As a marketing coach, I did some work with the owner of a catering firm who wanted to systematize his company’s sales and service operations by writing an easy-to-use, reader-friendly but detailed procedure manual. Not compliance or transaction-related, but just the day-to-day “how we do things around here” kind of manual. A snapshot of the cultural DNA, if you will.
So far, so good.
He saw immediately how this manual could raise the bar on everyone’s performance at his company and make smarter marketing, excellent customer service and savvy selling a consistent, always-on capability, and not a once-in-a-while accident!
When we started talking about the way his employees handled inbound telephone calls, he wanted to label that section, “Answer the Damn Phone” because so many of his people considered phone calls an interruption and they were always complaining about getting their cooking, prep, and delivery tasks done while “the damn phone” was ringing all the time.
Hmmm… can you see where this is leading?
You should worry a lot more about business that falls through your fingers than business that you don’t win.
It’s the missed sales opportunities that cost small businesses more money than the customers they compete for but don't close.
See if you can spot the missed sales opportunities in the following two stories from my colleague Ed Peters of the 4Profit Institute. (Hint: it won’t be difficult!)
Marketing News magazine made 5,000 telephone calls to Yellow Page advertisers requesting price information on a particular product.
Here’s what they discovered:
- 56% didn’t answer within eight rings
- 8% put the caller on hold for more than two minutes
- 11% couldn’t provide the price information requested
- 34% provided the price and then hung up
- 78% did not even ask the caller’s name
- Have you ever studied how your phones are answered?
- Who is answering?
- What are they saying, doing, and asking on the initial call?
Here’s a missed sales opportunity up close and personal: A few weeks before Ed moved, he called six banks that were within walking distance of his new office. He told them he’d be moving two business and two personal savings and checking accounts, and two other accounts for his kids. He told them that he did not want marketing brochures but a personalized response to his specific business and personal needs.
RESULT: Only two of the six banks responded! And the two that did sent -- guess what -- their marketing brochures!
He needed a bank fast, so he called the two banks that responded. One promised to call him back but never did and the other one put him in contact with their relocation department (where he should have been referred in the first place). Guess who got Ed’s business?
Questions for you:
- Do you respond to all qualified requests for information?
- Do you respond promptly?
- Do you respond accurately and give a personalized response, or does every request get the same off-the-shelf response?
- Do you follow-up after every request?
What's been your experience with inbound calls and inquiries? Please use the COMMENTS section below and...
Guest post by Karl Bryan
Here is a laundry basket of word of mouth small business marketing initiatives I have used over the years for retail clients that have worked successfully.
I’ve done it in a list form, so you can go through and highlight the ones you want to put into action.
These are offered by George Silverman who wrote the amazing book, The Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing.
Put your seat belt on... because here they are...
- Give them something worth talking about
- Cater to your initial customers shamelessly
- Give them incentives to engage in word of mouth
- Ask them to tell their friends
- The customer is always right
- Always tell the truth
- Surprise the customers by giving them a little more than they expected
- Give them a reason to buy, make them come back and refuse service from anyone else other than you
- Make eye contact, and smile, even through the telephone
- Find ways to make doing business with you a little better: a warmer greeting, a cleaner floor, nicer lighting, a better shopping bag, extra matches, faster service, free delivery, lower prices, more selection.
- Never be annoyed when a customer asks you to change a large bill even if he doesn't buy anything.
- The customer is your reason for being. Never take her for granted. If you do, she will never come back, and will go straight to your competition.
- Always dust off items, but never let the customer see you doing it.
- Never embarrass a customer, especially by making him feel ignorant.
- Never answer a question coming from a desire to show how smart you are. Answer with a desire to help the customer make the best decision.
- Never shout across the store, "How much are these condoms?" or anything about the personal items a customer is buying.
- When you don't know, say so. Do whatever you can to find out the answer.
- Every customer is special. Try to remember their names.
- Don't allow known shoplifters into the store.
- Don't ever let two sales staff talk when a customer is waiting. The worst thing you can do is count your cash while a customer is waiting.
- If you can suggest something better, they will be grateful. Always respect their choice.
- Never pressure anyone into buying anything.
- Never knowingly give bad advice. Just help people come to the right decision.
- Personally visit the store of the competition or assign people to visit and report back to you.
- Hire a shopping service to prepare periodic reports on how your people are treating your customers.
- If you hear of a store where the management is insulting the customers, buy it, then put up the sign "Under New Management" outside. Then sell it later based on the increased sales.
- One expert (in the drugstore's case, a nurse or physician) who is convinced you are better brings hundreds of customers and their friends through word of mouth.
- Always look for ways to make a stranger a customer.
- People will walk several blocks to save a dollar, or see a smile, or be treated right.
- Always run a sale promotion or an offbeat event. Make them come back to see what you are cooking up next.
- Use the best sign-maker you can find and pay him more than anybody else.
- If someone is mad at you, they will tell everyone who will listen for as long as they are angry, maybe even longer. So correct any dissatisfaction, and ask customers to send their friends.
- Treat your employees and salespeople who sell to you the same way you treat your customers.
- Have a zero error system. There may be terrible consequences for example, if a mistake is made filling a prescription. Have people check each other's work for safety.
- Occasionally make intentional mistakes to see if people are checking.
- Always measure your performance.
- Always ask a customer to "come back soon"
- If customers say they are moving away, offer to send them their favorite items by mail.
- Tell jokes.
This is a lot of information to digest, so we’re going to wrap up this list and leave you with the homework of going through and taking a look at the tips and tricks you like best.
Also, look for tips that fit your company, products, services and target customers to maximize their effectiveness.