equipment.
If you don’t give them what they want, they’ll head straight for your competitors.
To keep your customers coming back to you takes the dedicated efforts of every single person on your staff. You can’t afford to have even one person in your company treat your customers with indifference.
The bottom line is that the people in your company create your reputation and your brand. Everyone must consistently strive to provide customers a great experience with each and every encounter and in every aspect of the business process.
Great brands are the result of consistently great customer experiences.
Customer loyalty and customer advocates are your ultimate goal. You want your customer to continue to purchase, rent, or be serviced by your company, and you want them to spread the word to other equipment buyers.
Retaining existing customers is far cheaper than acquiring new ones. Loyal customers create a positive feedback loop — the more revenue you generate from a customer, the more funds your company can invest in marketing, new lines, technology, customer events, etc. Ultimately, these investments will help your company’s sales efforts.
How do you win new customers, gain their loyalty, and turn them into advocates when the whole world is circling like a pack of wolves around your customers? You and everyone in your company have to earn it.
Everyone’s In Sales
Every person who works for your company is a salesperson — even if they aren’t responsible for selling or renting equipment.
Customers are constantly evaluating your company. Anytime your customer has contact with someone in your company for any reason, it’s imperative that care and concern are demonstrated. Everyone on your staff must use the customer contact point to work hard to develop a strong relationship with the customer being served.
Think about your business as an unbiased outside consultant — then answer the following questions objectively:
Everything your staff says and does affects sales and customer loyalty. If they don’t say and do the right things, they can destroy the reputation of your company, as well as the relationship you and your sales people have worked so hard to build.
- How is your company viewed in the eyes of equipment buyers?
- How is your company viewed within your industry?
- What are your customers saying about you to other customers when they get together at industry events or gatherings?
- Does the outside appearance of your property make a positive impression?
- How do your service technicians treat your customers? Are they on time? If they are going to be late, do they call ahead? How would you rate the appearance of their trucks? Are your technicians professional? Do they get impatient when a customer calls for help over the phone because the person who needs help does not have the same level of technical expertise? Do they recognize part of their job is to help all customers in all situations?
- Does everyone who works for you sound happy to be servicing customers?
- How are customers greeted when they call or walk into your showroom?
- Does the person who answers the phone sound professional?
- Do you and your sales team help your customers with their businesses?
- How does your company handle critical situations?
- After any interaction, do you customers hear, “Is there anything more we can do for you today?”
- Do your people say, “Thank you, Mr. Customer, we appreciate your business?” Do they sound sincere when they say it?
- Do you help your customers in every way possible — even when there’s nothing in it for you?
- Does everyone in your company think and act as your dealership’s ambassadors?
- Do they take your value proposition seriously?
- Does service excellence permeate your company?
- Does everyone in your company do all they can to support your sales team?
All of your employees must recognize they are in sales and consistently work to promote goodwill. Every current and potential customer – whether large or small – should be treated as a VIP.
Establishing and sustaining a “Sales-Service Excellence Culture” can be a powerful weapon against your competition.
In a Sales-Service Excellence Culture, everyone who works at your company consistently seeks out every opportunity to build strong relationships, exceed customer expectations, and provide a great experience before, during, and after the sale.
Every person in your organization must be fully committed if you want to win over your customers, establish high levels of customer loyalty, and have a competitive edge. In fact, studies have proven companies that have established an adaptive Sales-Service Excellence Culture outperform their competition by as much as 200 percent.
You can establish a Sales-Service Excellence Culture by using the following steps:
1. Communicate your strategic initiative to the entire company.
Here’s where your ability to influence people to follow your lead comes into play. Call a meeting with your entire team and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work and that you can’t accomplish anything without them. Explain your vision for your dealership — what needs to happen and what is expected of them. Tell them that everyone from sales to billing, to service techs, must fully support these plans, and that there will be positive outcomes based on sales results and error-free performance.
They should know their involvement will be required, both as individuals and as participants in teams working continuously to determine ways to help the initiative to succeed. Keep in mind that one of your greatest assets is the combined brainpower of your people.
Teams will be expected to help you create guiding principles for how all staff members will treat customers and each other. These principles will require people to uphold the core values of honesty, professionalism, ethics, integrity, safety, and caring.
Your company’s guiding principles might include:
2. Work with teams to create a written service policy.
- “We will demonstrate our values each day.”
- ”We will take our value proposition seriously. We will deliver what we promise to our customers.”
- ”We will treat each other with mutual respect.”
- ”We will be accountable to each other not only for our performance, but also for the attitude we bring to our jobs each day.”
- ”We will practice peer support.”
- ”We will help our customers in every way possible and do our best to exceed their expectations.”
- ”We will follow strict safety practices.”
- ”We will look for every opportunity to help the sales force.”
- ”We will make sure our branches share best practices and communicate them with us. And although we work in different locations, we will recognize we are one company and are all representatives of our brand.
- ”We will be committed to exhibiting behaviors that help retain customers and breed customer loyalty.”
- ”We will think and act as brand ambassadors and project a positive image.”
- ”We will make every effort to exceed customer expectations.”
- ”We will work as a team with a shared vision for a common goal for the betterment of the company.”
- ”We will take ownership for our roles and strive to find new ways to be better contributors.”
- ”We will not tolerate ‘territorialism’ or an ‘it’s not my job’ attitude.”
