I heard an amusing story the other day. I was talking to the Managing Director of a large manufacturing firm, with a force of 100+ salespeople. He told me about how he recently went on a sales call with one of these salespeople. After the appointment, the two of them returned to the salesperson’s car. The salesperson drove out of the prospect’s driveway and parked his car around the corner. He then switched his mobile phone on and proceeded to take note of his voicemail messages: 27, in all! Many of these messages required the salesperson to do research (check on the status of a customer’s job, for example) and then return the callers’ messages. The salesperson spent 20 minutes sitting in his car, in the sun, actioning these messages. The Managing Director related that he had to ask the salesperson to move his car into the shade: he was in danger of suffering from heat stroke! Now consider two party’s perspectives on this story: the salesperson’s and a typical customer’s. The salesperson perspective is that he is productive, efficient, hard working and engaged in the delivery of spectacular customer service. He is, after all, bending over backwards to service his clients’ not-inconsiderable expectations. Now consider a typical customer’s perspective. Does the customer perceive that the organisation (for which the salesperson works) is delivering spectacular service? Whenever the customer has a problem or a question he has to phone a salesperson. The salesperson is rarely available which means he has to leave a message. Many times when the salesperson returns his call, the salesperson isn’t in a position to answer even the most simple questions, which means he has to wait an hour or so for the salesperson to do the necessary research and get back to him. Amusing, hey? Well it is, unless it’s happening in your organisation! When we’re working with an organisation, we divert salespeople’s mobile phones to their sales coordinators and give salespeople new SIM cards. Customers are not advised of salespeople’s new phone numbers. Sales coordinators field incoming calls from customers and either schedule an appointment, schedule a tele-conference or route them to the internal account-management team. When orders are received, the internal account manager sends the customer an e-mail, advising the customer that she will be managing the job, quoting an estimated delivery time (ETA), promising to follow-up if the ETA changes, and urging the customer to contact her by e-mail (or phone, if urgent) when necessary. The consequences are that:

  1. The volume of ‘how is my job going’ calls is dramatically reduced
  2. Customers’ call the assigned account manager directly with questions
  3. In almost all cases, customers’ questions get answered on the spot (or by return of e-mail)
  4. Salespeople have more time to spend face-to-face with customers (and potential customers)
  5. Customers actually feel that the organisation is more – not less – accessible!

Now, that’s customer service.