Have we as customers become more realistic? Or have we just given up? Maybe, after years of talking about excellence in service, brands have finally met our expectations. And some smart companies have found good ways to secure our loyalty. Or maybe we just lowered our standards based on experience. If it wasn’t completely ruinous, we are content.
Consumers expect a lot out of brands and companies – we want more than what many are able to give us. For years, the promises kept piling up: we deliver; we’re the fastest; we’re the best; we do it all; we have something to prove; you name it. And with each escalation the bar was being raised.
At the same time as agencies and creative departments were crafting these wonderful statements, less funds and attention were dedicated to the development of durable products and flawless services. Or, the products and services provided by companies have become so similar in quality that place, promotion and price are all we care about.
I can think of no other differentiator stronger than service, as in customer service – with a license to get things done. It can be really simple. Think what would happen if your reps were cross trained to have conversations with customers about:
– any products they are happy with, yours or someone else’s [this is competitive intelligence]
– where they buy products and services and why [this is market intelligence]
– your customers as people [this is relationship intelligence]
“Customers” is a very broad definition; it includes audiences, colleagues, and even your boss. Oh, my. Does that mean that everyone can be in customer conversations? That’s exactly what it means. I’ve already outlined some of the big reasons why; let me give you an example of how that works.
When I first started working at my current company, I began a very simple practice that still amazes me at the results it contributes to my work and the company’s bottom line. Every time one of our sales reps calls for anything, I ask them one or two frank questions about their day.
* What are you worried about? Is our competition having us for lunch?
* Where are you focusing your time this week? Why? Is that where the market is developing? Where do you see the season/sales cycle hitting a bump?
* Have you read anything interesting lately? What about that last Bond movie, did you see it?
The point is that you don’t have to get personal to be personable. You can still maintain a high level of professionalism and demonstrate interest to learn more. Over time, you see patterns develop from the answers you receive. That is the basis for market insights and a much better grasp of what we need to deliver on.
The point is that the concept of service doesn’t need to be isolated to responding reactively when customers call with a complaint. If you use your conversations wisely, you can gain valuable intelligence that can help you beat your competitors and raise the bar in your customers’ minds.
The point is that conversation can be a very powerful tool in your service mix. Have you had a customer conversation today?