The Art of Following Up

Recently I purchased a car and the process was very smooth. The dealers people involved were friendly, knowledgeable and sincere in wanting to help me purchase a vehicle.

I arrive at the dealer on a Wednesday to start the process and the selection process, test drive and paperwork goes fairly quickly and you can tell my sales guy here has done this a time or two. I schedule to pick up the car on Friday and all is set to go thru with the finance and wealth of paperwork to complete, but, again, went quickly and it was very organized and explained in detail. On a side note, feeling famous as I signed or initialed documents roughly 30 times.

I also have to say the the car was up front, totally detailed and ready for me to drive away. Just another piece to the overall experience.

The Lost Art of Following UpHere is the part that I always truly appreciate and it is the art of following up. Within a week of picking up the car I get a hand-written card from the two gentleman that assisted me in the process. There is always a moment of surprise when you do get one of these because it actually happens so rarely. Truly appreciate the follow up and of course I will be thinking of them for future use as well as a referral source for them.

I have had the occasion recently to do some of the same follow up for recent meetings. One was a hand-written thank you card for the meeting and two were emails with the same type of message. It is a lost art to do this type of follow up. It doesn’t have to be some long, drawn out message. Here are the two emails that I sent:

Great meeting with you this morning. There should have been smoke coming from our area with as much info as we tossed around. I truly enjoy our in-depth conversations.

I also included some items that were referenced in our meeting and an actionable next step for a future meeting.

The other email was:

It was great meeting with you yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. I look forward to the next opportunity to meet with you.

Both emails garnered a response from the individuals that I had met with.

Here are some key points for you to use when do your follow up.

1. Make it quick. Send an email or similar method (LinkedIn, Facebook Message, etc) within 24 hours of the meeting or event. Send a ‘hand-written’ card within 72 hours.
2. It should cover the reason for the communication, reference something from the meeting or event and have some actionable next step or steps.
3. Be sincere. Show gratitude. Be Thankful.

Following up is a component of great customer service, salesmanship, professionalism and it doesn’t have to be a lost art. Start following up today!

What is your value proposition?

Adding ValueIf you look up the definition of the word value you get this: An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.

If you were talking to your customers about your value proposition, do you mean – A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged.

When any business talks about value-added services that typically would include valuable services that are included in the price of the products and/or services already being offered.

Do you have a value proposition in place today? What is it? Is it good? If not, why not? Do you need to look at some great examples of how to develop one – check these out at http://plantostart.com/10-value-proposition-examples/.

Why is value so important? It provides you with the opportunity of working with your customer where you can focus on their retention and building a great long term relationship. I have always said it takes product and price out of the equation. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be competitive in the marketplace. That is a given. I believe you can be the same or even have a higher price but deliver enough value that it impacts the profitability. Focus on quality, service and ultimately the customers profitability.

I can provide you with some of the value-added service examples that I have provided to my food service accounts. There is server training that focuses on exceeding guest expectations, upselling, creating an exceptional customer experience, I have done four-walls marketing (table tents, posters, placemats), menu development, social media & technology support and much more.

Customers truly appreciate getting more than what they are paying for in what I always call perceived value. Become that asset that customers can’t do without. Don’t be just like the next guy and just deliver your product and/or service.

Step it up and get outside the box and deliver the value that separates your from your competition.

Do You Deliver Exceptional Customer Service?

Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

This is a question you need to revisit and evaluate on a regular basis. With virtually every business segment diluted by brick and mortar competitors and throw in the online options, customer service is the true way to differentiate yourself on retaining existing customers. This philosophy applies to B2B and B2C business sales models.

If you have not already done so you need to define customer service within your organization. This can be tricky because you may believe you are delivering exceptional customer service but in reality may not be. I have always said that customer service is not what you believe it to be but what the customer perceives it to be.

Here are some items to be thinking about when creating your forward-facing customer service program.

*Do you train all employees on the program
*Do you hold all employees accountable to deliver this program
*How do you measure customer service success
*What ways do you deliver customer service currently
*Rate your current service from 1-10, with 10 being world-class
*Do you know what your customers really want

That’s a half-dozen items to get you started on the path to delivering exceptional customer service. Through this program you can develop great customer relationships, focus on customer retention, enhance customer satisfaction and most importantly fostering customer loyalty.

Much more to come on this topic!

Customer experience and the company life cycle

You need to check this blog post out from Mark Hurst. Outlines briefly the company and/or product life cycle as it relates to the customer experience. Short, sweet and to the point. My take-away….a company must continue to evolve and focus on the customer experience because the life cycle product(s) won’t change. Create, develop, innovate to stay a long time participant in the business world. It’s about the customer and you can’t forget that!

Read the blog post here.

What Can Be Learned from Buying a Bed

I want to share an experience that I had recently in purchasing a new mattress set and how it pertains to exceptional customer service, customer loyalty and follow up.

For the last 6 months or so my wife and I have been discussing replacing our bed as it has been quite a while that we have had our existing one. We had purchased a Simmons Beautyrest Embassy product previously and come to find out it was almost 12 years old. First reaction I had was…what a product. Quality unmatched as far as I was concerned. My second reaction was that how time flies as I was thinking we had it around 8 years. We had started looking around at all of the discount places and kind of getting an idea where costs were going to land. The last place we went to was our local Simmons Bed Center where we purchased our original product. I have known the owner, Steve, for quite some time and that was one of the main reasons that we went back to check out our options.  This is where the loyalty part of this equation kicks in. It starts with a great product and our relationship with Steve. Lesson learned: Build relationships that last. I know that this has a viral effect as I have already told several people of my experience first hand.