Working with your teams, create a written service policy that every staff member knows and understands. Your written service policy might say that every person will answer the phone in a highly professional manner: “Customer service, John Jones speaking. How may I help you?”, and that every customer will be greeted and called by name. Every phone call ends with, “Thank you, Mr. Smith.”
The written service policy should probably include a statement that: “We will consistently seek to exceed customer expectations and find new ways to do so.”
3. Ask your people to contribute ideas.
It takes continual effort to improve the level of service, identify service flaws, control inventory and provide cutting-edge solutions to service problems.
As your staff changes, the market fluctuates, and the customer base turns over, you need to be ready to implement new ideas that will continue to improve service, meet current needs, and help the company tap into new markets.
4. Consistently seek ways to better support your sales team and technicians.
Ask your sales reps to plan an opportunity to talk to the entire team about the sales challenges each faces, what support they need, and ways everyone can better support the sales effort. Do the same with technicians.
5. Listen to your customers.
Keep in mind, that the most effective way to gain feedback is to talk one-on-one with your customers. Visit them on a regular basis to ask how you can help them.
Even if service managers are extremely busy, they should have a regular schedule of customer call-backs to make sure the customer is happy with your service.
6. Make training a priority.
Distributors typically spend almost half of their gross margin dollars on wages and benefits, yet they generally neglect to make training a priority. Make continuous learning and improvement part of your competitive strategy.
Never assume your staff automatically knows how to handle customers. Be sure they are trained in service excellence and team communication.
Be sure your sales team possesses selling skills far superior to those of your competitor. They should know how to eloquently communicate the benefits of your product or service, and explain why you are the best distributor. Train them on sales communication skills and have them create, memorize, and be able to articulate effective words and phrases that will influence customers to buy. Make sure they have memorized the best responses to objections and how to close.
Train your service technicians on how to deal with difficult customers and tough situations with professionalism. Remind them their jobs are not only to service equipment, but also to act as an ambassador of your dealership.
7. Be sure new hires fully understand your culture.
Communicate your mission statement, code of conduct, guiding principals, and service policies to job candidates. Let them know they will be expected to adhere to these policies if they are to be a part of your team.
Hire only the best, most talented people. Even though costs are rising, if you can offer a reward program, time off, flex-plan contributions, or a company truck, you will be in a better position to find and retain higher quality employees.
8. Correct or eliminate under-performers.
No business can afford to keep people who are incompetent or have a negative attitude. Just one can infect your entire organization and hold back an entire team.
Talk to anyone who needs their attitude or performance corrected in private and ask how you can help them. If you do not see the results you want, take stronger action.
Have the courage to remove anyone who will not fit into your new culture. Remember, your best performers - those who are dedicated to your new culture - will be wondering why you're putting up with negativity or poor performance.
9. Instill your new culture and keep employees motivated.
It's up to you and your management team to keep employees motivated and instill this Sales-Service Excellence Culture. Apply the principle of the "One Minute Manager." When you catch a staff person doing things right, provide accolades.
When you catch them not following the guiding principles for sales-service excellence, give them a friendly reminder of how serious you are about your policies - and do it in private.
10. Keep the spirit alive.
Hold monthly meetings to discuss sales and customer service, and reinforce your culture. Have a different person facilitate each meeting. Make the meetings brief, interesting, and upbeat.
11. Recognize and reward.
Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate service excellence to customers and make an extra effort to help your sales team. In doing so, you will be sending a message to everyone about what you think is important. When other employees see what gets rewarded in the company, they will work harder to display those behaviors.
Sales incentives and year-end bonuses are an excellent way to reward great people. Reward everyone, not just management.
12. Measure customer service.
Set up a system to measure customer service that includes customer retention rates, customer satisfaction, response times, number of complaints, and number of loyal customers. Determine what measures are important to your business and make your people accountable for improving them.
13. Recognize it will take time.
Positive change doesn't occur overnight. At first, you may encounter some resistance from your employees - especially from those who have worked with you for many years. You may see eyes roll or hear, "We've always done it this way."
There are several methods you can apply to obtain "buy-in" from the group. First and foremost, ensure employee involvement with comments, such as, "Joe, I need your help. I need to raise the bar. You have been with me for 30 years. Will you help me with this process? What would you do if you were me?" They may mumble and grumble, but if you are relentless in asking for help, you should slowly see them adapt to your new culture.
Another option is to offer a reward. Establishing a Sales-Service Excellence Culture should be viewed as a positive achievement, and there is nothing more positive than a reward for the appropriate behavior.
Be relentless in your pursuit of Sales-Service Excellence and consistently communicate its importance to others. Remember, all eyes are on you.
14. Have zero-tolerance for bad bosses.
Studies have proven an employee's manager or supervisor determines his or her level of performance and engagement. Make sure your managers help instill your new culture by demonstrating they value your employees and by consistently treating them with dignity and respect.
15. Provide a working environment that breeds high performance
To support your Sales-Service Excellence Culture, provide an environment that fosters dynamic leadership, employee involvement and empowerment. Find ways to put the fun back into the workplace. Make your company a great place to work, make employees feel like family and be a great person to work with (not for).
Give your employees the leadership, motivation, training, and tools they need to excel. Show them you care about them as much as you care about your customers by focusing on their health, morale, and well-being.
Establishing a Sales-Service Excellence Culture is not optional, it's critical to your success. Everyone in your organization must have total dedication to your customers and be engaged in your culture. When they are, you'll boost your sales, control costs, increase your profitability, and establish high levels of customer loyalty.
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