Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Missing The Moment

At the end of June I sent an enquiry to a company whose product I wanted to buy. The total price would have been in the region of £250.  Not much, perhaps, in the bigger scheme of things, but a significant personal investment for me.

It took the company 14 days (of which four were Saturdays or Sundays) to respond to my email. Ironically, I had phoned them for the answer two days before receiving their email reply.  Even then, they only responded to my specific question in both cases.  What didn't they do?  Two things:

1.       They showed no real interest by letting me chase them and by taking 10 working days to reply to my question AND:
2.       They failed to try to convert my enquiry into a sale.

They made me feel that I didn't matter to them, as well as that customer enquiries werent a priority. I was the one who had to chase them and all I received was a short answer to the basic question. Either this company is doing so well that enquiries can wait, or people need some training in handling customer enquiries and understanding the opportunity that they present.

When someone calls your business or emails an enquiry, you dont know at that stage who they are, whether they represent a large buyer, whether there may be a bigger order or whether you might get repeat business.  Thats what you need to find out.  In this case, the two employees concerned just werent aware of the impact of their behaviour or the opportunity that they were missing.

I started wondering how many similar opportunities I may have missed.  How often have I been too busy or stressed out that I missed those vital moments to earn some customer goodwill and to increase my sales and reputation for customer service?  Theres always the excuse of Oh you called on a very busy day for us.  However, as a potential buyer, Im not interested in whether the other side is having a great day or a terrible one.  I want my question answered promptly and professionally.

According to research, people tell three friends about good experiences and nine about bad ones.  Youre therefore three times more likely to lower your reputation with poor service as to improve it with good service.  Sounds unfair?  Yes, but you cant argue with fact.  Nowadays, with the ability to reach out over the internet to thousands of others, unhappy customers can reach out further and faster (and make life difficult for big business as a result).

If you have several staff handling customer enquiries, they need to understand that these are opportunities and how they should be handled.  In particular, how can enquiries be converted into sales without seeming to be pushing the enquirer in a direction in which they may not be ready to go? 

Even if the enquirer isnt willing to commit to a purchase just yet, leave the door open by giving them your name and contact details.  Whether they buy or not, they now have a real person whom they can contact in future and recommend to other friends as someone who cares.

Mastering this art will see an increase in both reputation and sales, with the former driving the latter.

I have spent more than half my life working in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in the world financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy and work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.

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