Sample Guide from “The Real World Marketer”
You have got a great product / service – state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution facilities – great promotional tools – and a motivated team.
So you’re on a winner right?
The answer is yes, BUT only if you also have one other vital component right as well – GREAT Customer Service.
Many organizations separate their Customer Service function and Marketing function. However, customer service is part of the overall marketing mix and is crucial for creating / encouraging repeat business.
It needs to be considered as thoroughly as your go-to-market strategies … because it’s the vehicle which can make or break you’re ability to retain the new sales you get plus generate repeat sales.
Take a close look at your own response to service …
You dine at the same restaurants generally because you know the food is good but more importantly, you always get great service there … you have a preferred doctor because he is the one who understands your personal needs … and you use the same mechanic to service your car because he’s the one who you know always does a great job!
Now when someone buys from you, they have similar expectations as well … and if you don’t deliver when they have a problem, then you could be driving them to an alternative supplier for their next purchase.
Here’s some of the things you need to consider within your Plan …
1.) Ease Of Contact
Make it as easy as possible for your prospects and customers to reach you. Some of the options you should consider…
- Physical Address – many buyers actually prefer to call into your premises and purchase and get your products / services right on the spot. If you find this happens frequently, publish a small roadmap on how to get to your premises.
- Toll free telephone number – if not toll free, then charge no more than a local call charge. If you are not based in the USA and your business is targeted to USA consumers, then appoint a company who is to provide a call center service on your behalf. Otherwise, set up a Skype Call Pin service to serve a similar purpose.
- Email – avoid using a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail address for customer service queries. Everyone knows they’re free and can be dropped at any time, so some people will wonder how serious you are. Please read the following article for more reasons to avoid using free accounts: http://www.returncustomer.com
- Fax number – whilst most people have moved away from this tool to email, there are still many who prefer to use Fax as opposed to any other medium … because they retain a hard copy of what they sent through.
- Online Chat – Yahoo, Messenger, AOL, and other chat services have made this a comfortable communications channel / medium for many. Being able to speak to someone with a sense of anonymity yet get into some really detailed questions is preferred by some.
Always publish these details in your marketing materials … and on the web.
Even promotional emails should include these details in accordance with Can Spam Act requirements.
Many companies only include Feedback forms on their websites. This annoys me as often I find them regimented / restrictive in what I want to communicate. I am sure others probably feel the same.
So my recommendation is to try and give your prospects and customers options.
2.) Ensure your Email systems work as they should
We’re now in an age where most consumers have an email address … and a vast number of them find it more convenient to contact you by email rather than phone.
Now there’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a customer service request from a client, you respond and then get another email from them complaining because you did not respond.
They obviously did not receive your response, often because it was blocked by a Spam filter or Firewall.
It can also be caused by the way you’re email system has been set up.
Many ISP’s now verify a sender’s address via a facility called SPF (Sender Policy Framework). If your email service is not SPF compliant, then your email could be going straight to the Junk Mail folder … or not delivered at all.
You need to ensure your ISP supports this process … and if you have your own server, enable it there. (It’s relatively easy to do.)
This is a Microsoft supported verification service and so Hotmail accounts in particular can be impacted by its absence – i.e. your mail is not delivered.
Yahoo has a similar facility – called Domain Keys – which you should also investigate and implement!
Because of the problems with Spam, you’ll probably encounter deliverability issues at various times, particularly as more and more ISP’s and consumers tighten their spam filters.
Anything you can do to minimize the associated problems is beneficial.
Beware of sales hype from email delivery vendors. There is no service or ISP anywhere who can guarantee 100% delivery no matter what they claim. There are far too many variables at play for anyone to be able to give you such a guarantee.
3.) Add a Help Desk to your Website
A Help Desk is an accepted way to overcome mail delivery issues as it is all online and therefore not subject to ISP or email client spam filters as well as a vehicle for giving your customers a sure way of submitting AND tracking their service issues.