So we hit the store on a Saturday afternoon and start the buying process. What I found great about this purchase was some quality questions he had for us about our sleep habits, our existing bed and price range. Now you can buy a new bed anywhere from $399 to $1500 so we had a lot of choices, but, based on our needs Steve led us to just three choices and he explained the quality differences very clearly to us that separated the three styles. Lesson learned: Narrowing the options so you can unconfuse the customer.

Now the strategy that I liked was, after he explained the products, you basically get to sample the product and try out each bed. After a little bit of humor from Steve about the Three Bears scenario, he left us alone for several minutes to go from bed to bed testing the different types. Lesson learned: This allowed time for us to gather any questions and/or objections that we may have regarding this purchase. Basically from a sales standpoint, stop talking and listen to the customer.

We decide on a product, a Beautyrest Radiance Plush and start the purchase. We feel there is great value in the mattress set at $1099 and yet Steve gives us a few incentives that we didn’t even ask for.   Bonus #1. They can deliver it Monday morning at 9:15 and they take the old product and set up the new product. Bonus #2. Steve takes plenty of time with me reviewing the warranty and about care and maintenance of the mattress. Making sure that I don’t have any further questions. Bonus #3. Lesson learned: Do what you say you’re going to do and provide exceptional customer service. Be happy to provide this exceptional customer service.

Now the follow up is what got me thinking about writing this post. I submitted the warranty information online which was very simple and easy to do. I get the standard email confirming that. 

I notice on the email that they have a Facebook page and I ‘Become A Fan’ of Simmons Bedding Company and throw a quick post up on my experience. I love the fact that they replied back and another reason why the Social Media front has some impact on the business and the customer. 

Then there is the phone call from Steve on Tuesday morning just to follow up to see how our fist night of sleep on the new mattress was. I was like…WOW! This doesn’t happen often enough. Now today I get another follow up email from Simmons. 

Lesson learned: Follow up, Follow up, Follow up. That is the key to creating great customer service and continued customer loyalty. Getting the sale is sometimes easy, but, retaining the sales and having that word of mouth support isn’t always there. That should be your ultimate goal.

Are Customers Really That Rational About Their Purchases

Very insightful article about behavioral economics surrounding your customers. Read the article below to get the details and see how you are handling customers.
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How to gain the most from customer decisions – Companies need data to truly understand how customers make choices online, or companies will end up “leaving money on the table,” John Sviokla writes. Companies must learn how customers “really act instead of how they are supposed to act,” he writes. HarvardBusiness.org/The Near Futurist blog

Keep The Customers That You Already Have

Not a unique or novel concept to keep the customers that you already have. I do training periodically on customer service and always hammer home the point that it costs 10 times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Here is a great article from Rhonda Abrams about creating a plan to keep current customers. Strategies: Make customer retention priority No. 1

Eight Key Ways to Say "Thank You" to Customers

This is a great article posted at ManageSmarter.com about thanking your customers.

Good salespeople strive to be in front of customers as often as possible. But, when we think about it, our clients and prospects give us many opportunities to stay in their minds in positive and non-threatening ways. Yet, these opportunities are often overlooked, simply because we neglect to send a note of thanks.

Check out the entire article here.

If you are looking for a way to stay in front of your customers visit my web site for a truly great business tool that will help you become the master of follow up.

Providing Customer Service and Creating Customer Loyalty

I will start this story by saying that as a tech savvy person I was very confident that I can address any issue that I come across when it comes to computers and their related peripherals. With that being said, I had a problem that arose with my Epson Stylus CX4200 All-in-One printer.

This past Sunday the darn thing just decides all by itself that it will no longer apply ink to the paper. No matter what I tried it wouldn’t print. I started with the software side using the Epson utility that came with the printer. Nothing. I then went to the Epson support web site to use the online tool, interactive and a great resource, but, nothing. It recommends that I put all new ink in it. Brilliant. Off I go to Staples for the new ink and $56 later all installed in the printer. Go through all the steps. Nothing. Results of the online tool, call the Epson tech support line. Yikes.

I call today and after some number prompting for printer, operating system and the such within about 30 seconds on comes John, a very nice and thorough tech support person. We go through all of the steps and after about 5 minutes of troubleshooting it is determined that it is a hardware failure. Sounds expensive. He emails me the three closest repair centers to contact, 45 miles, 70 miles and 146 miles. I would have thought that was it. But wait, there’s more.

He goes on to ask if I would be interested in a new printer since repairing a 2-year old printer is really not advantagous, nor cost effective, and I had actually thought that myself. He directs me to the loyalty page of Epson and guides me through all of the printers available there at a discount as a great Epson customer (I am a long time user). I order a new CX9400 and it’s discounted, has a $50 instant rebate and they will ship it for free. I mention that I have just purchased all of this new ink to test the dead printer and he provides me with a reference code for printer ink for my new printer all I need to do is call when I get it. Now that is what I call going the extra mile and making sure that the customer is happy. I will continue to buy and recommend Epson printers and inks to everyone. That includes you. Go check out Epson today.

Are you meeting customer expectations or exceeding customer expectations?? Start creating customer loyalty and not just customer satisfaction. Today was a prime example of a great experience!!