It’s also a central point through which you can publish various help files and other customer service related materials – e.g. downloads.
Implementing these facilities is now quite straight forward and very inexpensive.
Quality help desk software can be purchased from under $150 – e.g. Live Agent from Quality Unit – up to $500. There are more expensive options but only larger organizations need to consider those.
Systems which incorporate an intuitive Knowledge Base are the best. These bring up suggested solutions as someone is keying in their problem / issue – and this can lead to a reduction in the number of queries which come your way.
This type of functionality helps to minimize customer queries … and gives your customer an immediate answer to their query resulting in better all round service.
There’s a secondary “marketing” benefit in adding a Help Desk facility to your website …
Most of the quality help desk packages are SEO ready – in other words, they are enabled for search engine spiders to identify your content. If you have 80 items within your Help Desk knowledge base, then that may give you an extra 80 pages which the search engines will index.
Finally, a segment of your customers will want this facility.
Here’s an email we recently received from one of the web sites we manage which does not have a help desk:
“Sorry to interrupt but where do I type my ticket number to see my replies and answers”
Only a small percentage of your customers may go to the trouble of advising you, but it actually could be a significant number who expect it but never tell you.
4.) Review ALL Customer Service Communications
Whatever you do, don’t leave your customer service staff stranded, having to create the responses they will provide to your customers from scratch and with little input from you.
You need to take an active role in preparing these responses – so they reinforce your branding AND marketing strategies.
Anyone with a professional sales background will tell you that:
“The Sale Starts When Your Prospect Says No!”
Well your upgrade / repeat sales process can also start when a customer has a problem.
Resolve it properly and you may find that the next sale will be so much easier – because of the support they know they will get.
Often, their problem is because they failed to order an extra component … and are happy to purchase that when they realize why they’re having a problem.
By overseeing the preparation of these responses, you can ensure that a recommendation for “the next sale” is implicitly included in each communication.
I’ve always believed that the best sales / marketing people are those who intimately know the strengths / weaknesses of their product service … and particularly how to use the strengths to outweigh the weaknesses.
For this reason, I’ve always encouraged people I deal with to be honest about the weaknesses in their products / services … customers really appreciate honesty and integrity. And invariably, the fix is so small that they will kick themselves for not realizing it without having to bother you.
A properly crafted customer response which includes this but also highlights your products / service strengths and why they outweigh the weaknesses (or provide an alternative approach) will win people over.
It won’t work all the time, particularly if your customer is unreasonable or just difficult.
The key in these situations is to not argue – simply come forth quickly with an alternative option or an offer of a refund.
Factor into your Marketing Plan the time and effort required to prepare or review all customer service communication pieces.
5.) Keep your customers informed
I can’t tell you many times I’ve purchased a product / service and after the initial sale, never heard again from the supplier.
The supplier had a golden opportunity to upgrade me and / or introduce me to an additional product.
All they had to do was to send me product tips, product updates, or details on new product releases. They’re already listed in my Address Book – so I would definitely see their notice.
It’s a mistake many make – including some very large organizations.
Software houses in particular overlook this area.
Many provide a 30 day free trial — yet during the trial period do not serve up Tips which encourage me to discover additional benefits in buying their software. Generally, I get a purchase notice at the end of the period. Some even overlook the latter.
Factor into your Marketing Plan a strategy for addressing this area.
6.) Automate as much as possible
I’ve already outlined how you can – and should – automate your Help Desk function.
It’s just as easy to do this with your other communications as well.
Specifically, those Product Tips, News Updates, etc you should be sending your customers.
You can easily set this up using a hosted solution such as that provided by aWeber … or run all from your own server by purchasing a package such as Contact Manager from Interspire.
Automating these functions will allow you to spend your spare time on leisure activities rather than work … and therefore keep yourself refreshed and able to focus on the many other areas you need to address.
If you really want to maximize your repeat sales, then customer service is a VERY important component in the process.
Give consideration to each of the above in your Marketing Plan so your business can benefit!